Preparing to stay afloat in this industry as Amazon (and an extraordinary pandemic) comes in like a wrecking ball.
Editor’s Note: Itentive was not immune to the whirlwind of COVID-19’s impact. I created this blog in February 2020 prior to this crisis but was unable to post as part of normal organization operations due to Itentive’s increased efforts helping our clients and their patients face this pandemic. The bolded text you see below was added in May 2020 as I reviewed this topic and its relevance in the industry today. I hope you find confidence in how the direction of the industry has not altered, just how we got there did.
We all know that feeling of pure satisfaction upon receiving an item on your doorstep within just 48 hours of clicking ‘place order.’ Amazon provides this satisfaction to its customers, right down to the ability to track the number of stops between your package and your front door.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Amazon is the most valuable public company in the world, with a current net worth around 880 billion dollars (now over $1 trillion). Its extreme level of success is partly due to its mission to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.
Amazon has put its foot in the door of almost every industry –Prime Video, Amazon Music, even grocery delivery – I mean, honestly, what can’t Amazon provide for its customers? There is, of course, one industry that is ripe for change because it has never truly had that consumer-centric approach: the healthcare industry. That’s all about to change.
…Or that’s what I said when I wrote this in February before the entire healthcare industry was hit by the public health emergency of COVID-19. However, this topic is now even more relevant today due to Amazon’s increased impact and visibility in the healthcare arena, which was previously taking place somewhat behind closed doors. If you weren’t looking for the headlines prior to March of this year, you may not have noticed Amazon’s gradual appearance into the world of healthcare.
Sound crazy? Well, for those who have been watching Amazon closely over the past several years, the company clearly has big plans to take the healthcare industry by storm.
Take a look at just some of the things they have been up to in just two short years, prior to COVID-19:
- Amazon announced a collaboration with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan to launch a company, Haven, aimed at cutting healthcare costs for their U.S. employees.
- Amazon acquired online pharmacy startup PillPack, which manages prescription medications for its customers by packaging, organizing, and delivering medications.
- Alexa officially became HIPAA compliant.
- Amazon partnered with electronic health record (EHR) Cerner to announce a “multi-faceted, strategic collaboration to accelerate health care innovation across the globe.”
- Amazon launched Amazon Care, a primary-care clinic for Amazon employees in Seattle. The clinic is currently being tested in-house before potentially opening to the public.
- Amazon announced its release of Transcribe Medical, a medical transcription service designed to make clinical documentation more efficient. The goal is to have a tool that can automatically document HIPAA-compliant physician notes into the EHR.
Since COVID-19 hit, Amazon has only bolstered its presence in healthcare:
- Amazon has opened a new store named the COVID-19 Supplies Store specifically for coronavirus-related products, intended for bulk buying from governments and healthcare companies like nursing homes, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and more.
- The company launched COVID-19-focused Alexa skills and a public symptom checker. Amazon also created Alexa skills that teach users how to make face masks and how to disinfect surfaces.
- Amazon is now developing its own incremental testing capacity and is building its first lab and hopes to start testing frontline employees soon.
- Amazon is helping to deliver and pick-up free at-home coronavirus tests to symptomatic essential workers including health care workers, teachers, delivery drivers, and supermarket staff
- A large portion of the healthcare industry relies on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide up-to-date information on the virus, and the company has developed an AWS program to support bringing more accurate diagnostic solutions for COVID-19 to market.
Woah! Someone’s been busy. I know you must be thinking: why are we so focused on Amazon when we’re in the middle of a pandemic? The truth of the matter is, the challenges the healthcare industry faced before the pandemic will remain after, and in many instances, the pressure to solve these issues will only be magnified. So, let’s talk about one of the main challenges of the healthcare industry as a whole: the struggle to become a consumer-focused, transparent industry where everything you need can be accessed in one place (AKA Amazon’s business model). Amazon is aiming to now make even healthcare a shoppable industry for the consumer, or patient, in this case.
This new approach can already be seen in Amazon Care. It offers urgent care services, preventative wellness consultations, lab tests, testing for STIs, and answers to general health questions. There are office, home, and virtual visits available for all services AND there are no appointments required. Instead, an in-app text chat feature connects patients seeking advice or appointments to nurses within minutes. Video-based appointments with doctors are also available and can be combined with in-home or in-office visits as needed. Another feature of Amazon Care is its incredible prescription drug delivery service, which delivers prescriptions to patient’s doors in as little as two hours. Sound just like Amazon Prime to anyone? We could certainly be seeing into the near future with an at-your-door Amazon prescription delivery service.
SPOILER ALERT: At Itentive, we may be fortune-tellers. Can you believe that in January these features seemed ahead of their time, but now, they are part of our new normal just a few months later? While COVID-19 has been devastating, this pandemic has forced innovation and solidified technology’s crucial role in healthcare. And not only that, but it has paved the way to allow what we originally classified as a convenience or luxury to be an expectation. Telehealth, in-home visits, and prescription delivery are now part of routine patient care.
It’s hard to imagine this innovative structure becoming the new normal, (LOL – not so hard to imagine now) but we’ve seen how fast Amazon has disrupted almost every other industry, so it won’t be long before we see its nationwide influence on the healthcare delivery system. Now, more than ever, we are looking beyond Amazon’s disruption of the healthcare industry to COVID-19’s lasting impact on how healthcare is practiced. There is no longer a level of comfortability with NOT catching up to these new industry demands. What seemed ground-breaking and slightly futuristic a few months ago has now become the standard that is required to stay open.
Is your practice prepared to meet this challenge by providing more patient-centered conveniences on a long-term basis? If you have already begun to offer these services, do you have plans to continue them after the pandemic is over? Offering telemedicine or home health services, giving patients the option to schedule appointments online, or utilizing the patient portal to its fullest extent are all great steps to take to put your patients at the center of care. At Itentive, we share the same mindset as Amazon – we always put our clients first. Throughout a multitude of profound change in the healthcare arena over the years, one thing will never change: Itentive will continue to partner successfully with our clients to help them adapt and thrive, before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Carly Hogan, Client Solutions Administrator at Itentive Healthcare Solutions