New health ventures and investments reflect Big Tech’s growing focus on health tools and services.
Big Tech becomes Big Health
May 24, 2021
Big Tech continues its push into healthcare and health management.
Google is ramping up its suite of health tools. Google’s newest app is helping patients identify skin conditions. The “dermatology assist” app, which was unveiled in May 2021 at the annual Google IO developer conference, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze user-uploaded pictures of skin, hair and nails for diagnosis. While the app is not intended to replace a visit to the doctor’s office, it has been awarded a CE mark for use as a medical tool in Europe, the BBC reports.
Google is turning smartphones into sophisticated health measurement tools. As of February, the Google Pixel phone doubles as a health tool, thanks to new technology that can detect and measure heart and breath rate through the phone’s camera. Google is also taking a second stab at personal health records. In April, Stat News reported that the Big Tech company is exploring a personal health record tool for patients—almost ten years after its initial attempt, Google Health, was shut down.
Amazon is reportedly planning a new health diagnostics arm that would offer at-home medical tests for things like COVID-19, sexually transmitted infections and clinical genomics, Business Insider reported in May. The new diagnostics brands would mark the Big Tech company’s third healthcare initiative, alongside Amazon Pharmacy, launched in November 2020, and Amazon Care, which will expand nationally this summer.
Microsoft is investing heavily in healthcare to build out its presence in the health space. In April, Microsoft acquired AI speech tech company Nuance for $19.7 billion—the company’s second-largest acquisition after purchasing LinkedIn in 2016 for $26 billion. “Nuance provides the AI layer at the healthcare point of delivery and is a pioneer in the real-world application of enterprise AI,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement. “AI is technology’s most important priority, and healthcare is its most urgent application.”
In an era where every business is now a health business, Big Tech is upping the ante. Expect to see continued investments pouring into the health tech space as Big Tech looks to innovate everything from health records to diagnosis.