Dr. Iltifat Husain’s physician take is at the end of this article

Despite the fact that Google Health, the personal health record system, failed, the company’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin remain “obsessed with massive, intractable medical problems” according to a recent post in re/code. That strong interest will likely lead to much deeper investments in a variety of healthcare-related projects. In fact, the investment bank Cowen and Company believes the search engine giant could make healthcare its next multi-billion dollar business. A case in point: Google, through an Alphabet holding company called Life Sciences, is investing in digital health systems and technology that focuses on diabetes, partnering with Sanofi in this endeavor. The pharmaceutical company, which sells diabetes drugs, will market Life Sciences’ technology in this specialty.

The Cowen report goes on to state: “A closer look at Google’s vast health care efforts reveals that the company is targeting very large markets with an expansive list of projects that with even minor success could justify the company’s recent investments.” Among the areas that would be a good fit for the company:

  • Genomic sequencing
  • Technology that takes advantage of the move from fee-for-service to pay-for-value medical services
  • Health data digitization

The re/code post goes on to postulate that Google’s expertise in cloud computing would help bolster any potential ventures into health data digitization. And its interest in diabetes has led to the company’s partnership with Dexcom to develop technological tools to manage the disease. The Cowen research report believes the total market in this area has $20 billion in potential.

On a more negative note, however, the company’s investments in digital health and medical technology are not a sure thing: “Other tech companies do cloud computing well, arguably better as businesses. And several, including Fitbit and Apple, look better poised to seize on any boom in wearable health products.”

Dr. Iltifat Husain’s take:

Remember when Google created Helpouts and enabled physicians to have patient visits in a HIPAA compliant manner? And when they had a personal health records — Google Health — for individuals? Both didn’t work out.  Google discontinued Helpouts months ago and if there were any physicians who utilized the service actively for their patients – tough luck. I’m interested to see what Google has in store for medicine, but health and medicine aren’t ventures you can try things out on and see what sticks. Personally, I would be hesitant as a physician to utilize any significant medical or health platform Google or Apple create until they prove they are in the game for the long haul. If they stick to health trackers and wellness apps that’s fine – but if they want to actually change the medical industry I’d be hesitant to utilize their services unless they prove they are in for the long haul.