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America’s labyrinthine health-industrial complex consumes 17% of GDP, equivalent to $3.6 trillion a year.

The American system’s heft and inertia, perpetuated by the drugmakers, pharmacies, insurers, hospitals and others that benefit from it, have long protected it from disruption.

Its size and stodginess also explain why it is being covetously eyed by big tech. Few other industries offer a potential market large enough to move the needle for the trillion-dollar technology titans.

In a report titled “Alphabet is spending billions to become a force in health care,” the Economist reports that Google’s parent company Alphabet is spending billions to become a major player in the healthcare market.

Google’s parent company Alphabet remains the tech firm that has pushed its healthcare efforts the most. Between 2019 and 2021, Alphabet’s venture capital divisions, Google Ventures and Gradient Ventures, and Capital G, have made almost 100 deals in the life sciences and healthcare industry.

The Economist writes that so far this year, it has injected $1.7 billion into future health ideas, according to data provider, CB Insights, which, leaving its fellow tech giants, has spent nearly $100 million in the dust.

Alphabet is the fifth-highest-ranking business in the Nature Index, which measures the impact of scientific papers in the life sciences, behind four giant drugmakers and 20 places ahead of Microsoft, the only other tech giant in the running. The company has hired former senior health regulators to help navigate America’s health care bureaucracy.

Alphabet Health has dabbled in health since 2008, when Google introduced a service that allowed users to compile their health records in one place. That project was shut down in 2012, relaunched in 2018 as Google Health, which included Google’s other health ventures, and was scrapped again last year.

Today Alphabet’s health adventures can be divided into four broad categories. These are in thick order of ambition: wearables, health records, health-related artificial intelligence (AI) and the ultimate challenge of increasing human longevity.

But Amazon launched an online pharmacy and telemedicine service almost everywhere in the United States.  And then last year Amazon announced the expansion of Amazon Care, which dispenses “high-quality medical care and advice “24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” with a goal of delivering the service through companies of all sizes to their employees nationwide.

This move has broader implications for the healthcare industry, says Jeff Becker, MBA, principal analyst, healthcare, with CB Insights. One of the chief impacts is that it brings a company with brand name recognition into an emerging marketplace of medical care solutions aimed at helping employers reduce healthcare costs.

Employers are ripe for services that can help reduce their healthcare expenditures, the second biggest line item on the balance sheet following salaries, Becker says.

“The economic lever that they are tackling is overuse of the ER and urgent care centers,” Becker says. By providing a mechanism to engage with employees early in the care-seeking process, individuals are directed to the most appropriate and cost-effective level of care, thereby saving employers money.

Startups that have gained traction in this space, he says, include DispatchHealth and Heal, which offer in-person and virtual services, as well as 98point6 and Buoy, which provide triage and telehealth services.

“The big race,” Becker says, “is going to become who can add diagnostic testing to these platforms so that we really start to get a full, end-to-end on-demand healthcare platform.”