Big tech in healthcare: What spine surgeons need to know about Amazon, Apple & more

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

Technology companies are moving into healthcare, as Apple, Amazon and Microsoft strengthen their healthcare services and product lines as well as forge strategic partnerships within orthopedics and spine.

The most recent orthoepdi-specific moves include Zimmer Biomet's partnership with Apple on the MyMobility app for joint replacements and Mahe Medical partnering with Amazon Business Professional Healthcare to introduce emergency spine crews sold on Amazon's platform.

Here, three spine surgeons discuss whether this is a positive or negative trend in healthcare and what to expect in the future.

Alok Sharan, MD. Co-Director of Westmed Spine Center (Yonkers, N.Y.): The tech companies have done a good job disrupting other traditional industries (communication, retail, etc.). There is no doubt that they will do the same in healthcare. When Clayton Christenson talks about disruptive innovation, he talks about nonconsumption and jobs-to-be-done.

Nonconsumption as a business strategy is creating a product or service that helps a customer complete a job-to-be-done that is normally inconvenient or high cost. People want to have more control of their health (job-to-be-done). Currently they do not have the proper tools to do it (nonconsumption). Applying Christenson's theory, the tech companies will succeed by developing products that help the ordinary consumer manage their own health. Currently, patients defer management of their health problems to physicians; this will change over time as new tech products enter the industry. To some degree physicians will have to rethink their role as the traditional paternalistic model of the provider will diminish over time.

I had a chance to work with some folks at Apple Health where I heard some of these discussions happening. It is clear that they want to build a suite of services/products that will allow the patient to manage their own health. For physicians, this will mean less office visits and more e-visits or perhaps even more virtual care coordination.

Isador Lieberman, MD. President of Texas Back Institute (Plano): I am concerned about the large tech companies moving into healthcare by virtue of their economic prowess and the fact they are not healthcare providers, yet I welcome their involvement as the current system is unsustainable and needs a complete restructuring.

Scott Boden, MD. Director of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center (Atlanta): I think it depends on what these tech companies are adding to the equation to increase quality or decrease cost. That is what we need in healthcare right now and if tech companies can help in those two areas, I'm all for it. We are looking at strategic partnerships in the tech space to improve value.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Laura Dyrda at

For a deeper dive into the future of spine, attend the Becker's 17th Annual Future of Spine + Spine, Orthopedic & Pain Management-Driven ASC in Chicago, June 13-5, 2019. Click here to learn more and registe

More articles on spine surgeons:
4 thoughts on spine technology evolution—Precision cutting, data analytics & more
Dr. Michael Goldsmith: How robotics and biologics are changing the spine field
Where pediatric spine would benefit from more data: 2 Qs with Dr. John Anderson

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