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Big Tech Stands Ready to Deliver AI-Powered Healthcare
By David H. Freedman  |  Apr 25, 2022
Big Tech Stands Ready to Deliver AI-Powered Healthcare
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Big Tech may be ready to deliver artificial intelligence-driven healthcare, but guarantees are lacking that this will go well. Would it be better to integrate AI into the existing system or to try introducing something completely new? Award-winning science journalist David H. Freedman takes a closer look at Big Tech’s plans for healthcare.

BOSTON - Big Tech - that is, Apple, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft, Meta/Facebook, and Amazon - is rushing into artificial intelligence-based healthcare in a big way. In principle, these tech giants are in an unparalleled position to achieve real advances in the quality, accessibility, and affordability of care, as well as in medical research, by virtue of their enormous investments in AI along with their ability to amass vast quantities of information on the behavior and health status of billions of users through their online platforms, not to mention their consumer devices and services. 

Yet in spite of this potential and their unmatchable resources, Big Tech’s success in healthcare has been limited thus far. This shows that these tech giants also face some unique challenges related to their mixed public profiles, as well as some unique barriers facing new, innovative players - even the largest, most influential ones - in the healthcare industry.

Big Capabilities

The resources at the disposal of Big Tech open up a wealth of possibilities for improving healthcare. Consider, e.g., Facebook’s access to the trillions of posts, likes, and clicks of its nearly 3 billion users, which the company can cross-reference with profile data to build a picture of who is associated with which health conditions and which interests.

Google can do much the same with its search data, knowing what keywords individuals type into the search box - with an average of about 1 billion health-related searches taking place every day - which can then be linked to other online behavior. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, runs an entire division called Verily that focuses on sensing, collecting, and applying consumer data for health applications. Google also owns Fitbit, whose wristbands track the activities of more than 30 million people, while its Nest division h

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