Patents hold clues about Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft plans for healthcare

Many eyes are watching the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech stalwarts for some kind of signal about their healthcare intentions. While some moves are already out in the open, such as Apple Health Records and Amazon Web Services expressing interest in longitudinal health records and analytics, the companies also have patents that potentially foretell the future. 

As of Jan. 23, Amazon-owned 7,096 U.S. patents, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In addition, Amazon Technologies, Inc., had filed and published 870 patent applications in the U.S. as of Jan. 23, and, Inc., had filed and published 16 patent applications.

Amazon has been granted patents for thousands of inventions spanning one-click buying, drones, virtual-reality mirrors and Alexa, the company’s AI–powered voice assistant.

Google, for instance, – with 186 patents – focused mostly on investments for DeepMind, its artificial intelligence technology, and also on Verily, its healthcare and disease research entity among its 186 patents, according to the new Kalorama report.

Apple filed 54 patents to turn its iPhone into a medical device that can monitor biometric data such as blood pressure and body fat levels and to develop algorithms to predict abnormal heart rates. Microsoft filed 73 patents based on expanding its AI capabilities and developing monitoring devices for chronic diseases.

Such innovations have encouraged biopharma, medtech and providers to partner with these tech giants to boost digital healthcare, Kalorama noted. 

Although Amazon has not officially announced details, industry rumblings indicate that e-commerce and cloud giant has been working with a secret project team known as 1492 that is exploring platforms for EHR data, health apps and telemedicine. The 1492 team is also reportedly working on extracting data from EMRs to make it more useful to healthcare providers and adding to its existing Amazon products such as Amazon Echo and the Dash Wand to fold into the healthcare setting. 

Microsoft, meanwhile, has a number of projects that are impacting – or will impact – the digital health arena including: Microsoft Genomics, Microsoft Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint. The tech giant is also expanding Microsoft's Intelligent Network and plans to create an AI-focused network in cardiology.

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