Skip to main content

How Google, Apple and Amazon are taking over the health insurance market and what you can learn from them.

Healthcare and health insurance have always been traditional and highly complex sectors. Now disruptive companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon are moving in on this market and shaking up the established order. We can expect this to happen in Belgium as well. With their innovative approach, they're setting new standards for healthcare. Discover their impact on health insurance and how insurers are responding to this, to their own advantage.


Driving innovation in the health sector

Technological giants such as Google, Apple and Amazon believe that the healthcare sector is ready for innovation. Each in their own way, they are taking steps to improve the healthcare experience and thus positively influence our quality of life and health outcomes. Or rather: with the insights that these tech giants collect through data about consumers, they also increasingly want to be a first (commercial) point of contact for people looking for healthcare or health insurance. To this end, they have developed an innovative approach that focuses on the patient.  

  • Amazon wants to make it easier for people to find, choose, contact, and even pay for medical services, products and professionals. After the Amazon Care pilot project, which has since been discontinued, the company took over One Medical. That company wants to cover the entire customer journey of patients and their family members, from digital consultation to home delivery of medicines or other medical supplies. Members of One Medical can receive – on request – 24/7 medical care via teleconsultation, make a physical appointment at a doctor's practice in the area – wherever they are, receive administrative assistance to make sense of paperwork, or call on a care coordinator… And they also benefit from programmes for preventive care, chronic care management, common illness care, and mental health. 
  • Apple developed HealthKit, a software framework that facilitates data exchange between health and fitness apps and devices, medical professionals and medical institutions. This allows a user's health and fitness data to be collected and managed in one place. 
  • Google has several irons in the fire. In addition to Google Health and Google Fit, the company invests in Life Sciences. This team focuses on research and development of breakthrough healthcare technologies, such as smart contact lenses for monitoring glucose levels in diabetes patients and other health-related projects. Google is also experimenting with generative AI in healthcare. They are developing AI algorithms to diagnose diseases, predict treatment outcomes and support medical imaging technologies.

Technology and digitalisation increases patient comfort

These and other technological market leaders such as Microsoft, IBM, Huawei and Garmin are investing heavily in technology such as online healthcare, health-related platforms and apps, wearable devices, but also in health clinics. By integrating these technologies and services, they aim to make healthcare more accessible and user-friendly for patients. 

Because why, for example, shouldn't a visit to the doctor go more smoothly? Why does a patient have to go to a doctor's office and then, after fifteen minutes of waiting and ten minutes of consultation, walk out with a prescription with which he has to go get the necessary medicines from a pharmacist? And then, if necessary, make an appointment with a therapist or home nurse. It's cumbersome.  

This could be different, especially in the digital age. Through teleconsultation, healthcare organisations can reduce waiting times and bring doctor's advice to the patient's bedside. And chronic patients can do simple checks themselves or check small blood samples in a home lab and forward the results to their doctor. Couple this with an automated ordering service for medication and assistance at home, and you can really lighten the load for people who often have to deal with complex medical situations.  

Patients are enthusiastic about the convenience and accessibility offered by Google, Apple and Amazon. It's a boon, especially for those dealing with a chronic or serious condition. 

Collecting customer data and using it proactively

Knowledge means gaining customers. An advantage that Google, Amazon and Apple have over every health insurer is the data they collect about potential patients – through the purchasing and search behaviour of customers – and how they proactively use it. Someone who searches online for certain nutritional supplements may not only benefit from a particular therapy but also from the health insurer that reimburses it. Someone exploring dental correction methods may benefit from appropriate dental insurance. And anyone who discovers through the data from their Fitbit or blood pressure monitor that they sleep poorly or have high blood pressure will benefit from a referral to a medical professional.  

Insurers would do well to thoroughly get to know their target audience. They can learn more about their needs through smart social advertising and content strategy. And they can proactively use the data they have to offer them assistance, services or insurance, just when they need it most.

What about patient safety and privacy?

Making digital diagnoses, automating ordering and referral processes and proactively responding to health data obtained via wearable technology... Sharing medical data with these companies is not without risk.  

Patients are concerned about the loss of privacy and the possible consequences of sharing sensitive information with big tech giants. This poses a challenge for Google, Apple and Amazon to be transparent about how they manage and secure the data, and to ensure patient privacy. The same, of course, applies to every health insurer that wants to proactively relieve people's worries.

Lessons for health insurers

Google, Apple, Amazon and other tech giants are establishing themselves as players in the healthcare sector. In the future, they will leave their mark even more on health insurance and take the lead in reshaping the customer journey. Their innovative and technologically driven approach has clear and major benefits for patients: faster and easier consultations (without travel), personalised care and communication, ... In short, more convenience and a better customer experience.  

Thanks to the digital acceleration brought about by tech players in the sector, new forms of care are possible today. An online service component – in addition to physical care provision – has therefore become an absolute requirement. Companies that offer this have a competitive edge. This poses a challenge for health insurers in Belgium and Europe. To meet the changing expectations of patients, they need to adapt their services and focus more on relieving patients' worries. 

Insurers can learn from the approach of these major players and would do well to embrace technology to improve their services. For example, they can invest in teleconsultations, mobile apps to order assistance and medicines, and better customer-oriented processes. It is essential that insurers put the patient first and gain insight into their needs and expectations. 

Preventive medicine: the new standard?

Partly thanks to the pandemic, the focus within healthcare is shifting from curative to preventive. And the tech companies have also had a hand in this: thanks to the data they collect about (potential or chronic) patients, they are able to proactively respond to people's needs and are strongly committed to coaching and maintenance of a healthier lifestyle. Insurers should follow this example: they too must provide more guidance and support to their customers to live a healthy life, preferably in as personalised a way as possible.

Through co-creation to unique and relevant products

Do insurers and care providers want to offer an alternative to the advancing tech players with their financial and technological strength, resources and data-driven knowledge of the market and consumers? Do they also want to proactively engage with their customers and offer them online health services?  

Then co-creative collaborations with tech companies, start-ups and medical organisations are the way to offer powerful healthcare packages more quickly, to develop good customer journeys and innovative solutions. Especially now that healthcare needs are increasing and there is a chronic shortage of medical personnel.  

AXA Partners helps you develop innovative services and assistance that put your customer first. Together we can investigate the market and the opportunities, and tailor our assistance, insurance and digital resources to your company. Or we can jointly develop a new total solution that puts your customers and patients first.  

Want to learn more? Make an appointment with one of our advisors at no obligation.

Share this article