Comcast Follows Amazon, Apple Into Healthcare

connected healthcare technology

Comcast reportedly is getting into healthcare — the latest example of how technology is proving entry for a variety of tech and communication-focused firms into one of the largest industries in the U.S., a group that includes the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple.

According to CNBC, the Comcast healthcare effort centers around a yet-to-be deployed device to “monitor people’s health,” which is set for a pilot later this year. The report, based on knowledge from two unnamed sources, said the “device will monitor people’s basic health metrics using ambient sensors, with a focus on whether someone is making frequent trips to the bathroom or spending more time than usual in bed. Comcast is also building tools for detecting falls, which are common and potentially fatal for seniors, the people said.”

The report added that the device won’t be a “communications or assistant tool,” and won’t be capable of other tasks such as web searches or controlling household appliances or utilities. “Comcast plans to offer the device and related service to at-risk people, including seniors and people with disabilities, but the timing, pricing and roll-out plan have not been finalized,” the report said. “It will start to experiment with pilots, which are not limited to Comcast customers, by the end of 2019, with potential commercial release in 2020.”

Healthcare is at the verge of a wave of innovation and disruption via the efforts of Big Tech and other companies that are more associated with digital payments and commerce than medical care and medicine.

Amazon stands as one of the main example of that, and seems to be helping to blaze the path that Comcast is following. As PYMNTS has covered, Amazon wants to enable Alexa, its voice-activated digital assistant, to keep tabs on customers’ medicine and provide personal health updates, and is taking steps to achieve that. Amazon said Alexa is HIPAA-compliant and that five healthcare companies including Cigna, Livongo Health and hospital partners have created new Alexa skills, enabling Alexa to make appointments at urgent care facilities, track prescription drug shipments and provide doctors with information once a patient is released from the hospital.

As for Google, its plans to disrupt healthcare and play a major role in that industry include using data and artificial intelligence (AI). That’s according to Toby Cosgrove, an executive advisor to the Google Cloud health care team. Such tools could allow Google to help medical professionals better spot health trends and determine more efficient — and perhaps even less expensive — treatment plans. AI in healthcare will reach $36.1 billion by 2025, according to a recent report.

Wearables, too, are part of this building wave of disruption and innovation in healthcare. For instance, Google has said it would work with Fitbit, a maker of wearable devices, on healthcare initiatives tied to consumer and enterprise health situations, with Fitbit using Google’s new Cloud for Healthcare API to help the company integrate further into the healthcare system. Through this collaboration, Fitbit can connect user data with electronic medical records (EMR).

For its part, Apple also has a hand in wearables, and in offering encouragement toward exercise and healthy living through those devices. Earlier this year, for instance, Aetna said that via the Apple Watch, the insurance provider’s Attain app will give Aetna members access to personalized goals, the ability to track their daily activity levels, access to health action recommendations and the ability to earn rewards for taking actions that improve their overall well-being. According to Aetna, reward opportunities include the ability for eligible users to earn their Apple Watch via participation in the program.

Apple is also working with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals unit to study whether the Apple Watch can be used to prevent strokes.

But wearables aren’t the only focus for Apple when it comes to healthcare. It will provide its Health Records feature on the iPhone to the upwards of 9 million veterans in facilities all over the country. That means veterans will be able to peruse their health records and see secure medical info, all organized in one app on their iPhones. Things like immunizations, conditions, allergies, procedures and lab results will all be displayed, and veterans will be able to see a summarized health profile on demand.

As all this shows — and the new Comcast effort confirms — the world of healthcare promises to be built in large part by the contributions of commerce and payments and web-focused firms.