Alphabet’s acquisition of Fitbit in 2019 signalled their intent to become a serious player in the HealthTech space. However, the extent of these plans has only recently become clearer. This is relevant to anyone looking to understand the future direction of the healthcare sector, and to anyone interested in how Alphabet diversify into new sectors more generally.
The Economist has published an excellent analysis of these plans, based on tracking their recent investments and product functionality roll-outs.
White Space Strategy MD, John Bee, has summarised the key points below, alongside his view on the key implications for the world in 2030.
The article in 5 bullets
The Economist’s analysis begins by outlining why the healthcare market is highly attractive to Alphabet and other big tech firms: it’s gigantic size in America and globally creates vast opportunity and potential rewards.
It then outlines key element’s of Alphabet’s current and future areas of focus. The key points to take on-board are as follows:
- Healthcare’s a major priority for Alphabet: they’ve spent $1.7bn on futuristic health ideas this year alone through their VC/ PE arms (so far). This dwarfs the other tech titans
- Their wearables are rapidly gaining sophisticated healthcare functionality: is a tipping point close? Fitbit’s just received FDA approval in the US to help prevent strokes/ heart irregularities. This and other tech will be built into the next generation of Pixel watches (which are due out soon). This would logically support a push into the broader remote healthcare space in the future
- Big focus on care records: Care Studio is a new initiative aimed at doctors to improve access to/ search of/ use of patient data
- Big focus on anti-aging: this focuses on extending life and extending youthfulness (and includes an intriguing partnership with L’Oréal)
- AI advancements are beginning to materialise: these focus on disease diagnosis and drug discovery
Implications: the world in 2030
In my view, there are 3 clear implications of Alphabet’s plans for the future world we live in. Firstly, they will help catalyse a shift towards preventative healthcare. Many healthcare experts have been pushing for this. Alphabet’s investments in wearable tech and data analysis will allow problems to be spotted (and predicted) in advance. This will fundamentally change the nature of healthcare, potentially extending life expectancy, improving quality of life, and reducing overall system costs.
Secondly, we’re likely to see changes to where and when healthcare services are delivered. More primary care will be delivered remotely, with the next generation of wearables and smartphones able to perform many of the tests that currently need to be done in-person.
Thirdly, Alphabet’s A.I. advancements will help drive A.I. forward more generally. The public will be a lot more likely to embrace A.I. if it can save their lives and help keep them healthy.
Whether we all end up living forever is another question. But one thing seems certain: however the healthcare sector develops in the future, Alphabet intend to be a part of it.