Healthcare Execs Should Exchange Jobs With Consumer Tech Giants

In recent years, consumer tech giants like Amazon, Google and Apple have been working to take a bite out of the healthcare industry.

While they haven’t seen a massive win just yet, they’re continuing to make major investments and, in Google’s case, their R&D pipeline is deep. Everyone’s watching Amazon, which reportedly spent roughly $1 billion to acquire online pharmacy PillPack, but I wouldn’t rule out big moves even by relatively quiet contenders like Facebook.

All of this posturing, investing and chest-beating in the Silicon Valley world seems to have healthcare executives in a defensive crouch. When to a recent survey by Reaction Data asked which outside entrants were most likely disrupt the healthcare industry, two-thirds said Amazon tops the list.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but you could read this suggesting that the consumer tech giants are coming for healthcare industry players whether the healthcare industry stands its ground or not. But at least in my fantasies, there’s a way companies on both sides of this struggle could change things up.

What if we accepted that Silicon Valley players need to understand the healthcare business, and healthcare execs to grasp innovative tech cultures, and created some sort of an executive cross-company exchange program?

Yes, there would be major competitive issues to address, intellectual property to protect and meetings the visiting exec could never attend, but it might be worth the trouble. I’d argue that for every caveat, there are equally compelling reasons to make such a program work.

On the consumer tech side, for example, the giants could learn things about healthcare operations, clinical care, revenue cycle challenges, budget constraints and patient preferences that are unlikely to learn seated in their hip Valley offices between rounds of ping-pong.

Healthcare executives, for their part, could watch rapid-fire tech product evolution take place under their nose, explore how consumer tech product developers size up their market and get a fresh look at their own industry assumptions in a way that’s probably not possible if they stay in the confines of their health system.

When all is said and done, I believe that these corporate leaders — let’s call them ambassadors — would walk away with a head full of ideas not only as to how to improve their own operations but also work effectively with their opposite number. If that’s all the tech giants and healthcare organizations got out of the exercise, that alone would be enough.

Hey, if Commander Riker could work on the deck of a Klingon vessel, anything’s possible.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.