Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft trajectories for healthcare

March 18, 2018
Case Study on Disruption/Disintermediation in health care (10 posts)

“After months of speculation about when Amazon would officially enter the drug distribution market, the online retail giant offered a definitive answer on Thursday, announcing the acquisition of the online pharmacy PillPack.
The full-service pharmacy offers presorted packaging and home delivery and provides Amazon with a nationwide distribution network. PillPack holds mail order pharmacy licenses in all 50 states.” (A)

“It seems only natural for the Everything Store to be doing, well, everything. It is also a necessity. AMZN 0.82% just gave the world a strong reminder of its ambitions. On Thursday, the company announced a new effort to beef up its own package-delivery network by recruiting small-business owners to operate fleets of Amazon-branded vehicles. On the same day, Amazon also announced its acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack for a reported $1 billion.
The latter move inserts Amazon squarely into the $400 billion U.S. prescription drug market. That is likely only part of the company’s health-care ambitions. Amazon is also working with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase on a new venture aiming to reimagine health-care delivery for their own employees, now collectively numbering close to 1.2 million.” (B)

“In the last 24 hours, Amazon announced a program that all but franchises its last-mile deliveries and bought the popular online pharmacy PillPack. At first glance, these may seem like utterly unrelated deals — another case of Jeff Bezos digging into his very deep pockets to reach even further into your life.
Step back, though, and you can see these two developments coming together to make dealing with a pharmacy as easy as thumbing your phone: Place your order and an Amazon-branded truck delivers your amoxicillin, along with tissues, all-natural cough drops and organic chicken noodle soup from Whole Foods.
Right now, going to the pharmacy can be a tough pill to swallow. Get your prescription, schlep to the drug store, wait in line. It’s even worse when you’re fevered and sneezing and generally feeling lousy. Bezos is betting you’d rather have those meds delivered to your door, along with everything else Amazon sells, in almost no time at all.
“This is going to have serious implications for the brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies,” said Arielle Trzcinski, a senior analyst at Forrester who covers health care and technology.” (C)

“E-commerce retail giant Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is making waves into the health care space, but the company has also been building a means to service providers in a more traditional way.
Amazon Business, the retailer’s B2B service line, is shaping the supply chain process for health care providers by enabling them to order in a familiar way online. After launching Amazon Business three years ago, the platform has more than 1 million business customers that use it to order everything from office supplies to certain medical equipment.
While Amazon doesn’t break out its customer base by provider type, the business platform services home health care providers, doctors, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, ambulatory surgery centers and more.
“[We] offer [the service] to businesses of all sizes—single doctors and offices with five employees or a 10,000-employee system, and everything in between,” Chris Holt, global health care leader at Amazon Business, told Home Health Care News. “[We have] home health customers and nursing homes, that’s right in our mid-size sweet spot, where it’s a company that maybe doesn’t have huge purchasing power, a lot of employees and a consumes a lot of products.”” (D)

“Deep inside Amazon, a secretive group called Grand Challenge, led by the creator of Google Glass, is working on a series of bold projects involving cancer research, medical records and last-mile delivery, according to people familiar with the matter.
Similar to Alphabet’s experimental research lab, X (formerly Google X), Grand Challenge is a research team set up to explore ambitious new ventures that can eventually expand Amazon’s already wide footprint, said the people, who asked not to be named because the work is confidential.
The group, which also operates under the monikers 1492 and Amazon X, has added over 50 people since 2014, when Babak Parviz left Google X to head up the effort. The makeup of Parviz’s team illustrates how far out Amazon is going to pursue innovative projects, beyond its primary businesses of e-commerce, consumer devices and Amazon Web Services, while still using resources from those divisions for some of its initiatives…
One person with knowledge of Grand Challenge said the group gets to take a longer time horizon than teams that focus on commercial products. An internal job listing for Grand Challenge quotes astronomer Carl Sagan in the post: “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” (E)

“Microsoft has been playing in the healthcare waters for some time now. Since wading into the wearables market in 2014, the company has teamed up with Twist BioScience on the capabilities of DNA digital data storage, partnered with UPMC to create innovative AI-enabled care delivery products and collaborated with Cigna to leverage Microsoft’s HoloLens technology for interactive game-based health screenings.
As healthcare’s digital transformation continues, many organizations are looking to the cloud to modernize their IT infrastructures, EHRs and data analytics capabilities to foster value-based care. Microsoft Healthcare stated it will draw on the company’s AI and the cloud expertise to create products that tackle those goals…
“We are taking concrete steps with an initial ‘blueprint’ intended to standardize the process for the compliant, privacy-preserving movement of a patient’s personal health information to the cloud and the automated tracking of its exposure to machine learning and data science, for example to support external audit,” Lee wrote.”” (F)

“Many eyes are watching the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech stalwarts for some kind of signal about their healthcare intentions. While some moves are already out in the open, such as Apple Health Records and Amazon Web Services expressing interest in longitudinal health records and analytics, the companies also have patents that potentially foretell the future.
As of Jan. 23, Amazon-owned 7,096 U.S. patents, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
In addition, Amazon Technologies, Inc., had filed and published 870 patent applications in the U.S. as of Jan. 23, and, Inc., had filed and published 16 patent applications.
Amazon has been granted patents for thousands of inventions spanning one-click buying, drones, virtual-reality mirrors and Alexa, the company’s AI–powered voice assistant.
Google, for instance, – with 186 patents – focused mostly on investments for DeepMind, its artificial intelligence technology, and also on Verily, its healthcare and disease research entity among its 186 patents, according to the new Kalorama report.
Apple filed 54 patents to turn its iPhone into a medical device that can monitor biometric data such as blood pressure and body fat levels and to develop algorithms to predict abnormal heart rates. Microsoft filed 73 patents based on expanding its AI capabilities and developing monitoring devices for chronic diseases.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has a number of projects that are impacting – or will impact – the digital health arena including: Microsoft Genomics, Microsoft Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint. The tech giant is also expanding Microsoft’s Intelligent Network and plans to create an AI-focused network in cardiology.” (G)

