Dr. Google, Dr. Google, Emergency, Emergency

July 8, 2022

The United States’s healthcare system is a giant mess controlled by drug makers, pharmacies, insurance companies, hospitals, and others who benefit from the system. The country spends 17% of its GDP on healthcare. There is a lot of money to be made in American healthcare and big tech companies know it. The Economist explains how, “Alphabet Is Spending Billions To Become A Force In Health Care.” The five big tech companies have invested over $3 billion and probably more. These investments range from Amazon’s telemedicine and online pharmacy, the health features on Apple’s smartwatch, Microsoft has health-related cloud computing offerings, and Meta’s reality-reproducing releasing fitness-related features.

Google’s parent company Alphabet is making the most ambitious moves in healthcare. Between 2019 and 2021 Alphabet more than one hundred deals in life sciences and healthcare with venture capital funds. In 2022, Alphabet has so far spent $1.7 billion in advancing health technology and science. Alphabet is using the same business tactics as in the past: throwing lots of money at projects and seeing what develops.

Alphabet has plans for wearables, health records, health-related AI, and extending human life. Google purchased Fitbit in 2019 for $2.1 billion and the company designed a feature that monitors the heart for irregularities. The FDA approved it. With this approval, Google hopes it will also see the same for its Pixel Watch, Pixel phone, and Google Nest.

Alphabet also wants to increase transparency in electronic health records:

“Google is also giving health records another whirl. The new initiative, called Care Studio, is aimed at doctors rather than patients. Google’s earlier efforts in this area were derailed in part by hospitals’ sluggishness in digitizing their patient records. ‘That problem has mostly gone away but another has emerged,’ says Karen DeSalvo, Google’s health chief—‘the inability of different providers’ records to talk to each other.’ Dr DeSalvo has been vocal about the need for greater interoperability since her days in the

Obama administration, where she was in charge of coordinating American health information technology. Until that happens, Care Studio is meant to act as both translator and repository (which is, naturally, searchable).”

The company has already made headway with AI, such as AlphaFold-software that predicts protein structures and Isomorphic Labs that will accelerate and cheapen drug discovery. As for stopping the aging process, subsidiary Verily partnered with L’Oréal to study skin biology. Its other subsidiary Calico received 42.5 billion from AbbVie to study age-related diseases.

Alphabet faces many roadblocks, such as governments, government data that is difficult for AI to read, market competition, and general difficulties. Alphabet probably will not solve the mystery of death.

Whitney Grace, July 8, 2022


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