Sean Parker: Health care’s big breakthroughs aren’t going to come out of Google or Amazon

Sean Parker, the tech billionaire and cancer research philanthropist, may be a product of a Silicon Valley tech giant — but he’s skeptical about the impact those companies will have as they increasingly make a play in medicine.

“I just don’t think the innovations that are going to drive this revolution in health care and discovery are going to come out of Amazon or Google,” Parker said Tuesday at an event put on by the Washington Post. “Google has a big group that’s focused on this — they’re really smart, they’re not unsophisticated, they’re not naive — but I don’t think that’s where you’re going to see the big breakthroughs happening.”

Silicon Valley’s tech giants have invested significant resources in health care and science in recent years — and attracted big-name talent.

Amazon, along with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, has launched a new health care company aimed at developing solutions that could be implemented elsewhere in the U.S. health care system.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has been scooping up some of the biggest names in health care. Google just hired David Feinberg, the forward-thinking CEO of the Geisinger health system, the Pennsylvania health plan and hospital system confirmed last week. Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the longtime president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, joined Google earlier this year. And Dr. Robert Califf, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, last year joined Verily, Alphabet’s unit working on solutions to disease.

While coders face their own formidable challenges, Parker said, “tech people coming from tech to biology so dramatically underestimate the complexity of the human body. It’s not designed by us. It doesn’t work in ways that make sense.”

Parker, the former president of Facebook, has since become a major funder of research into therapies that seek to fight cancer by harnessing the patient’s own immune system through his foundation Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which he founded in 2016. It has funded prominent research scientists across the country, most notably James Allison, one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine.



Hospital executives believe Amazon can deliver on its hype as a healthcare disrupter

Out of all the technology giants with ambitions in healthcare, hospital executives have overwhelmingly put their faith in Amazon, according to a new survey.

A full 59% of executives say Amazon will have the biggest impact, according to the survey by Reaction Data. Respondents cited resources available to the retail and technology behemoth, the company’s current influence and name recognition.

Comparatively, 14% said Apple, with its foray into EHRs, would be the most influential, followed by Google at 8% and Microsoft at 7%

Among healthcare CEOs—which accounted for 26 of the survey’s 97 respondents—75% said Amazon would make the biggest impact.

About 80% of survey respondents were from the C-suite, including chief nursing officers, chief financial officers and chief information officers. 

While Amazon alone may be generating significant excitement in boardrooms, a previous survey by HealthEdge shows consumers are largely skeptical about Amazon’s partnership with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway.

Amazon’s push into healthcare “has been a shot across the bow for the entire industry,” Rita Numerof, Ph.D., president of Numerof & Associates told FierceHealthcare. The company’s consistent and deliberate investments indicate they are serious about making substantial changes within the industry.

“Amazon is known for its relentless focus on the consumer and its ability to use data systematically to identify and meet unmet needs in an accessible manner,” she said. “Unfortunately, access, consumer engagement, and segmentation haven’t been the hallmark of healthcare delivery.”

Executives were also bullish on telemedicine, with 29% saying the technology would have the biggest impact on healthcare, followed by artificial intelligence at 20%. That’s less surprising given that nearly 75% of respondents were already using telehealth in some way.However, 51% of respondents said telemedicine is revenue neutral, and key focus areas were split equally around rural patients, follow-up care and managing specific populations.




Alphabet’s $375 million investment in Oscar Health will expand insurer into Medicare Advantage

Oscar says it uses technology to lower cost: More than 60 percent of member interactions with health systems are virtual.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is investing $375 million in Oscar Health, the technology-driven health insurer cofounded by Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner, brother of White House advisor Jared Kushner.

The funds will help move the New York City-based insurer into its next phase of expansion, entering the Medicare Advantage market.

“Today, we are announcing Alphabet’s plans to invest $375 million into Oscar Health,” said Mario Schlosser, co-founder and CEO of Oscar Health. “Oscar will accelerate the pursuit of its mission: to make our healthcare system work for consumers. We will continue to build a member experience that lowers costs and improves care, and to bring Oscar to more people — deepening our expansion into the individual and small business markets while entering a new business segment, Medicare Advantage, in 2020.”

Schlosser also announced the addition of Salar Kamangar to Oscar’s board. Kamangar is a senior executive at Google and former CEO of YouTube.

This is the second big investment for Oscar Health in less than a year. In March, Oscar raised $165 million from Alphabet, Founders Fund and other sources.

Numerous insurers have jumped into the MA market, finding there a growing population of aging baby boomers who are attracted to the plan’s additional benefits, such as dental and vision. About a third of Medicare beneficiaries have Medicare Advantage as their plan.

MA has seen strong earnings for insurers. UnitedHealth Group, Humana, AetnaCigna, Anthem, Centene and numerous Blue Cross Blue Shield plans are in the MA market, contracting with the federal government to offer the private plans.

Oscar is also in the Affordable Care Act market.

However, the insurer has struggled to turn a profit, according to Politico.

Schlosser and Kushner founded the company in 2012, saying the only way to fix the broken healthcare system is to empower the consumer.

Oscar uses data science and technology to do lower costs. 

Sixty-three percent of member interactions with the healthcare system are virtual, the company said. More than 40 percent manage their health through the Oscar website and mobile apps. Forty-three percent of members’ first visits to the doctor are routed through Oscar.

In June, Oscar announced it had added three states, Florida, Arizona and Michigan, to the existing six where it has a footprint: California, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Tennessee.

It added three additional large metro areas in Ohio, Tennessee and Texas for a total of 14 markets, 260,000 members and $1 billion in premiums.





The tech giant is looking to the former exec for guidance on addressing healthcare improvement in a way that could reduce burden on providers.

Toby Cosgrove, MD, the Cleveland Clinic’s former top executive, will share a stage Tuesday afternoon with several colleagues from his new employer: Google.

Cosgrove, who served as the clinic’s CEO from 2004 through 2017, signed on as an executive advisor to the Google Cloud Healthcare and Life Sciences team, the company announced in a blog post last week. An update to his LinkedIn profile indicates he’s been in the role since January.

As part of his new role, Cosgrove will join National Institutes of Health Chief Information Officer Andrea Norris for a conversation Tuesday about how advances in cloud computing are changing healthcare.

Those advances can help stakeholders go beyond achieving the triple-aim of healthcare improvement—better patient experience, improved population health, and reduced cost—to add a fourth aim, according to Gregory J. Moore, MD, PhD, vice president of healthcare for Google Cloud, who will moderate the conversation.

Although advances in technology have added to the recordkeeping burden on healthcare workers, people like Cosgrove can help companies like Google improve the work experience of physicians and their staff, Moore wrote in the blog post.

“Technology may have been the cause of some of these challenges, but we believe that it can also be the cure,” Moore wrote.

Cosgrove, who retired from Cleveland Clinic in January, also joined the board of Denver-based healthcare IT company RxRevu, as HealthLeaders Media reported last month.

Cosgrove’s successor, Tomislav “Tom” Mihaljevic, MD, has been the clinic’s CEO since January.


Google Ventures Shifts Focus to Health Care

Google GOOGL +0.10%’s venture-capital arm is moving strongly into health care and life-sciences startups, mirroring shifts at the Internet giant. More than one-third of the money Google Ventures invested in 2014 went to health care and life-sciences companies, up from 9% each of the prior two years. The venture group plans to continue investing in the area, looking to capitalize on an explosion of health data and new ways to analyze it, said Bill Maris, head of Google Ventures.