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Merrill Lynch RIC Report: The top three tech companies changing healthcare

Three companies that are playing key roles in the transformation of healthcare via technology were spotlighted in a recent Merrill Lynch RIC (Research Investment Committee) Report.

Those companies are IBM, Apple, and Fitbit.

According to the April report, which contains annual and long-term forecasts as well as other important trends, the three tech giants were singled out because they are positioning themselves to be leaders in predictive analytics and big data in healthcare.

Their “ability to leverage the available data to drive insights is pivotal,” the report said.

IBM is distinguished because of Watson, a supercomputing system that combines artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytical software. IBM has taken Watson into the healthcare space with Watson Health.

Merrill Lynch also noted that not only have IBM’s shares risen in 2016, but also that Watson can take massive amounts of data from many sources, run it through analytics and from there derive insights.

Watson can aggregate data on chemical properties and structures, as well as genetic, metabolic and proteomic information, and perform research on more than seven million diseases. Watson can also mine data to identify patterns more easily than conventional systems.

Apple

Although some may think Apple was featured in the report because of the Apple Watch, that’s only part of the story. The report focused on Apple also because the company has established stringent privacy controls and because it is a key player in mass aggregation of health-related data. Think about not only the Apple Watch but also the Apple Health app, HealthKit and ResearchKit. Altogether, these applications help make large scale storage and analysis of health data possible, the report said.

Merrill Lynch’s analysts also noted that the Apple Watch is an important component of Apple’s attempted penetration into the healthcare industry.

Fitbit

Fitbit is an industry leader in wearable fitness trackers and the report notes that the products’ social features help users become more active, get more exercise, sleep better and eat healthier. Fitbit trackers have also proliferated in the workforce. Fitbit’s corporate wellness program now has more than 1,000 corporate customers; the report noted that the total market could reach $10 billion by 2020.

Furthermore, Fitbit has partnered with two of the largest U.S. health insurers, the report said, for two early stage programs. One focused on diabetes management and the other on weight management.

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