Hospitals Under Siege By Tech Vendors Hunting Health Data

Patient data has always been in demand, particularly among pharmas and medical research organizations that need it to do their daily business. However, a new and very aggressive wave of healthcare data buyers has emerged: tech organizations are hungrily seeking this data, which they must acquire if they hope to develop powerful specialized analytics tools providers are beginning to demand.

Some of this frenzy is doubtless being driven by moves made by tech industry giants like Google, which not only spent more than $2 billion to acquire Fitbit (and obviously, its stream of consumer wearables data), but also its high-profile data crunching agreement with health system Ascension. But things have been moving in this direction for several years at least. This is no fad, but rather the maturation of a market we all knew would emerge.

Hospital leaders are being swamped with pitches from tech companies hoping to access their patient data, sometimes in the form of a partnership proposal and sometimes offers to buy the data outright, according to a piece by CNBC writer Christina Farr.

For a look at how this is playing out, consider the story of Aaron Miri, chief information officer at Dell Medical School and University of Texas Health Austin. Miri told CNBC that five years ago, he’d get a be one pitch a quarter of tech startups edition deals and partnerships.  Now, though, health data taking center stage in startups hoping to bring machine learning to healthcare, things have sped up substantially. Now, he says, “it’s all the time. Often, once a day or more.”

Not only that, these buyers aren’t afraid of mounting a hard-sell campaign. In fact, according to Stephen Klasko, CEO of Jefferson Health, who also spoke to Farr, some don’t take “no” for an answer.

Sometimes, he says, if he turns away a tech vendor, they search out individual Jefferson physicians and scientists and pitch them directly. Though this kind of in-your-face approach might undermine the chances of developing a longer-term relationship with the hospital in question, clearly there are techs who think the amount of money at stake makes it worth taking such a risk.

Not only that, some of the potential partners knocking on hospital doors are offering less than you might think. “We often find, once we look deeper into the pitch, is that joint development project and that somehow with us being both product and the customer that pays for the product,” noted Klasko’s colleague Karen Knudsen, chair of Jefferson’s cancer center, who also spoke to Farr.

Ultimately, though, dodgy contracts are far from the biggest worry hospitals being pelted with health data analytics pitches need to consider. Regardless of what deals they strike, hospital leaders need to keep their eyes first and foremost on whether they’re likely to invite the wrath of regulators the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which, in going after Google, has signaled that it’s paying close attention to how techs in the privacy and data-sharing issues.

If I were a hospital leader right now, my first question to data-hungry techs would be “how will you keep the data safe?”  Unless you’re satisfied with the answer to that question, just about everything else is moot.

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.

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