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If you were to do a Google search for the medtech company of 2014, the top result should be . . . Google. At least, that's the opinion of PlasticsToday sister brand MD+DI, whose editors selected the tech giant for the top honor in its annual feature.

Norbert Sparrow

November 5, 2014

3 Min Read
Google me this: What is the top medtech company of 2014?

If you were to do a Google search for the medtech company of 2014, the top result should be . . . Google. At least, that's the opinion of PlasticsToday sister brand MD+DI, whose editors selected the tech giant for the top honor in its annual feature. Anticipating incredulity, maybe even hostility, among some of its readers, MD+DI Associate Editor Chris Wiltz starts his article announcing the 2014 winner in a defensive posture: "As you are reading this, some of you are probably rolling your eyes. After all, Web search giant Google is anything but a traditional medical technology company," he writes. "But before you turn away, you should know one thing: Google agrees with you completely."

The healthcare industry is "a painful business to be in," Google co-founder Sergey Brin reportedly said. Commenting on the regulatory firewall surrounding patient data, co-founder Larry Page sniffed, "We regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities." Whining aside—and it is a common reaction among businesses testing the medtech waters only to discover formidable regulatory rip currents—Google has pioneered some potential game changers, from the use of Glass in the operating room to a contact lens that monitors glucose levels via tears. The full impact of these technologies may still be years away, but it's the company's unbridled ambition and potential to dramatically alter the medtech landscape that MD+DI has, rightly, recognized in naming Google the medtech company of the year.

Google's Glass has faced some hurdles in the public space—the more-zealous early adopters famously have been called Glassholes—but the healthcare sector has been accepting. As Wiltz notes in his article, Philips Healthcare, in partnership with Accenture, has created a proof of concept in which Glass is used as a patient monitoring platform, and Spanish company Droiders has created an app that allows medical students to remotely view surgeries through the eyes of a physician in real time.

The contact lens developed by Google [x], the secretive research division where the self-driving car was born, is an even greater accomplishment, as it could radically change the lives of diabetics for the better. By embedding miniaturized electronics in a contact lens, researchers hope to "crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy," project leaders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz wrote in a blog post.

There are legions of skeptics, but pharma giant Novartis is not among them. In July 2014, the Swiss company announced that its Alcon eye-care division has licensed the glucose-monitoring technology and will explore other applications, notably its use as a vehicle for cataract and glaucoma treatments.

Shortly following MD+DI's announcement, Google made medtech news again. The Wall Street Journal revealed at the end of last month that the tech giant was busy at work developing nanoparticles coated with a disease-detecting substance that could circulate through the body and hunt down biomarkers. If the technology comes to fruition, it could be hugely disruptive, as patients could forego medical visits and diseases could be detected at the very earliest stage.

So, roll your eyes if you like, but the MD+DI editors are on solid ground in naming Google the medtech company of 2014. If all goes according to plan for the company—admittedly, a big if—the choice will, in fact, prove to be prophetic.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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