How Amazon Could Disrupt Care (Part 2)

Imagine healthcare customer satisfaction rising to Amazon-like levels. The potential value is not lost on those inside the healthcare sector.

In Part 1 of this series, I argued that Amazon is the critical ingredient in making its healthcare alliance with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase successful—even though previous employer alliances have failed to make a dent in healthcare costs.

Here’s a quick glimpse of how Amazon’s consumer focus, technological prowess, operational efficiency, strategic patience and successful history of turning internal solutions into platforms for new businesses might accelerate the long-needed transformation of healthcare. To imagine how Amazon could transform healthcare, first look at five capabilities that it has brought to retail:

    1. Comprehensive customer records. My first order at Amazon was for “The Act of Creation” by Arthur Koestler on Dec. 8, 1997. The details of that order, and all the other 1,337 orders I’ve placed in the intervening years, is accessible to me on my Amazon account page.
    2. Personalized content and user experience. Amazon has integrated personalization and recommendations throughout my customer experience, from the first point of touch through checkout. Everything it shows me is based on my past purchases, shopping cart items, browsing history and the behavior of other customers like me. Some analysts estimate that 35% of Amazon sales are generated by its recommendation engine.
    3. Price transparency and choice. Not only does Amazon lead me to relevant products, it provides full transparency on price, shipping and handling. It also makes it easy for me to choose between a wide range of sellers.
    4. Quality reviews. Amazon helps me to gauge quality of products and sellers by facilitating reviews from its own editors, a curated network of external reviewers and other customers. This very public feedback loop also creates an incentive for sellers to address quality issues.
    5. Stellar execution and customer satisfaction. Amazon has ranked as the best in customer satisfaction in the Internet Retail category for 16 out of the last 17 years. It consistently ranks among the highest-rated of any company across every industry category.

These capabilities enable a virtuous cycle of better information, lower prices, higher customer satisfaction and more customers. They’ve also become standard operating practice in many industries—but not in healthcare. Now imagine the impact of accelerating their adoption in healthcare.

See also: Media Coverage on Amazon Misses Point 

Imagine having patient health data with complete longitudinal information and intelligent analytics at every point of care. That is far from the case today. Medical records are stored in silos and, even when electronic, are hard to create, maintain, use or integrate. A Rand study found that physicians are very dissatisfied with electronic medical records because of poor usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, inefficient and less fulfilling work content, inability to exchange health information and degradation of clinical documentation.

Imagine having personalized health pages with intelligible information, recommendations and dashboards based on a comprehensive view of a patient’s health history, condition and provider interactions. The personal page could consolidate and monitor biometric data, chronic conditions, acute ailments, medications, care plans, symptoms and other patient-specific critical data. It could integrate data from sensors and apps. It could intelligently collect patient feedback on critical symptoms based on specific conditions, providing behavioral nudges or alerting care teams as needed.

Imagine having a comprehensive view of cost options for needed treatments or medications—and intelligent assistance in choosing among them? Today, it is almost impossible for a patient or a physician to know the cost for a given test or procedure. Rates can vary tremendously based on where the service is provided, what kind of insurance the patient has, how the services are coded and numerous other factors. This makes informed recommendations and choices impossible. A report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named price transparency as the single biggest factor for controlling healthcare costs.

Imagine a single source for trustworthy quality ratings of hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers. Today, there is a mountain of quality data from federal agencies, health plans, state governments, patients and others who report on the performance of hospitals and physicians. But, there are no agreed-upon standards for what information should be reported, its accuracy and the underlying data that support it. One group of researchers noted that many quality-reporting efforts “appear to be led by marketing departments that are not aware of appropriate scientific standards.”

See also: 10 Ideas That Could Fix Healthcare  

Imagine healthcare customer satisfaction rising to Amazon-like levels. The potential value of these capabilities is not lost on those inside the healthcare sector. Many startups and large healthcare organizations are already working hard to adapt and adopt them. But, Amazon brings distinct advantages to the challenge.

I’ll explore those advantages and how Amazon might tackle health care transformation in Part 3.

Chunka Mui

Profile picture for user ChunkaMui

Chunka Mui

Chunka Mui is the co-author of the best-selling Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance, which in 2005 the Wall Street Journal named one of the five best books on business and the Internet. He also cowrote Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the World We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050.



Read More