People paid attention last year when Amazon – a power brand – made another bold move into healthcare by acquiring One Medical, which business journalists and analysts suggested would transform the US healthcare scene and disrupt the status quo. Their expectations put the cart way before the horse. Amazon is far more realistic about its path forward. They are not taking it slow. They are taking it smart.
No Wild Expectations – A Will to Try Something New
The collaboration between Amazon Medical Services and the 220-site One Medical may signal a near-term business model shift in patient care. In a brief conversation with the companies’ four-person strong chief medical officer team at HLTH 2023, it was evident that senior staff at both companies have been rolling up their sleeves to think through how to leverage their combined strengths to improve people’s access to care. It’s happening. There were no promises or predictions of what’s ahead. Yet, the combined leadership team was frank in acknowledging the possibility of making a difference in people’s health.
Amazon and One Medical objective is to team up and make it easier for customers to access its wide range of primary care and pharmacy services. One Medical offers in-office and 24/7 virtual care services, on-site labs, and programs for preventive care, chronic care management, common illnesses, and mental health concerns. Through its app, members can access on-demand video chats, receive “Treat Me Now” assessments for common health concerns, book same- or next-day appointments, direct messages with providers, renew prescriptions, and access their care plans.
Amazon has invested in varied clinical, pharmacy and telehealth services. Amazon Pharmacy is a digital-first, full-service pharmacy on Amazon.com—essentially, a pharmacy in your pocket. As expected, the warehouse giant carries most prescription medications with the ability to deliver right to customers’ doors – even providing free delivery for Prime. Their pharmacy team is available 24/7 to answer patient questions.
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Combining Amazon technological and supply chain savvy with the One Medical patient-centric approach, the healthcare industry could witness a business model transformation prioritizing personalized, efficient, and proactive healthcare services. While industry leaders often talk about “patient centricity,” the Amazon Medical Services lead exec made it clear that is where they are heading – a healthier and better patient experience.
In an exclusive comment to Medika Life, Neil Lindsay, senior vice president Amazon Health Services, said:
“Much of the current health care experience is simply too hard. At Amazon, we believe we can make health care easier by relentlessly applying customer obsession to experiences that deliver choice, convenience, and continuity of care for people in their pursuit to get and stay healthy.”
Lindsay was integral in building the Amazon consumer brand, shaping branding for the Kindle e-reader and Fire and Echo devices. He knows the strengths of Amazon consumer marketing and technology strengths.
Leading economist and authority on integrated delivery systems, Dr. Alain C. Enthoven wrote more than a decade ago that the “healthcare system is fragmented, with a misalignment of incentives, or lack of coordination, that spawns inefficient allocation of resources. Fragmentation adversely impacts quality, cost, and outcomes.”
Not much has changed since Dr. Enthoven penned those words; fragmentation complicates every aspect of care. Amazon and One Medical executives know that and are looking at how their combined strengths and readiness to invest in building a better medical mouse trap will make their vision valuable to payers, patients, product innovators and providers. The two companies sit at the nexus of the ecosystem.
Among the possible advantages lies in integrating Amazon’s innovative technologies into One Medical’s patient-care model, such as augmented intelligence, data analytics, and home automation. Patients could benefit from personalized health recommendations from their medical history, lifestyle, and physician’s advice.
“We believe technology, threaded across health care, can improve the entire experience—reducing the time customers spend seeking care, saving customers money, and supporting clinicians so they can focus on patient care,” adds Amazon’s Lindsey.
Amazon’s voice assistant devices like Alexa could finally find a practical purpose and accelerate communication between patients and their health providers, enabling remote consultations and medication reminders. Amazon supply chain expertise has yet to be fully realized, tapping into the consumer giant’s logistics network potential to streamline the medication and medical supply delivery, ensuring timely access for patients, especially those with chronic conditions. The ability to handle prescription refills and follow-up on diabetes monitoring and therapeutic supplies can reduce urgent hospitalizations.
It’s long been suggested that “the patient is at the center of care.” That is a distant dream. Consumerism is at the center – prescribing products that patients may never fill at pharmacies. No doubt, Amazon knows consumer patterns and markets. When the partnership moves into high gear, it might enhance the overall patient experience through convenient and comprehensive healthcare services.
“Improving how primary care providers can access the information they need to understand a patient’s full health picture while reducing administrative burden has long been a priority for One Medical. For example, One Medical has already forged relationships with leading health systems across the country to digitally integrate to provide for the seamless and secure flow of information between primary care and specialty care settings to improve the experience of both patients and providers,” shared primary care physician Andrew Diamond, MD, Ph.D., chief medical officer, One Medical.
Making the Consumer Matter
The One Medical patient-focused approach, characterized by longer appointment times and same-day scheduling, could be augmented by Amazon user-friendly interfaces so that patients could easily manage appointments, access test results, and communicate with health providers. A business model centered around patient design and technologies could reduce administrative hassles and waiting times, leading to higher patient satisfaction and better health outcomes. That in itself would be a high bar set for others to follow.
Amazon is savvy about integrating technology into its business platforms. If One Medical can find its way to advance proactive healthcare management through wearable devices and remote monitoring tools, patients could actively track health metrics and invite health professionals to around shifts in their well-being. An approach to real-time data exchange would be a shift from sick care to preventive care, potentially reducing patterns around chronic disease management and unplanned hospitalizations. This might well be the (healthy) version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups when it comes to personalized care combined with a tech-based touch.
HLTH Showed its Sector Commitment
“As part of Amazon, we look forward to continuing to innovate on using tech to improve the organization, filtering, and presentation of patient health information for care teams while prioritizing security and privacy. We’d love to reach the point where providers can see a comprehensive summary of a patient’s health history as easily as Amazon customers can see their past purchases on Prime,” added One Medical’s Diamond.
The United States health ecosystem is a modern-day version of the mythological Labyrinth. Like the Cretan maze, it is almost impossible for patients and providers to navigate. Still, Amazon Health Services, now with One Medical as a big piece of its supply chain and tech puzzle, certainly has the resources, patience and self-interest to explore and try to get it right. HLTH was the perfect forum for Amazon Health Services to let the sector know it’s in the game!
While success will take time and effort, expect this e-commerce giant and its significant investment in One Medical to continue to press forward learning until it gets it right.
Amazon Introduces New Health Benefit for Prime Members
Read their news release here: https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/retail/one-medical-amazon-prime-benefit