“Healthcare is the biggest business in the world, and it is phenomenally broken,” says Peter Diamandis, cofounder of the X-Prize, Singularity University, and Health Longevity Inc. “So, do I think Apple and Google and Amazon can do a better job? A thousandfold.”
In his upcoming book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think, which will hit bookshelves in late January 2020, Diamandis makes the case for why he believes big tech companies are going to be running healthcare by 2030.
“We’re going to see Apple and Amazon and Google and all the data-driven companies that are in our homes right now become our healthcare providers,” he says, referring to smart speakers such as Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s HomePod. While many of these home voice assistants started with simple tasks like restocking home pantries and surfacing cooking tutorials, they’re already starting to move into the business of managing family well-being.
Amazon has put significant effort into making Alexa a health resource. In the United Kingdom, it has partnered with the National Health Service to answer basic health questions such as “What are the symptoms for shingles?” or “What do you do if you have a cold?” It has also made Alexa compliant with U.S. HIPAA laws and signed partnerships with major healthcare insurers and providers so patients can access or remit health information through the device. To date, there are nearly 2,000 health wellness skills on its platform.
Similarly, the Google Assistant uses search to serve up information about medications, symptoms, and diseases, as well as physicians and medical services. Both the Google Home and the Echo have a Mayo Clinic-developed skill called First Aid that helps people navigate minor injuries. Meanwhile, Apple’s HealthKit takes a slightly different approach to tackling personal health. The kit connects to Apple’s own products such as the HomePod, iPhone, and Apple Watch as well as a bevy of devices from other companies, such as scales and blood pressure cuffs. The HealthKit can also tap into electronic medical records and other apps connected to hospitals and doctors. Essentially, it becomes a single repository for all your precious health data.
Diamandis believes the involvement of home health devices has the potential to lower costs by shifting care away from hospitals, where expenses can be much higher. This is the general idea behind telemedicine, but Diamandis thinks that big consumer tech companies will play a big role in driving that vision. He also thinks that these companies, which have mastered using personal data to anticipate user behavior, can use personal health data to make predictions about a person’s long-term health prospects and advise them accordingly.
Diamandis posits that the more information is available about you – your genetic makeup, your health history, what you ate for breakfast, the bacteria in your bowel movement, how you slept last night, what kind of sound you’re exposed to every day – the better artificial intelligence will be at spotting your potential for illness and suggesting care before the problem becomes intractable. This approach might shift the medical establishment from a structure that treats disease once it’s wreaking havoc in your body to one that prevents the disease from striking in the first place. “It is literally hundreds if not thousands of times cheaper to do that,” he says.
It is this cost savings that he believes will allow for new models of healthcare. Diamandis predicts Apple and Amazon will come up with a service where a person pays a company to keep them healthy, rather than to cover the cost of illness, based on their health history and daily activities.