Well, Jeff Bezos just became the world’s richest man. Now, let’s see if we can help him lap the field… by proposing Amazon Health.
Now, I’m a realist — I know that digital companies are not going to buy healthcare companies. So don’t expect an Amazon hospital or clinic in your neighborhood anytime soon. However, I do believe that Amazon is uniquely positioned to change the way healthcare is delivered in the US.
Amazon has acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses in 12 states, so this will clearly be their next move into healthcare. I’m going to take that a step further, suggesting an even larger move as well as the foundation for that move.
My thoughts? Amazon should stand up a private insurance exchange and then start to innovate at the edge of healthcare. Let’s explore why this makes sense, what it might look like, and what impact it would have on healthcare.
The Amazon Experience in Healthcare: Consumer First
Amazon has a digital company DNA. They deliver a core set of products and services that generate a massive amount of touch points with consumers.
Amazon knows me. They know what I eat, read, watch, listen to, and buy. They have a proven ability to utilize analytics in all forms, in order to generate personalized experiences and interactions.
Well, nothing is more personal than healthcare.
Amazon is more than just a digital company; they live in the physical world as well. This is their distinction. They know me, and they have a proven ability to interact with me physically in my home. This could be in the form of delivering Halo Top ice cream to my front door or arranging for a TV to be installed, all while ensuring a quality experience.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has noted that more than 60 percent of health has less to do with healthcare, and more to do with my choices and surroundings (see graphic below). This requires a new kind of company that can interact with me daily, help me to make better choices, and deliver personal customized experiences that help me to live a healthier life.
Amazon is uniquely positioned to be that new kind of healthcare company.
Why a Private Healthcare Exchange?
Insurance is the only instrument that is incentivized to keep people healthy.
Healthcare companies, in contrast, only make money when you walk through the door and they perform services. In other words, they are incentivized for you to be sick — not healthy. The more tests they run, the more money they make.
Amazon wants to be on the side of the consumer in every equation. Why not as an insurance carrier?
Well, first of all, it’s a completely different business than the one that Amazon is in today. I don’t recommend that digital companies adopt traditional business models, either.
Instead, I would prefer that Amazon select partners to participate in the exchange that will connect to their digital foundation. They could then leverage their existing core capabilities to develop a deeper relationship with the consumer, by offering a truly different experience in healthcare.
The insurance carrier will handle the risk and carry the paper. Amazon then becomes the digital core for healthcare transactions and begins to offer a myriad of services on top.
Healthcare hasn’t been able to become digital, and insurance hasn’t been able to deliver consumer experiences. Amazon can stand in the gap to orchestrate experiences for consumers. No one knows the consumer better, and very few digital companies have been able to get outside the screen to impact the physical world.
Amazon is truly the perfect fit.
A Look at Amazon Health’s Potential Future
Let’s look at an example scenario and see how Amazon Health could change healthcare for millions.
Setting the Scene
I’m a small business owner. I’m looking to provide the best care for my team, keep them healthy, and make it an experience they aren’t embarrassed to take home to their family. I select the Amazon Health experience and set up my company in the exchange.
Each staff member is able to go onto the exchange and select the insurance product that makes the most sense for their unique family situation. The healthy living incentive is linked to their Amazon account, where they can purchase a personal tracking device, body analyzer, or even a new elliptical. Their HRA is shared with the insurance carrier, but each employee is given the option and an incentive to share that information with Amazon AI in order to customize their health experience.
How Tech Plays In
Amazon Health is a mobile application that each of my staff has. They can link to Apple Health and Google Fit to pull in their tracking information. This allows for health-based competitions with one another (who got in more steps today?) as well as with other companies.
This becomes a great way for us to develop an even closer relationship with our clients. For the first time, I’m able to see my insurance and medical information in one application.
One of the things which differentiates Amazon Health is that my health and fitness journey is handled through online video visits with fitness trainers, nutritionists, mental health professionals, and primary care physicians. In some cases, a nurse or even a physician is dispatched to my home following the online visit. I have found that a great deal of my health doesn’t require sitting in waiting rooms. Plus, it’s eliminated my need to travel for medications and food.
Does It Mesh Well With Services?
Not only is it simple to see providers and get care, my physician even commented that he prefers seeing Amazon Health patients. The reimbursements are on par with other programs, but payment is quicker. Plus, free services like the virtual scribes make documentation much easier, and frees up time.
Another unique feature is the financial planning services, which look at my options for expensive procedures and guide me through the selection of the right physician and procedure to fit my budget.
For example: recently, one of my employees had to have a very complicated procedure. Instead of going to the local hospital, Amazon Health provided access to a top facility in the country; insurance covered the flight and stay for the family. This is possible because the analysis pointed to a better cost/outcome even with these added expenses of travel.
Another of my employees is a diabetic. Amazon has created a customized experience for her, which includes both products and reminders.
Making This a Reality
None of these are new ideas. In fact, we’ve been talking about them in healthcare for some time. The challenge is that there are big gaps, and until recently, there wasn’t the right company that could fill them.
Healthcare organizations lack the incentives and digital sophistication to deliver a holistic experience. Insurance carriers also lack digital capabilities and the skills necessary to orchestrate a consumer experience.
So, what’s in it for Amazon? A position of influence in the $3 trillion healthcare industry, for starters. They’ll also gain the ability to transform the lives of millions of consumers and, in the process, develop a more personal relationship with each one.
This piece was written by Bill Russell, a former CIO at St. Joseph Health who now serves as CEO of Health Lyrics, a management consulting firm. To view the original post, click here. To follow Russell on Twitter, click here.
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