Aug 9, 2019 - Technology

Health care's love-hate relationship with Big Tech

Animated illustration of a pixelated heart breaking apart.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Health care companies are trying to fend off tech giants with one hand while striking up partnerships with them with the other.

Between the lines: Whether health care companies love or hate big tech's encroachment into their territory is dependent on whether they stand to make or lose money should the tech companies succeed.

Driving the news: The feuds between Amazon's PillPack and established industry players like CVS, Walgreens and UnitedHealth have illustrated these major health companies' resistance to a new competitor.

  • CVS has sued to keep a former employee from working at PillPack, and just this week it was reported that Walgreens and CVS are fighting with PillPack over prescription transfers.
  • Surescripts, a company that allows prescriptions to be filled electronically, has recently asked the FBI to investigate allegations that one of its vendors illegally shared patients' medication histories with PillPack, as my colleague Bob Herman reported.
  • UnitedHealth has also sued to keep a former employee from working at Haven, another Amazon health care venture.

The other side: Also this week, CNBC reported that Eli Lilly is working with Apple to see whether health features on the iPhone and Apple Watch can be used to spot early signs of dementia.

  • And Alphabet, Amazon and Apple are all looking into services and tools to help people with diabetes manage their disease, CNBC also reported this week.

Yes, but: Technology itself can offer real value to patients and therefore to health care companies. But the tech industry’s desire to claim a piece of our ever-growing health care spending is an existential threat to the incumbent players.

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