Major tech companies have been venturing into healthcare for years, and we’ve been following and analysing their progress along the way. We have scrutinised their efforts individually (see: Google, Apple, Amazon, NVIDIA, Microsoft, IBM) and in summaries and more summaries, and even dared to publish some forecasts about what we expect their next moves will be.
And most recently we finished a major update on one of our most popular e-books, Tech Giants In Healthcare. As the book is out now, here is a 2022 power ranking of the most important non-healthcare players in the healthcare industry, based on their 2022 scores on Health, Innovation & Tech (HIT) Index.
This score-based system in the e-book is used to assess the healthcare endeavours of the companies, based on their practical examples, potentials, as well as chances of failure, each scored on a scale of 5. Since every company has a unique edge they bring in this sphere, we also highlight their uniqueness. In the book, the HIT index scores will give you a better overview of the direction of the company in question in healthcare.
The theoretical maximum score is 20, and in this article we only mention the top 6, while the book covers a wider spectrum of companies.
6th place: IBM – shadows of the Watson fiasco
With a HIT index score of 9 points, IBM ranks 6th on our list.
Up until the appearance of Google DeepMind on the market, it seemed that IBM Watson had carried the health industry on its artificially intelligent shoulders. However, it became clear that developing smart algorithms, utilising deep learning and machine learning are complex tasks, sometimes even impossible to realise.
Lately, it turned out that IBM Watson’s marketing department was more efficient than the scientific unit. With layoffs, severed partnerships, questions over its reliability, and only a handful of successes, many were advising caution over the hype it garnered. And eventually, Watson Health was sold in early 2022.
However, The Medical Futurist still believes that A.I. and IBM have a significant place in healthcare, and that technology will prove us right in the end. We just have to give it some more time, and see if the company turns towards more rewarding segments to utilise its experience in A.I., like drug design.
4th place tier: Apple – and its closed system complex
With a HIT index score of 12 points, Apple ranks 4th on our list.
The vision of Steve Jobs – a closed infrastructure providing flawless user experience to a loyal customer base willing to pay a little premium – still seems to work pretty well – if we talk about consumer devices, like phones and smart watches.
The same vision however might be a significant obstacle if we try to imagine Apple marching into other segments of the healthcare ecosystem, like delivering solutions to hospitals, or other healthcare providers.
Healthkit, the Apple Watch and the other wearables, Apple Health Records are good examples, and while its high-end approach might lead to it being overpriced, which is not a welcomed feature in healthcare, its end-to-end technology also provides a highly valuable feature: privacy.
Over the next few years, we’ll see how and if the two sides can adapt to each other. Value-based care and the consumerisation of healthcare are definitely two trends that will have a significant impact on healthcare – and on Apple’s revenues.
4th place tier: NVIDIA – delivering to everyone who needs it
With a HIT index score of 12 points, NVIDIA also ranks 4th on our list.
NVIDIA might be renowned as the company that manufactures hardware that allows PC gamers to experience stunning visuals in the latest games, but it has also been making strides in the healthcare industry. “For over a decade, we have partnered with the medical devices ecosystem to bring innovative diagnostic imaging, robotic surgery and patient monitoring devices to the market,” Kimberly Powell, Vice President of Healthcare of NVIDIA, told The Medical Futurist in an interview.
Moreover, the company’s graphic processing units (GPUs) are integral hardware components of computers used around the world to support demanding research projects, even if they don’t specifically partner with NVIDIA.
NVIDIA’s technology is unique in that it is a single computing platform that is embedded in a medical device or at the edge in a workstation or server at the hospital or available on every public cloud. That means they can serve applications that need to be done in real-time like emergency room triage, robotic surgery or ICU patient monitoring to assist in the detection and understanding of disease all the way to studying patient populations to predicting patient outcomes.
2nd place tier: Amazon – eating it all, one bite at a time
With a HIT index score of 13 points, Amazon ranks 2nd on our list.
In the last couple of years, Amazon has shown exponential growth in interest towards the pharma industry and healthcare. Looking at the company’s profile, it is not surprising that it’s aiming for the online pharmacy market, but it seems that it’s also ready to compete with Google, Apple or Microsoft in other areas of healthcare, such as artificial intelligence – for example by deploying its digital assistant, Alexa in the fight against diseases.
However, remote pharmaceutical services aren’t the only remote component of health that Amazon is looking into. In 2021, the company’s telehealth branch expanded into 21 more states in the U.S.
And this is not all. The tech giant already introduced the Amazon Web Services platform 12 years ago, in March 2006 – way before it was clear how cloud computing solutions could be beneficial for users or providers. However, it was one of the smartest moves of the company. By the end of 2020, AWS owned 40% of the world’s public-cloud infrastructure market. That might be the reason why the genome sequencing giant Illumina decided to power the platform its customers use for genomics analysis and storage needs.
In the last couple of years, Amazon started to systematically conquer the healthcare space in its own unique way. It is evident that it wants to become the “real deal” in the medical community, and it certainly has some outstanding qualities to leverage on. For example, no one can be on par with Amazon’s marketing machine, sales force, and supply chain, while the sheer number of employees – more than 500,000 people – might make rivals apprehensive of their own chances on the market. We have high hopes for its service under the leadership of Dr. Atul Gawande, but it’s hard to envision how Amazon looks at the future of care without seeing the first practical proof.
2nd place tier: Microsoft – silently doing Microsoft things
With a HIT index score of 13 points, Microsoft also ranks 2nd on our list.
Of all participants of the list, Microsoft is probably the second least visible after only NVIDIA. However, this silence should not be mistaken for insignificance when we think about the tech future of healthcare. Microsoft has a massive advantage: a huge user base in hospitals and health practices all around the world.
In September 2020, it launched Cloud for Healthcare, a new, healthcare-centric cloud. It integrates the company’s existing services like Microsoft Teams, Azure IoT and its Healthcare Bot. In April 2021, Microsoft acquired A.I.-powered speech-technology company, Nuance. The company’s software can listen and transcribe doctor-patient conversations into organised medical notes.
Thanks to its experience in IT solutions and its growing expertise in cloud computing services, Microsoft will most probably further expand its cloud computing architecture as well as its artificial intelligence tools for medical purposes. Its shift towards enterprise-level solutions rather than consumer-focused ones seems to be a more effective and cautious approach, considering its past failures and recent progress.
1st place: Google – anything and everything and all of the time
With a HIT index score of 15 points Google tops the list in 2022
Google has probably never intended to be just another search platform. This got even clearer when, upon introducing Alphabet, Larry Page said that they do not intend to become a conventional company. Well, they aren’t indeed. Looking at their actions in healthcare, this is certainly true. But they really do know what people want to know more about. At the time when 7% of Google searches are health-related (that’s about a billion a day or 70,000 questions per minute!), the tech giant knows what to do. Invest in healthcare.
No matter whether it’s about population genomics, artificial intelligence, longevity or activity tracking, Google is there. And what’s more, they started to conquer the three most important fields: A.I., ageing and, in a broader sense, life science research. It seems they are everywhere in healthcare.
They could only be set back by their lack of experience in certain areas where they must rely on external researchers. But all-in-all, in spite of the complex health regulations and slow cultural transformation that are going on in the field, it is sure that Google & Co. could become a significant player in the future of healthcare. And if they are able to achieve meaningful progress in quantum computing…, only the sky’s the limit.