Unconventional Participants in Healthcare | EdjAnalytics

Unconventional Participants in Healthcare

Unconventional Participants in Healthcare

Bringing HLTH 2019 to You: A Three-part Blog Series from EdjAnalytics (Part One)

By Susan Olson, PhD (EdjAnalytics COO)

In this blog, Edj recaps several HLTH session presentations showing how non-health companies are jumping into the healthcare space. Some routes are B2B while others are B2C. The leaps into the space by established brands show the allure of the innovation and financial potential of the health realm. Some companies, such as Google, have made entries and exits while others are on their first attempt. What these companies say could be the bellwether business cases that portend the leading wave of healthcare innovations.


Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar[1] kicked off the Sunday afternoon HLTH session “Non-Health Brands Becoming Health Brands.” To answer why Mastercard is venturing into the space, he paralleled the challenges facing healthcare systems and the credit card industry: fraud, waste, abuse, write-offs, limited access to records, and others.

What are Mastercard’s credentials to play in the space? Rajamannar described that Mastercard has processed $5.9T in transactions across 210 countries, faces 200 security attacks per minute, and processes a staggering number of fraud assessments per day. The solutions they are providing to healthcare stakeholders move beyond the core payment business into security and services. Rajamannar estimated that payers face $240B in fraud and waste annually. They have partnered with Brighterion solutions for fraud detection using AI and adaptive learning. Additionally, Mastercard is working with pulse pattern recognition for ID authentication, a form of active biometrics.

Rajamannar spent most of his podium time talking about Mastercard’s Payment Assurance Solution to head off bad debt for healthcare companies. He quoted that 68% of patients that owed $500 or less failed to pay off their hospital bills in 2016. He also said that providers send an average of 3.3 billing statements before they receive payment for an episode of care. Mastercard is using three strategies to solve payment assurance for providers: 1) matching patient segment to the optimal patient strategy to address payment; 2) recommending an individualized strategy to achieve payment; and 3) a “test and learn” strategy to evaluate the cause and effect between recommended patient payment strategies and outcomes. Rajamannar quoted that they had created a use case savings of $30 million in one year for one client.


In the second half of “Non-Health Brands Becoming Health Brands,” Phil Hess the CEO of Bose talked about the company’s entrance into the hearing aid market. He emphasized that Bose is now more of a “wearables” business than a speaker business with 2019 projected to see more headphone sales than speaker sales. The core competencies that have driven them into the healthcare business include brand trust, user-centered design, efficient supply chain and effective customer engagement. He described the intersection of Bose and healthcare as audio as treatment, including hardware, software and data.

Their first focus is audio as treatment for hearing. The company views their entry into the hearing aid market as not just treating hearing impairment but treating the cognitive decline and social isolation that can come along with it. One major differentiator in the Bose devices is that they can be tuned at home. Paired with legislation that will soon make hearing aids available from retail outlets, the consumer will take control.

Bose market tested earbuds to help healthcare consumers sleep but abandoned the concept. They missed the market on the sleep-buds but continue to look for other opportunities, including partnerships and collaborations, to expand their presence in healthcare.


In a track session labeled “Odd Couples of Health,” first on stage was Carina Edwards, CEO of Quil. Edwards described Quil as a partnership between NBCUniversal and Independence Blue Cross. She described Quil as a solution for patient education and engagement, an alternative to using consumers using social media and friends and family conversations as the source of health information. At its core, she said that engagement must be based on personal goals (meeting people where they are), must inspire to take action, must empower people in their own communication methods and must enable family in care.

She went on to describe a fictitious multi-generational family engaging with Quil, which is “prescribed” by healthcare providers to patients. In one part of her story, 15-year-old Trisha experiences an ACL tear from soccer. Her doctor prescribes a Quil plan that includes exercises she can do even before surgery. Her engagement plan also includes NBC footage stories from Lindsay Vaughn. Interactions are gamified and shared with her mom, so that she can track Trisha’s progress.

In an interview with Wharton Health, Brian Lobley[2] of Independence Blue Cross indicated that the partnership has the ability to tap into the NBC networks, which are accessed by 110 million people. He also mentioned Comcast’s Xfinity technologies as well as its community-based linkages.


In the opening general session, Peter Lee[3] from Microsoft described why it has a right to play in the healthcare space. With a 98% digitization rate of health records, Microsoft feels it has a role to play with all of that digital data. Lee spoke about interoperability, partnerships with organizations like Humana, and artificial intelligence. He said that by far the hottest topic in AI was natural language processing. Specifically, he said, it’s about machines “reading” documents.

Lee shared the stage with Dr. Susan Mockus from Jackson Laboratory to talk about their monumental effort to advance efforts to cure cancer with machine-assisted human curation in collaboration with Microsoft’s Project Hanover. Because of the monumental amount of literature published about biomedical research, some 200 papers about cancer alone per day, humans can’t keep up with all of the publications. The machine reading technology is being used to triage complex biomedical research literature and highlight relevant facts for researchers to review. 

The technology is enabling faster updating of information for a Jackson Laboratory tool, called the Clinical Knowledgebase, or CKB. The CKB is a searchable database where “subject matter experts store, sort, and interpret complex genomic data to improve patient outcomes and share information about clinical trials and treatment options.” Once a set of articles has been flagged using AI, human curators can then narrow their focus on the highlighted papers to validate or invalidate the accuracy of what AI has discovered.

The pair highlighted the importance of making the scope of the project manageable. When they started, they had to figure out what part of the problem they can solve. They have now created a foundation to build on for the future.

Google Health

On the second day mainstage, David Feinberg[4] from Google Health outlined the company’s direction. The theme of his talk answered two questions. 1) Is Google serious about health? 2) Can Google make an impact? To answer the questions, Feinberg mapped a journey of Google’s work starting from inside the body and mapping outward to empowering people with new tools embedded in Google search.

Feinberg pointed to Google’s algorithmic solutions such as DeepVariant for genome reconstruction for high throughput sequencing, prediction of future acute kidney injury, work to reduce false positives for breast cancer, and its detection and grading algorithms for diabetic retinopathy. The speaker also alluded to research findings that other key health indicators, past and future, may be discovered from reviewing the human eye.

Looking forward to the future, Feinberg said that Google wants to become the authoritative health information resource for consumers, pointing out that it is already the number one resource for consumers looking for health info. Additionally, he spoke of reducing the administrative time clinicians spend as “data clerks.” He gave an example of a clinician typing “87 year …” and Google search presenting health record results (e.g. something like “87-year-old male with history of stomach pain and chronic diabetes”). He also talked about building a better information source for instances like a general surgeon performing a procedure that she performs infrequently. These statements seemed more forward-looking or aspirational than the same tangible examples presented in the first half of Feinberg’s talk, but these perspectives lay out where the company is currently positioning for the future.

Learn how Edj is using machine learning technology to transform how health systems reach patients and consumers.

[1] Chief Marketing & Communications Officer and President of the Healthcare business

[2] Executive VP of Health Markets, Independence Blue Cross

[3] Corporate VP of Microsoft Healthcare

[4] Head of Google Health

Read the full series: Bringing HLTH 2019 to You