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Big Tech Countdown: Google’s 5 buzziest healthcare plays in 2021

Here’s a look back at Google top 5 healthcare moves since the start of the year:

1. In January 2021, Google completed its acquisition of Fitbit over a year after inking the buy, officially marking its inroads into the wearables market.

  • The acquisition allows Google to wade deeper into the healthcare space as it leverages Fitbit’s health-focused programs to gain a sizable share of the global wearables market.
  • Fitbit ranked 5th for wearables developers’ market share, claiming 5.9% of the global market in 2020, according to IDC’s tracking.
  • Since being acquired by Google, Fitbit has begun clinical research to determine how its wearable can measure blood pressure. It also rolled out a new sleep tracking feature.
  • It’s likely Fitbit is trying to stand out among consumers as its rival Apple continues to boost the Watch’s health tools and dominate wearables market share.

2. In April, Google teamed up with major health system Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) to let providers use the tech giant’s clinical search tool, Care Studio.

  • Google’s tech provides clinicians with a central way to access patient records.
  • BIDMC isn’t the first major health system to try out Google Studio. In 2018, Ascension teamed up with Google’s Care Studio, but alarm bells rang when it was revealed that Google was collecting patients’ personal health information.
  • Since the security hiccup, Google has boasted Care Studio’s compliance with HIPAA. And it appears it's been enough to convince another major health system to get on board, which means hospitals are likely not as concerned about its ability to safeguard patient data.

3. In August, Google reportedly dismantled its Google Health division, right after its VP David Feinberg jumped ship to become CEO and president of electronic health record giant Cerner.

  • This news followed Google’s June 2021 decision to reshuffle its Fitbit division.
  • Google’s Health talent reshuffle will provide more brawn to its Fitbit business—which means, similar to Apple, it’s doubling down its focus on wearables.

4. This month, Google revealed new Search tool features that’ll make it easier for patients to find doctors near them and determine whether or not they accept Medicare.

This move will likely succeed among adult patients, considering many are turning to online search directories like Google’s to find new providers: More than 1 in 3 patients use Facebook, Yelp, and WebMD to research and select a doctor, per PatientPop.

5. Also in December, Google announced a partnership with the WHO to build an open-source software development kit enabling Android developers to create health apps and boost access to healthcare in low-income countries.

This initiative will help the tech giant get another leg into digital health developments on a global scale. While Google is still pursuing digital health opportunities in the US, it faces far less competition in the global market, where Android is king among mobile phone users.