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Healthcare systems 2021 have been dominated by forging new tech partnerships with tech giants, startups, and even each other.

UC Davis Health opens cloud innovation center in partnership with Amazon’s cloud arm. Google has opened an office in Rochester, Minnesota to strengthen its relationship with the Mayo Clinic. More than a dozen healthcare systems have come together to launch Truveta, a for-profit data company. And a trio of health systems founded Graphite Health to monitor and certify digital health applications.

The year has represented a shift in the way tech companies approach the healthcare industry, said Stephanie Davis, senior research analyst who covers healthcare technologies at SVB Leerink, with a focus on supporting healthcare professionals. healthcare organizations to become more efficient and innovative with technology, rather than trying to disrupt the whole system.

“Originally, when big tech looked at healthcare, they saw it as something they could disrupt,” Davis said. “It was not the right mentality.”

Davis said she expects to see more collaborations between traditional and non-traditional health actors in 2022.

The key to success for big tech and other outside industry players will be partnering with traditional healthcare players such as providers and payers, experts say.

“Healthcare systems are likely to play a bigger role in this transformation than they’ve ever played before,” said Dr Denise Basow, who will take on the role of chief digital officer for Ochsner Health from January. . She joins New Orleans-based Ochsner from Wolters Kluwer, where she was President and CEO of the Clinical Efficiency Business Unit.

Hospitals not only have data that companies want to analyze, she said, but can also serve as a “test bed” for innovators to try out the new technologies they develop.

But not all industry incumbents and new entrants are looking to join hands.

One area of ​​competition to watch in 2022, experts say, will be primary care, as big tech, digital health startups, retail and hospitals all try to carve out market share.

Amazon Care, a healthcare service that Amazon sells to employer health plans, signed its first clients this year. Walmart acquires telehealth company MeMD, while CVS Health and Walgreens continue to expand their virtual and in-person primary care offerings. Then there are telehealth companies like Amwell, Doctor on Demand, MDLive, and Teladoc Health that are rolling out virtual primary care services, not to mention bustling primary care clinics like Oak Street Health.

The primary care space “appears to be the competitive battleground for all new entrants to health care,” said Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting.

While tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have been talking about healthcare for years, in 2021 they took steps that made their presence less abstract than in previous years – reshuffling their healthcare priorities. health care and entering into genuine care delivery agreements.

Historically, tech giants have tested the waters in healthcare – “here we go,” Davis said.

Despite skepticism over Haven’s disbandment earlier this year, Amazon has made some serious inroads. The company signed its first handful of Amazon Care customers, stepped up work on Amazon Pharmacy – a delivery service it launched at the end of last year – and consolidated its pharmacy, healthcare and healthcare businesses. diagnosis in a combined health care branch.

This is in addition to new agreements made to deploy the Alexa voice assistant and the company’s cloud services in hospitals.

Microsoft in April announced plans to acquire Nuance Communications, further bolstering its focus on delivering enterprise software to healthcare organizations as it partners with healthcare companies like CVS Health to digitize operations and co-develop products and serve as the technological backbone of Truveta’s data platform.

Google grabbed the headlines in August when an internal memo leaked that the tech giant planned to wind up its three-year-old Google Health division. Since then, he has sought to prove that he is not giving up his work in the health field by redistributing health projects and teams to the company’s research, research and devices divisions, launching new new partnerships to test AI and by publishing an EHR research tool that he had piloted with Ascension.

“They all have very different approaches to the market,” Padmanabhan said of the tech companies.

Padmanabhan said that in 2022, he expects tech companies to pursue more healthcare acquisitions, in addition to Microsoft’s planned purchase of Nuance for $ 19.7 billion. Mergers and acquisitions of digital health companies had already intensified in 2021, with 203 transactions reported in the first three quarters, up from 132 and 125 in the first nine months of 2020 and 2019, respectively, according to Digital Health Business. & Technology from Modern Healthcare. .