Will Google dominate the future of medical technology?

By Mark Terry

At a May meeting of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, Medtronic Senior Vice President for Medicine and Technology Stephen Oesterle said that within two decades, his company's biggest competitor will be Google, MassDevice reported.

Medtronic, Oesterle said, annually spends $1.5 billion on R&D, most of that on development. By comparison, Google is spending $8 billion a year, mostly on research, he said.

FierceHealthIT has reported regularly on Google's innovations in healthcare. For instance, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence recently started a six-month pilot study of Google Glass for real-time emergency room care. What's more, in January, Google announced that it is testing a prototype of its "smart contact lens," which would enable diabetics to monitor their blood sugar just by wearing the lens. The lens would be outfitted with tiny chips and an antenna, and can create a reading of a tear's glucose level every second.

The lens also could feature a computerized camera, according to a report published last month on patents filed by Google.

Despite its innovative efforts, Google also has struggled with health information privacy issues, which prompted development of more stringent policies regarding confidential information. For instance, in early 2013 Google settled a case with 38 states, paying a $7 million fine after it collected personal health information during its Street View project.

Healthcare providers, though, appear enthusiastic about the possibilities. Rafael Grossman, a surgeon at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, said he could imagine Google Glass allowing students or surgeons to be in the operating room with him. "I imagine [students] ... pointing to anatomic structures and different steps of the procedure, [through] my eyes," Grossman said.

Oesterle said that it should be no surprise that the consumer business market would be eyeing the healthcare market.

"It's where the money is," he said. "We're spending 18 percent of the GDP on healthcare. Why wouldn't they think that's where they want to be?"

To learn more:
- read the MassDevice article

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