“Apple has filed over 50 patents that will allow the iPhone to be used as a medical device to track patient health. Microsoft’s patents include expanding on its AI technology to help monitor chronic disease.
Microsoft also has other healthcare projects in the works including:
• Microsoft Genomics – Microsoft’s Azure provides researchers and clinicians with highly accelerated, cloud-powered genomic processing services
• Microsoft Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint: HIPAA/HITRUST – Health Data & AI – Microsoft’s availability of an end-to-end application development foundation to help health organizations move to the cloud efficiently and safely.
• Microsoft’s Intelligent Network – Microsoft is expanding its Microsoft Intelligent Network for Eyecare, now AI Network for Healthcare, to create an AI-focused network in cardiology.
• Microsoft 365 Huddle Solution Templates- Microsoft’s solution so that health teams can benefit from collaboration tools to drive quality and care outcomes.
• Project InnerEye – This will feature new integration with TeraRecon and Intuitive Surgical
• Project Empower MD – This is a research collaboration that will create a system that listens and learns what doctors say and do in situations.” (H)

“Amazon Business, the B2B purchasing arm of the e-commerce behemoth, is looking to disrupt the healthcare supply chain amid accelerating hospital operating expenses, flattening admissions and an increasing need to cut costs.
Under pressure to pare down unnecessary spending, supply chain professionals are increasingly rethinking traditional distribution and supplier models to gain a competitive advantage.
Some have turned to Amazon, whose shadow looms ever larger in the healthcare space. Much has been discussed concerning the Amazon-BerkshireHathaway-JPMorgan employee health cost endeavor (along with Amazon’s recent acquisition of PillPack) but one can’t ignore Amazon’s subtle foray into the supply chain sector.
Amazon Business provides a marketplace for medical supplies in a format very similar to its popular Amazon Prime service. The B2B purchasing venture has generated more than a billion dollars in sales its first year alone and introduced three business verticals last year — education, government and healthcare. Already, hundreds of thousands of medical products are available on Amazon Business, from hand sanitizer to biopsy forceps.
“The shopping experience feels the same, but in the background we’ve configured that organization’s procurement practices and policies,” Chris Holt, global healthcare leader at Amazon, told Healthcare Dive in an interview. “So, if they want to service particular suppliers in a given category or focus on diversity suppliers, women-owned businesses, quality-certified suppliers, they can search for things based on their own company-specific credentials, and that drives the algorithms that feed our search results.” (I)

“Here are five major inroads Microsoft has made in the healthcare industry during the past year:
Artificial intelligence
Microsoft’s flagship healthcare initiative is Healthcare NExT, an effort the company launched in early 2017. The initiative serves as an umbrella program for various AI and cloud computing projects related to healthcare, such as an AI-chatbot the company rolled out at Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care and Pittsburgh-based UPMC in December 2017…
Cloud computing..
A range of healthcare companies already use Microsoft’s cloud services. New Orleans-based Ochsner Health System is developing an AI platform to predict adverse patient outcomes using Epic’s machine learning capabilities and Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service. Health IT vendors like Allscripts and SnapMD also offer customers the option to purchase select platforms on Azure.
WannaCry hit healthcare organizations across the world, with the U.K. National Health Service canceling almost 20,000 appointments as a result of the ransomware attack. One year after the attack, the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care, which oversees the NHS, announced it had entered into a deal with Microsoft to improve the health service’s cybersecurity resilience.
Genomics and precision medicine..
In February, Microsoft launched a set of cloud-based processing tools for clinicians and scientists pursuing genomics research in the U.S., Western Europe and Southeast Asia. Microsoft developed the service, dubbed Microsoft Genomics, in partnership with Memphis, Tenn.-based St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and DNAnexus, a genomic data management platform Microsoft has helped finance.
Microsoft on July 2 unveiled a project to expand broadband coverage in rural areas. For the project, Microsoft partnered with broadband wireless solutions provider Radwin to introduce internet solutions that leverage TV white spaces, or the unused spectrum between TV stations, to deliver internet connectivity to underserved communities. The partnership with Radwin is part of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative…” (J)

(A) Amazon’s acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack spooks retail drugstores, by Evan Sweeney,
(B) Why Amazon Needs to Do Everything, by Dan Gallagher,
(C) Amazon could radically change how you get prescriptions, by Kaya Yurieff,
(D) Amazon Business Streamlines Supply Chain for Home Health, by Amy Baxter,
(E) Inside Amazon’s Grand Challenge — a secretive lab working on cancer research and other ventures, by Michael S. Williamson,
(F) Microsoft doubles down on healthcare with formal unit, new hires, by
(G) Patents hold clues about Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft plans for healthcare, by Bernie Monegain,
(H) Microsoft, Apple, Google Secure HIT Infrastructure Patents,
(I) Amazon Business’ medical supply chain ambitions: 4 things to know, by Rebecca Pifer,
(J) How Microsoft is shaking up healthcare, by Jessica Kim Cohen,

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