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Google boosts healthcare business with new hire

Tech giant shows ambition in US market

Feinberg

David Feinberg, CEO and president, Geisinger Health

Google has hired US healthcare veteran David Feinberg to oversee all of its health ventures.

First reported in The Wall Street Journal, the move sees Feinberg leave his role as CEO and president of Geisinger Health, an integrated healthcare system spanning 13 hospital campuses, two research centres and a school of medicine.

Feinberg will take up the role at Alphabet (Google's parent company) in early 2019 and will have oversight over diverse business units in health, including its investments in AI and disease management.

The move strengthens Google’s position, which has been making waves in healthcare for several years, but no major projects have yet come to fruition.

Earlier this year, Google’s life science and healthcare division Verily teamed up with Gilead to develop a high-res molecular map of inflammatory diseases.

That particular partnership sees Verily use its immunological data and insights platform Immunoscape to create the map. This allows identification and characterisation of inflammatory disease mechanisms.

Verily has also entered the diabetes space, teaming up Sanofi to create Onduo, a platform that combines devices, software, medicine and professional care to enable ‘simple and intelligence disease management’.

Most recently, the company – with Sanofi in tow – has entered into a collaborative deal with Swiss tech group Sensile Medical to develop an all-in-one insulin patch pump for those with type 2 diabetes.

Its portfolio also includes AI-based diagnostics and decision-support system DeepMind, which recently demonstrated its accuracy in diagnosing and recommending patients for treatment in more than 50 sight-threatening diseases.

Meanwhile, Google was also rumoured to be taking over Nokia’s digital health unit earlier this year, but missed out on that opportunity as it returned to the business’ initial owner Éric Carreel.

Feinberg will provide some valuable insight into how US health providers operate, which will help Google sell into this multi-billion dollar market.

In 2011 Google Health ended an initiative to develop a digital health record, which was first launched back in 2008, after it failed to gauge the interest of healthcare professionals and consumers. There is no doubt, however, that playing a key role in healthcare data is Google's aim, but it will have to move fast to become a key player.

Another tech giant promising healthcare disruption is Amazon, which entered the mail-order pharmacy market earller this year by purchasing start-up PillPack. It has also formed an alliance with JP Morgan and Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway to create a new not-for-profit firm to deliver healthcare services to their combined 1 million plus employees - and then most likely eventually extend this offer to other consumers.

Feinberg is said to have also been interested in this role, which eventually went to high profile surgeon and healthcare 'big thinker'  Dr Atul Gawande. Entering the healthcare provider market is a huge step, even for these tech giants, however, so Google is most likely to focus on providing data infrastructure and services rather than following Amazon and co. down this route.

9th November 2018

From: Healthcare

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