You may have seen this week’s news that Amazon is making its first major moves in healthcare, sending the stocks of Jeff Bezos’ likely competitors sharply down. (Marketwatch, Jan 31, 2018).
Clearly Wall Street is now realizing what a major threat the biggest tech companies pose to incumbents in the healthcare sector.
But of course, you saw this coming – in the Future of Medicine report, published nearly 6 months ago with the Jacobs Institute, we explored multiple scenarios anticipating Amazon’s entry.
1. Solving the Puzzle
Today, it’s patients choosing to get care down in Pittsburgh—or at Walmart. Soon, as the report warns, it’ll be national and global health brands reaching out to our patient population with virtual care. The same way Amazon has run roughshod over retailers’ business models, it—or Google, or Apple—could suddenly turn healthcare on its head by digitizing medicine at scale.
2. Virtual Destruction
In Japan, Amazon is already doing same-day drug delivery to your home or office.
3. Virtual Destruction
We won’t be having patients come into offices. A layer of healthcare will emerge that’s a lot like interacting with Amazon. Whether or not a human is on the other side won’t matter. Drugs will be shipped to you by Uber.
4. Virtual Destruction / Disintermediators
Don’t be surprised if companies that succeed get bought by Silicon Valley giants. The EHR industry lives in fear of a future where Amazon Web Services becomes the dominant hosting service. But that may just be a first step. According to recent international surveys, one-third of people would bank with Facebook, Amazon and Google if those services were offered. They likely feel the same about their health services. While Google has invested in clinical data diagnosis and longevity research, Amazon is already hiring to deliver healthcare programs—incubating the project for Amazon employees, then opening parts up to the world. Apple is also making a big push into healthcare with its HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit software frameworks, and recently hired telemedicine superstar Sumbul Desai away from Stanford.
5. Data Wars / The Road from EHR to UHR–Universal Health Records
THE SILICON VALLEY GIANTS Amazon, Google and Apple are all invading the healthcare space, and will continue to make acquisitions that help patients gradually take control of their own data and understand their own health choices. Upstarts who provide a path toward true interoperability, like CrossChx, makers of universal patient-ID software, will be likely targets. But these giants will be very careful not to make a misstep in the high-stakes healthcare arena that could potentially destroy their reputation. EHRs will need to be able to read and write to patients’ “health wallets,” but don’t expect the Silicon Valley giants to make the software that runs hospitals.