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December 16, 2017

Tech Giants Have Big Plans for Healthcare, But Will Consumers Trust Them?

In the last several months there has been a lot of buzz about the leading consumer technology companies expanding their footprint into healthcare. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is exploring many paths to get deeper into healthcare, including becoming an insurance company and developing artificial intelligence and machine learning-based medical tools. Apple announced a new feature that aims to boost interoperability by letting some iPhone users aggregate parts of their medical records. AmazonBerkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase have a partnership to cut healthcare costs and improve services for their U.S. employees, putting them in direct competition with insurance companies.

However, on the heels of the Facebook data fiasco, where 87 million Facebook users around the world could be impacted by the social network’s largest data breach, many consumers are questioning the trustworthiness of tech companies when it comes to their personal health data. A recent survey by Morning Consult found that consumers’ trust is eroding when it comes to tech companies housing their personal data. Compared with a similar survey in June, consumer trust in Apple is down 7 percentage points, and trust in Google has fallen 5 points, to 60 percent. Amazon fell 6 points, to 63 percent.

But that distrust is nothing new. A 2015 survey found that only 8 percent of consumers said they would share health data like medical records and lab results with “a technology company.” There was a huge gap between that figure and the number who said they would hand their health history over to a research institution (36 percent) or to their own doctor (86 percent). When asked whom they would share their DNA data with, the responses were similar.

So are the tech giants’ efforts doomed for failure? Not necessarily. Amazon, Google and Apple have all built long-established trust with consumers when it comes to their core products and services. Apple makes cool stuff we want, Amazon brings that stuff efficiently to our doorstep and Google is our eyes and ears online. They have delivered on the components that enable enduring brand trust – delivering on a distinct promise and relentlessly pursuing the perfect the customer experience.

But in the new world of healthcare consumerism, that brand trust is not so easily extended to personal health data, especially when we’re talking about our personal blueprints – genomic data. Having our personal demographic and purchasing behavior data leveraged by the tech giants is one thing, but giving them the keys to our DNA is another.

However, a new movement underway could provide the data securitiy needed to foster more trust among consumers. A host of new start-ups have hit the market – Nebula GenomicsEncrypGen, Luna DNA, and Zenome – that are building cryptocurrency networks like Bitcoin to allow people to monetize their own genome. While these start-ups all have bold promises, they lack brand awareness and consumer trust.

One day soon we will probably see a “mash-up” of the tech giants and the genomic cryptocurrency newcomers. Whatever combination of tech brands/platforms emerge, the winner will most likely be one who establishes the most trust among the largest network of engaged consumers. The race is on.


Modern Healthcare, Googles Parent Aims to Shape Healthcare with AI

Technology Review, Tech Companies Are Not Trusted with Healthcare Data

Technology Review, This New Company Wants to Sequence Your Genome and Let You Share It

Modern Healthcare, Apples Health App Will Aggregate Patient Health Information

CNBC, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase Partner On US Employee Healthcare

The Economist, Apple and Amazon’s Moves in Health Signal Coming Transformation