How will health change after COVID-19?
First, let me be clear that what we have today is *sick-care.* That is, the system (attempts to) take care of us after we get sick, treating symptoms, not preventing root causes.
But what if all your health parameters—blood chemistries, body temperature, heart rate (HR), HR variability, respiratory sounds, walking cadence, even your stool and urine chemistries—were monitored 24/7 by sensors on (and in) your body, at home and at work?
What if your personal AI—whether a future system a la JARVIS (from Ironman), or an advanced version of Alexa, Siri or Google Home—then analyzed your health parameters holistically, accounting for what you eat, how you sleep, and any set of behaviors…?
What if continuous healthcare was the norm, fueling rich data-driven decisions and far better outcomes?
The minute you contract a virus, you’re alerted, informed of immunity-boosting tips, and given the proper public health guidance.
Many believe this is exactly where we’re going, and COVID-19 may be speeding up the trend…. by A LOT.
So here’s my Prediction Challenge #4 for you:
“Which entity (below) will lead ‘in-home healthcare’ by 2026?”
- A new startup we haven’t heard of yet
- An existing traditional healthcare player
- The government
Click here to provide your answer!
Let’s take a quick look at what the major players are doing today…
Silicon Valley is pivoting into the HEALTH arena
For most of the last century, the healthcare industry has been an alliance between big pharma, big government, and the full spectrum of doctors, nurses, and trained medical professionals.
Now we’re witnessing an invasion. Many of today’s biggest tech giants are getting into the game, all intent on making an impact.
Let’s start with Apple.
(1) APPLE: Tim Cook made waves in January 2019 when he said, “If you zoom out into the future, and you look back, and you ask the question, ‘What was Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind?’ It will be about health."
It’s no secret Apple has steeped itself in the wearables and digital health data market, from its electrocardiogram-equipped Apple Watch to digitized medical records. But consumer health is a growing target of Apple’s massive R&D investments (now surpassing a billion-dollar monthly budget).
Driving full-speed ahead on sophisticated sensors (currently capable of detecting atrial fibrillation and countless other health indicators), Apple is now digging into software.
Aiming to improve patients’ lives holistically, the firm’s software is rapidly enabling full-scale machine learning systems that monitor how we live, our daily behaviors, and even personalized, preventive guidance informed by digital health research.
Or take Apple’s latest COVID-driven initiative with Google, which could implement widespread contact tracing through voluntarily shared mass consumer data, tracking civilian movements and precise interactions between tracked users and their health data.
(2) GOOGLE / ALPHABET: One of the world’s biggest investors in digital health startups, Google/Alphabet is applying AI to everything from disease detection to new data infrastructure, and possibly even insurance.
Now boasting 57 digital health startups in its portfolio, Google invests in the most promising players spanning genomics, clinical research, infectious disease, diabetes management, degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, and even insurance benefits, signaling its ambitions as a future healthcare provider.
Verily, Alphabet’s research organization dedicated to the life sciences, now has $1.8 billion in total funding, after its latest round raked in $1 billion in January of 2019.
Or take Google Health, which has now grown to 500 employees in just over a year, consolidating its leadership over home-grown ventures like Google’s Medical Brain (voice recognition software for doctors) and Deep Mind’s health division.
(3) AMAZON: And when it comes to Amazon’s health strategy, the e-commerce giant is pulling all the stops.
From its buyout of pharmacy delivery startup Pillpack in 2018, to its rollout of Amazon Care (involving virtual patient visits via telemedicine), Amazon is set to disrupt everything from big pharma to medical data management.
Inserting its voice technology and AI tools between users and medical providers, Amazon even achieved HIPAA compliance for its Alexa virtual assistant last year.
And while its partnership with the UK’s NHS could one day allow Amazon Alexa to offer health advice to consumers, Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack (among other initiatives) puts it on track to sell prescription drugs directly to health plans and employers.
Add to this Amazon’s Haven, a joint venture with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to provide simplified medical plans to employees.
(4) NEW STARTUPS: But outside the usual suspects, telemedicine startups are now seeing an unprecedented surge in demand (surprise, surprise), driving a new generation of healthcare disruptors leveraging everything from AI to advanced sensors.
While a volatile stock market has tanked amidst COVID-19 fears, VC funding for telemedicine startups soared past $788 million in just Q1 of this year.
That’s more than 3X the funds raised by telemedicine companies in Q1 of 2019, as the telemedicine market has continued to jump 258% year-over-year.
Meanwhile, global VC funding in digital health firms during Q1 of 2020 hit a record $3.6 billion across 142 deals, pumping fresh capital into those now confronting the pandemic head-on.
Whether working to revolutionize cancer detection (think: Grail) or proactive insurtech (think: Bright Health and Clover Health), a growing army of healthtech startups is turning a slow and reactive system into a personalized, preventive force.
… Meanwhile, our existing healthcare system, plus its government counterpart, isn’t a promising contender.
Today, Americans spend an average of $10,739 per person per year on healthcare—more than residents of any other country on Earth. If nothing changes, by 2027, this single industry will consume nearly 20 percent of the U.S. GDP.
Doctors make after-the-fact interventions, fighting a rearguard battle that’s often inefficient, overpriced, and in certain cases, downright surreal.
In the U.S., for example, fear of liability has doctors spending $210 billion per year on procedures patients don’t need.
And as if it weren’t already a challenge to book doctors’ appointments, a 1-time-per-year (or more infrequent) snapshot of patient data cannot begin to compete with the abundance of 24/7, personalized, passively collected data now flowing through the floodgates.
Every step in the medical treatment train is being reinvented.
A convergence of sensors, networks, and AI is upending medical diagnostics. Robotics and 3D-printing are transforming the nature of medical procedures. And on the back end, AI, genomics, and quantum computing will redefine drug discovery from the ground up.
The result is a shift from sick care to healthcare— from a system that is retrospective, reactive, and generic, to one that is prospective, proactive, and personalized.
So, what’s your prediction?
In 5 years, will Google, Amazon, Apple, a yet-to-emerge start-up, the government, or an existing company make your “digital housecalls?” I’d love to know!
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