What Does Comcast's New Deal Mean for Healthcare?

Jared Kaltwasser
APRIL 30, 2018
comcast,independence health,comcast healthcare,hca news

Ten years ago, Comcast was known as a cable company. Five years ago, it was known as a media giant. Now, the company wants to add a new badge to the list: healthcare.

Comcast this month said it will partner with Independence Health Group on a mobile technology and communications platform. The joint venture will begin later this year in a pilot phase in the Philadelphia area, where both companies are based. Independence Health Group is the parent company of Independence Blue Cross, a leading health insurer in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area.

Independence has previously committed to investing in standalone businesses to focus on healthcare innovation. Comcast brings expertise both in technology and content, according to Brian Lobley, president of commercial and consumer markets at Independence.

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Lobley said the discussions with Comcast centered on trying to find new ways to make answers to healthcare questions more readily available.

“Ultimately, we’re looking to connect healthcare in every way possible—mobile, TV, tablet—in order to address health care’s most prevailing question: What do I do next on my health care journey?” he told Healthcare Analytics News.

The platform could allow patients to connect with their physicians and also access information on health conditions. Lobley said the product will be personalized for each individual patient.

In partnering with Independence, Comcast is the latest tech giant to dip its toes into the healthcare space. The high cost of healthcare and the increasing integration of technology and big data into medicine have made the sector an attractive and lucrative investment.

Apple’s operating system, for instance, includes functionality designed to collect and share health data. The company is currently working with a small number of health systems to test out the technology.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has launched a health data start-up, Verily Life Sciences, which is reportedly attempting to get into the managed care space. Alphabet has also announced a partnership with the American Medical Association to fund new ideas for interoperability and data sharing.

And Amazon, the online retail giant, has partnered with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase on a plan to help employers reduce employee healthcare costs. Amazon has also begun to sell medical devices and has forged unions with healthcare organizations.

But this isn’t Comcast’s first foray into healthcare. Comcast Business offers healthcare-specific internet solutions, in response to the growing big data needs of healthcare companies.

However, the new deal positions the company to capitalize on the healthcare boom in a different way: as a tech company.

“We’re excited about this new partnership and the opportunity to work together using technology to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of patient communications and education,” said Sam Schwartz, Comcast’s chief business development officer, in a press release.

Comcast and Independence are also both a part of Philadelphia’s Healthcare Innovation Collaborative, an effort to foster inter-industry collaboration and create a hub of health information technology companies in the region.

Lobley said Comcast is Independence’s largest customer, though the geographical proximity of the 2 companies is incidental.

“For us, it makes sense to partner with an innovative media and technology giant and leverage their assets and expertise in content creation,” he said. “It just so happens that we found the partnership we wanted across the street.”

After launching the pilot phase later this year, the joint venture is expected to expand to new markets, possibly as soon as next year.

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