Enter Amazon — The Healthcare Giant

While the digital health and health technology space has been red hot for a few years, it is clear that Amazon is particularly well-positioned in light of the macro market trends driven by aging.

With a company culture of nonstop disruption, the massive tech (retail, logistics, airline, R&D, Pharma, SaaS, Cloud, etc.) company is doing more in health than hits the news. In addition to AWS and PillPack, Amazon is being far more ambitious — it is not just adding 2-day shipping for prescription drugs with PillPack to Prime.

A recent MobiHealthNews article summarizes Amazon’s 2019 healthcare efforts that were made public (or, leaked). Here is a breakdown of where Amazon is slowly, intentionally, and successfully headed towards healthcare disruption in areas where traditional healthcare organizations have failed to deliver effective user-centered products and services:

Amazon will continue to leverage Alexa’s voice technology to move health education, engagement, and seamless experiences into the home.

Amazon owns ~70% of the smart speaker/in-home voice tech market. This is important because this technology and user-interface are accessible to everyone. Specifically, this technology is easy for older adults to use, it is engaging, and it is affordable. In addition, Amazon has recently leveraged its voice expertise to launch Amazon Transcribe Medical, for clinical dictation as a clinic-facing product (a move I expect Google to make as well).

PillPack, and the pharmacy business, will create the most patient-centered, user-obsessed, and data-driven distributor of medications — with individuals ages 50+ serving as the major target market.

Demand for medications fueled by a growing chronic disease burden combined with a better customer experience will allow Amazon to take market share from traditional retail pharmacies. A survey of Amazon Prime customers shows that the 55+ age group is a large Amazon Prime “captive audience” and one that is rapidly growing into Medicare eligibility. They are also tech-savvy and have a high rate of obesity-related chronic illness.

AWS will continue to provide the power of cloud-based applications to impactful products and analytic capabilities to healthcare and life science enterprises including remote monitoring and mobile products.

Cloud-based solutions built by Amazon itself, and by companies leveraging AWS cloud products, will also be a driver of healthcare-related business. AWS has recently been hiring health informaticists and has been busy with Alexa voice technology in health applications.

Amazon’s product development capabilities will result in some form of health-related wearable that is differentiated from the vital-sign focused products offered by Apple.

This product will likely complement Alexa capabilities which benefit aging adults due to its accessibility. The product, according to the MobiHealthNews article, may look to add value to social interactions. Healthcare has been slowly recognizing the importance of addressing social isolation [2] in older adults and its effect on health outcomes and thus a wearable technology like this could prove valuable.

Amazon Care has launched a mobile app and a healthcare experience for employees in their Seattle office.

The website states: “Healthcare built around you.” In traditional Amazon fashion, the company is piloting a virtual care service internally that will likely make its way to the greater healthcare market — it will likely be employer-focused at first.

Overall, Amazon’s many efforts to enter healthcare will work in concert for long-term growth in the “longevity economy” fueled by population aging and chronic disease.

In short, Amazon is building products that enter the home and allow enterprises to leverage the data — but at a scale only possible at Amazon.

Data Privacy Regulation

Regardless of focus, all companies will have to contend with the growing concern and debate about data privacy. The regulatory environment [3] is a major risk going forward and will shape big tech’s (and small tech) healthcare strategies.