Google Cloud hustles to keep pace with healthcare rivals
In recent weeks, Google Cloud made a series of product, customer, and partnership announcements that hint at how the company intends to compete with rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure.
These moves suggest Google Cloud is aiming to make its mark in three main areas.
In October, the company unveiled the Google Medical Imaging Suite, which includes components for storing, labeling, scanning, and annotating images. Last month, Google Cloud announced it’s the hosting provider for iCAD, a company that develops analytics tools for mammography and is also the first product to be licensed for Google Health’s mammography AI models.
Medical imaging is driving healthcare to invest in the cloud, both for storage and processing, so this is a sensible move. Here, though, Google Cloud is not alone: Amazon released its HealthLake Imaging suite this year as well, and the consultancy Acceleration Economy has suggested that AWS is “taking a more comprehensive approach” while Google is focused on reducing manual workloads.
Electronic health record (EHR) partnerships
Google Cloud is working with Epic to help health systems migrate Epic installations to the cloud, with Hackensack Meridian Health leading the way. (For Epic, this marks a reversal of a January 2020 decision to stop supporting Google Cloud integration due to lack of interest.) The company has also embedded its Care Studio search technology in MEDITECH Expanse and has two early adopters, according to The Advisory Board.
Similarly, Google is not alone here. Microsoft hosts the entire eClinicalWorks EHR platform—on 2,200 Azure virtual machines – while AWS counts Geisinger among its customers. That said, it’s difficult to downplay the weight of a partnership with Epic, which according to Definitive Healthcare has a 37% share of the inpatient EHR market and a 41% ambulatory EHR market share.
Data infrastructure and analysis
In 2021, Google launched its Healthcare Data Engine, which provides a unified view of previously siloed clinical data sets. Last month, Google Cloud announced three accelerators for the data engine, available in early 2023, which will focus on supporting health equity, removing patient flow bottlenecks, and improving care quality.
Each company seems to be carving its own niche in this area, as AWS is focusing on genomic data analytics while Microsoft is leaning on its SAS Health partnership and Nuance acquisition to emphasize interoperability. Here, Google’s advantage could be in its provider partnerships; Hackensack, Mayo Clinic and Lifepoint Health helped develop the Healthcare Data Engine accelerators, and Hartford HealthCare is already on board.
What remains to be seen is whether Google Cloud can make up ground on its rivals. Google Cloud trails Amazon and Microsoft in overall market share among all industries and within healthcare, where the breakdown according to ResearchAndMarkets is 40% for AWS, 18% for Azure, and 12% for Google Cloud.
What’s more, data from KLAS Research suggests that health IT vendors strongly prefer AWS and Azure. More than 95% considered Amazon as a cloud provider and more than 80% considered Microsoft, but only half looked at Google Cloud.
Brian Eastwood is a Boston-based writer with more than 10 years of experience covering healthcare IT and healthcare delivery. He also writes about enterprise IT, consumer technology, and corporate leadership.