This article was authored by Jouko Ahvenainen, and was originally posted on telecomasia.net.
Smart watches are making their breakthrough and getting people to monitor their health data. Insurance companies and health care providers are developing new products that utilize customer’s data in the service and pricing. Now Amazon, Alphabet and Apple are interested in the health care business. Telcos must also think through their positions.
I wrote earlier that health data is to smart watches what camera and social sharing is to mobile phones (read more here). It is one important service category, and and a reason people are now buying those products, and companies can start to collect data and use applications to analyze it. For telcos this means increased business in terms of smart watch sales and greater data usage by customers, but telcos might also have more value-added opportunities.
A well-known Silicon Valley investor John Doerr had commented at the Forbes Healthcare conference that Amazon is one of the best positioned firms help customer utilize their data and he expects Amazon to offer services in health care. Amazon published a health care initiative with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase earlier this year. In late November Amazon announced its new service Amazon Comprehend Medical that uses machine learning and natural language processing to extract relevant medical information from doctors' notes, clinical trial reports and patient health records.
Apple has its touch point in collecting and analyzing health data in its phones and watches. Google and its parent Alphabet also have already activities in health care areas, although it has also encountered challenges. For example, in the UK, Google DeepMind works with the national health care service, NHS and its use of data has raised many concerns and also a political debate.
Insurance companies are actively utilizing more data. Health data is one important part of this. Many insurance companies already offer price discounts, if a customer e.g. is ready to use a smart watch that then delivers data to the insurance company. The use of data and smart pricing models is one of the most active areas in insurtech.
Health care and health insurance business are globally a huge business. It is not a surprise the tech giants are interested in this business area. Advertising and content business on the internet start to be quite mature businesses and their earning models have their challenges. Fintech, insurtech and health care offer a lot of growth opportunities.
Content business can be a good comparison for digital health care services. There are companies that focus to actually make and produce content. Then we have giants like Netflix, Amazon and Apple, but still in many countries telcos have been able to find a role in this market too. They are near each customer.
Trust and reliability are very important components in health services. Google’s issues with data in the UK are a good example, how companies must be very careful as to what kind of services they offer, how they use data and with whom they work. Based on this year issues, it would be hard to see Facebook having a role in health data. Other tech giants have somewhat similar issues. In many countries regulatory requirements also specif, how the data can be used and where it can be stored (e.g. it cannot be exported to other countries).
Data is a fundamental part of health care. We are still in very early days regarding how it is utilized. Even the devices and censors are not always very accurate to measure, better software is needed to correct and analyze data, and much more services are needed really to utilize the data in actual services. Privacy and user’s control also need new solutions.
Telcos as a local trusted partner have an opportunity to get into this business. It just needs a very careful analysis as to what would be the role, services and partners to offer the service. This will be one of the fastest growing digital business areas.