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Walmart Health location interior

Big Tech and Retail Drive New Initiatives in Healthcare

Growth and innovation have propelled a busy year for the healthcare sector, writes Shawn Janus, national director | healthcare USA at Colliers. Along with M&A activity, 2021 has seen an increase in new initiatives. 

“Driven mostly by players in big tech and retail, these initiatives are predominantly geared toward achieving one of three recurring missions: combating effects of the pandemic, reaching underserved communities and advancing digital health innovation,” he writes. 

Recognizing a need to provide resources and connection to individuals impacted by the pandemic, tech giants such as Facebook and Uber Health developed new initiatives to help. The social network launched Emotional Health, a global resource center on its app to provide tips and information from leading experts in mental health. 

Meanwhile, Uber Health partnered with Papa, a startup focused on tackling loneliness among seniors, to improve health outcomes by facilitating easy transportation to medical appointments. 

“The rapid onset and unpredictability of the pandemic necessitated radical innovation in healthcare,” writes Janus. “As a means to track the variants and slow the spread, Google collaborated with Cue Health to bring its real-time monitoring to the cloud. The initiative provides crucial information about the spread of COVID-19, including its geographic distribution.” 

Access to care and other socioeconomic factors are health barriers for many communities, Janus notes. This has led several organizations to create programs that advocate for underserved populations and those disproportionately impacted by social determinants of health. 

In September, Amazon Web Services announced a $40-million initiative to “increase access to health services for underserved communities, address social determinants of health and leverage data to promote more equitable and inclusive systems of care.” 

More targeted approaches have come from Walmart and OptumHealth. Walmart, which opened its first health center in 2019, has now launched a digital health program aimed at tackling health disparities among Black workers. OptumHealth has begun a free online course to teach providers how to effectively care for LGBTQ patients. 

Rural communities often face challenges regarding access to quality care. Seeking to strengthen rural healthcare options, Sanford Health has begun a $300-million initiative to expand its graduate medical education program, invest in community health and kick-off efforts to build a virtual hospital. 

“Investment into digital health improves care for both providers and patients, and recent initiatives aim to continue this trend by enhancing the efficiency, accuracy, cost and effectiveness of healthcare,” he notes. 

JPMorgan is taking another shot at transforming U.S. healthcare after its unsuccessful venture with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway. The new initiative, Morgan Health, will invest $250 million in startups and technologies meant to make employee healthcare more efficient and effective. 

“Companies rising to meet the challenges in the healthcare system by creating new initiatives is a positive indication for where the sector is headed as 2021 enters its final months,” Janus writes. “These programs demonstrate interest from new players, increasing capital and overall expansion in the quest to enhance the future of healthcare.” 

Connect

Inside The Story

Colliers' Janus

About Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny serves as Senior Content Director for Connect Commercial Real Estate, a role to which he brings 13-plus years’ experience covering the commercial real estate industry and 30-plus years in business-to-business journalism. In this capacity, he oversees daily operations while also reporting on both local/regional markets and national trends, covering individual transactions across all property types, as well as delving into broader subject matter. He produces 15-20 daily news stories per day and works with the Connect team and clients to develop longer-form content, ranging from Q&As to thought-leadership pieces. Prior to joining Connect, Paul was Managing Editor for both Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com at American Lawyer Media, where he oversaw operations at both publications while also producing daily news and feature-length articles. His tenure in B2B publishing stretches back into the print era, and he has served as Editor in Chief on four national trade publications. Since 1999, Paul has volunteered as the newsletter editor of passenger rail advocacy groups (one national, one local).

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