Technology

Apple and Amazon bet on healthcare as Big Tech realm expands

Apple argues it has become a major force in health-related technologies while Amazon announces the $3.9bn purchase of One Medical as part of an industry-wide effort to enter the healthcare space.

Big Tech seems to have targeted the healthcare sector, as two of its biggest players pledge their commitment to invest in the industry.

On Wednesday, Apple published a nearly 60-pages-long report outlining the company’s health features and partnerships with medical institutions to highlight its commitment to “science-based technology” and Apple’s vision to double down on health-related features as part of its future expansion.

Some of the features that reportedly show the company’s “pioneering” healthcare offering include sleep monitoring and fitness classes, as well as atrial-fibrillation detection and cycle tracking applications. Apple also is working on technologies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring that are expected to go live soon.

Currently, the iPhone and Apple Watch support features across 17 areas of fitness and health, according to the report, with the Health app being able to store more than 150 types of health-related data.

“The health innovations we’ve pioneered have aimed to help break down barriers between users and their own everyday health data, between health care providers and patients, and between researchers and study participants,” said the company’s CEO, Jeff Wiliams.

A day after Apple published its report, a different technology giant took a step further into diversifying its business, but with an equal focus on the medical sector.

On Thursday, it was announced that Amazon is planning to acquire US primary health care provider One Medical for $3.9bn (£3.26bn), subject to regulatory approval. The acquisition builds up on the company’s previous investment in the healthcare industry, as Amazon announced earlier this year its intention to take its telemedicine service nationwide in the United States.

“We think health care is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention,” said Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services. “We see lots of opportunity to both improve the quality of the experience and give people back valuable time in their days.”

One Medical, which has a network of primary care practices across the United States as well as telemedicine services, has grown to 767,000 members, according to its latest results. The company’s CEO, Amir Dan Rubin, welcomed the news of the acquisition, branding it as “an opportunity to make the healthcare experience more accessible, affordable, and even enjoyable for patients.”

The convergence of medical and technological innovations – particularly following the Covid-19 health crisis – has significantly driven up investment in the sector, which has been deemed as one of the natural markets for technological firms to explore.

However, despite the links between health and technology, success in the sector has been difficult for even the largest tech firms. Last year, for example, Google shut down its dedicated health unit. Moreover, some campaigners have raised objections to the idea of ​​these large companies having access to citizens’ health data.

“Amazon’s takeover of One Medical is the latest shot in a terrifying new stage in the business model of the world’s largest corporations,” said Barry Lynn, the executive director of Open Markets Institute, an organization that advocates for stricter antitrust regulation. “The deal will expand Amazon’s ability to collect the most intimate and personal of information about individuals, in order to track, target, manipulate and exploit people in ever more intrusive ways.”

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