Digital disruption is transforming the healthcare landscape, with interest and investment in digital health startups and initiatives skyrocketing. From imaging tools to cutting-edge devices and new patient care solutions, a myriad of innovative products and services are coming down the pipeline. 

So it should come as no surprise that a global powerhouse like Amazon is expanding into the healthcare space. The popular brand has a breadth of resources at its disposal, including 80 million Prime members, 450 Whole Foods Market locations, an extensive supply chain, virtual personal assistants, its own e-commerce site and online data platforms. These assets put Amazon in a unique position to transform the way care is delivered and, ultimately, bolster the patient experience.

New Technologies Bring Digital Innovation

Just think: Amazon has already revolutionized the e-commerce space – providing consumers with the ability to receive goods in two days or less via their Prime subscription. What’s more, their Echo and Alexa smart devices serve as virtual assistants, allowing users to order goods from Amazon, listen to music, make calls, access the news and control smart home devices simply by using voice commands. 

The conglomerate can further build out the functionality and features of these technologies to encompass healthcare-related services. Doing so could completely alter the way consumers access care. 

For underserved and rural areas, consumers – or even seniors – who need a convenient way to access care can leverage these tools to connect with the right healthcare services. Patients can potentially perform a number of tasks – from scheduling appointments and writing reviews to researching prices and services offered. 

Conceptually, this would work similarly to the partnership Amazon Home Services has established with TaskRabbit for those in need of installation or assembly services. Utilizing the Echo’s audio/video features could facilitate communication for things like prescription refills and on-demand autonomous vehicles can be employed to transport patients to appointments. Additionally, Amazon’s smart devices can be leveraged for remote patient monitoring, as well as delivering appointment and medication reminders. 

Potential Impacts on Healthcare Organizations 

Without a clear picture of what future technological platforms will offer, it’s pivotal for hospitals and healthcare facilities to take preemptive action. This means building the infrastructure and strategy needed to accommodate a fundamental shift in consumer demand for healthcare services. 

Leadership teams should consider how to bridge gaps and integrate with third-party tools and technologies created by companies like Amazon. Scenario planning can be used to identify potential risks and opportunities and provide leaders with the flexibility needed to enact agile and strategic initiatives as new innovations hit the market. 

Just as the rise of telehealth during the pandemic forced healthcare providers to adopt new protocols and procedures, organizations will need to evaluate how these new technologies will impact their current business and care models. For instance, what tools will be required to link with Amazon-enabled devices and how will patient confidentiality be preserved?

Forging partnerships with organizations like Amazon will play a crucial role in strengthening patient loyalty and maintaining a competitive presence. With these innovations primed to enhance accessibility and continuity of care, healthcare leaders have a unique opportunity to begin planning now to keep pace with the evolving landscape. 

The key is to identify what capabilities the facility will potentially need to adapt to forthcoming disruptions. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Will virtual-based care reduce the need for inpatient care? And how will that impact revenue models?
  • Will home healthcare become more prevalent in the future?
  • Will the organization have a greater need for ancillary services, like diagnostic imaging or pharmacy services?

These are just a few considerations that will allow healthcare organizations to provide more efficient, streamlined care, as well as improve the patient experience and increase revenue growth. 

How Digital Innovation Affects Healthcare Workers

Residing at the heart of Amazon’s platform is a robust database of customer data. Now that they’ve acquired Whole Foods, Amazon can also collect in-store purchase data to develop even broader insights and profiles on its customers. 

As they segue into the healthcare space, they’ll have access to information like medical reminders delivered via Alexa or prescriptions that could provide a more comprehensive picture of patient lifestyle habits and needs. 

In a similar vein, this data can be leveraged by Amazon to provide recommendations for over-the-counter medications, vitamins, foods, or similar products to strengthen preventative care. From a long-term perspective, this can help patients avoid unnecessary doctor visits, improve outcomes and avoid preventable health problems. 

Algorithms can be used to identify health-related data and purchase patterns for high-risk or chronically ill patients. As the industry moves towards value-based care, healthcare systems may be able to lean on Amazon’s capabilities and data to prevent sickness or readmittance – helping to uplift the well-being of their patients and community.

Further, should Amazon be able to comply with U.S. pharmaceutical regulations, the platform could help streamline the prescription ordering process for physicians. Imagine the time-saving advantages of ordering prescriptions via Alexa or Echo voice command in lieu of typing them up. 

Amazon’s foray into the pharmaceutical space would be highly beneficial for patients as well. Patients would be able to fill prescriptions faster and more conveniently, as well as use Amazon’s “Subscribe and Save” feature to automate refills. Utilizing machine learning, Amazon could aggregate prescription data to create a more robust patient profile by identifying trends between health conditions and purchases. This ability could improve diagnosis accuracy and help physicians develop more targeted treatment plans for patients. 

Looking Ahead

As new developments arise, like Amazon’s expansion into healthcare, there are three main takeaways for hospitals and facilities to consider. 

  • Shift your perspective: Identify the role your organization will play in the future of healthcare. As new technology and services become available, how will you adjust your strategy and ensure you have the right staff in place to move the needle forward?
  • Proactively plan: No one was prepared when the pandemic hit. And if healthcare leaders learned anything from such a trying time, it’s the importance of remaining agile and planning for disruption. To succeed in the future requires you to be ready to adapt – whether that’s implementing new tools or partnering with brands like Amazon to accommodate changing consumer demand. 
  • Embrace flexible care models: Be able to meet patients where they are and offer services where, when and how they’d like to receive them.

Keeping ahead of trends and accommodating changing patient needs requires your healthcare organization to have the right people in place. At Polaris, we’re helping hospitals and medical facilities drive revenue and improve patient outcomes through flexible, effective healthcare staffing solutions. In a time when healthcare workers are needed now more than ever, our team of recruitment experts can help your facility implement an innovative recruitment strategy. To learn more, contact the Polaris team today.