- The coronavirus pandemic made healthcare and major tech companies more intertwined than ever.
- Driven by outbreaks, providers leaned on Amazon, Microsoft, and Google to get systems up and running for telehealth, triage bots, supply management, and more.
- Now they're baking those tools into their permanent strategies and rethinking a future with more tech.
- "All of this is a genie that is not going to be put back in a bottle," Jonathan Slotkin, the associate chief medical officer of Geisinger Health, told Business Insider.
Healthcare has long lagged behind other industries when it comes to technology. For plenty of hospitals, having medical information available on the internet instead of locked away in boxes is a huge ask.
Not long ago, working with major tech companies was basically a nonstarter for many healthcare leaders. After Ascension moved to transfer 50 million patients’ medical information onto Google’s cloud in late 2019, government leaders and the public had concerns about patient privacy in the digital era.
But the coronavirus pandemic sped up what’s been a slow march to improve things. That’s pushed Amazon, Google, and Microsoft — firms that power a lot of today’s most popular solutions to manage outbreaks — deeper into the $3.6 trillion healthcare industry.
In the middle of a pandemic, Business Insider spoke to more than a dozen healthcare leaders — 7 of them tech chiefs at major health systems — who’re now thinking about cloud providers in a new way. Many health systems are doing work on the cloud they say was critical to keeping patients and workers safe during outbreaks.
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That bodes well for the public cloud providers, which share computing and storage services over the internet through a vast network of servers. The public cloud market is worth anywhere from $200 billion to $300 billion, and healthcare is a largely untapped piece.
“We’ve talked to the Amazons and the Googles. They’re all investing tremendous amounts of capital trying to penetrate different parts of what is a huge healthcare market,” Andrew Callaway, RBC’s global head of healthcare deals, told Business Insider.
“And it’ll be interesting to see what the landscape looks like in a decade, but I’m certainly convinced that one or a handful of these tech companies are going to make a major move,” he said.
There’s two categories, more or less, for cloud-based work with big tech firms in healthcare. Like Ascension’s move, providers can migrate their entire systems to the cloud, including medical records; or they can sign up for cloud work that revolves more around individual projects.
Health systems were moving to the cloud before the pandemic hit, and some said it hasn’t changed their larger cloud strategy. Analysts told Business Insider that outbreaks may have even slowed some enterprises’ move to the cloud, including in the healthcare industry, since it’s expensive and takes a long time.
But it did force legacy health systems to engage with care that’s delivered online in such a way that they’re getting a crash course on cloud-based technology, said Tom Cassels, the president of Rock Health, a digital health venture fund and advisory firm.
At the same time, providers are also using tools built or powered by the tech giants more and more to interact with patients, even if a full move to the cloud might not be in the cards for all health systems, he said.
“It’s an evolution of the total digital footprint of the health system,” Cassels said.
Source: Business Insider