How Amazon and other big techs are revolutionising the healthcare market
Amazon is one of the leading big techs — as the big technology companies are referred to — in the market today.
In recent times, the company has been investing in the healthcare market. The technological innovations brought by Amazon are revolutionizing this segment.
Amazon’s move into the healthcare market is the subject of this article.
The evolution of the healthcare market
In 2019, with an inflation target of around 4.25%, experts estimated that the health insurance market should be up 0.1%. This is compared to 2018 when the national economy reached its point of greatest fragility in the last decade.
This data shows how much remains to be done to enhance access of professional healthcare in the country. We need to remember, of course, that Brazil has a Universal Healthcare System (SUS) one of the most important policies of universal access for medical care.
Brazilian health in numbers
Brazilian health figures are impressive. To name a few:
- we are in 9th place overall in healthcare spending, with 8.5% of GDP, or US$1,109 per capita;
- we have the 4th largest medical population in the world, with 2.18 doctors per thousand inhabitants;
- and we have more than 6,000 hospitals
The aging of the population is a concern, in fact, it is one of the most concerning issues in the healthcare sector, in Brazil, and in the world.
Several countries are turning their attention to the world’s increasing life expectancy, especially with regards to the healthcare of the elderly.
Recent discussions about Brazilian social security is a symptom of this.
Technological innovation in healthcare are key
When talking about innovation in the area of healthcare, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Technology has been widely used to facilitate diagnostics and treatments. It has also been very helpful in education and preventive healthcare.
The introduction of digital technology in place of paper records, for example, is a game-changer in the daily lives of professionals in the area.
In the United States, according to a study by the University of Michigan, switching from paper to electronic records reduced the cost of outpatient care by 3%. It is estimated that this generates $5.14 in savings per patient every month.
There is no research like this in Brazil — at least not available to the general public. However, you can imagine similar results as digitalisation advances in the country.
Digitalisation promotes radical changes
Digitalisation also helps patients have access to clinical analyses in the palm of their hand, through their smartphones or tablets.
Regarding public health, data recorded in the systems allows researchers to access statistics that are entered in real-time.
Big Data and Cloud Computing are two technological phenomena that have gradually altered the way the healthcare market has grown and developed. With them, the volume of information that does not stop growing is stored more securely and analyzed more quickly.
Artificial Intelligence is pointing to the future
Artificial Intelligence —and its subdivisions, such as machine learning, for example—is on the rise in the industry. It is the starting point that makes it possible to evolve the so-called “telemedicine”, which refers to two-way video conferences or the transmission of healthcare data, such as electrocardiograms. Telemedicine is used in many fields, such as cardiovascular care.
In short, from applications and devices that help monitor issues such as blood pressure to robot surgeries, technological developments have facilitated research and the execution of innovative healthcare services.
→ There are other technological trends in this area, as you can check out in our e-book Innovation Trends in the Healthcare Market for 2019!
Big Tech is changing global healthcare market rules
In this movement, big tech companies have a decisive role. They are willing to create solutions for the healthcare market with a focus on users and data.
By big tech companies, we mean “the biggest technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, which have excessive [market and social] influence,” according to PC Magazine’s glossary.
In 2017, a report in The New York Times showed the major actions of big tech firms in the area of health care:
- They estimate that $3 trillion could be generated annually on just healthcare applications alone;
- Apple implemented an app on the Apple Watch to try to identify irregular heartbeats —the Apple Heart Study, developed in partnership with Stanford University;
- Microsoft developed online storage and analysis services for hospitals and clinics;
- Alphabet, Google’s parent company, bet on data to facilitate health research;
- Amazon is one of the main investors in Grail, a cancer-detection start-up, etc.
Since then, big tech companies have intensified their investments in, and the development of, solutions and services for the healthcare sector. Many scholars claim that they are changing the traditional rules of the sector. That’s because they are great innovators and are competing with each other over who will grab a larger slice of this hearty pie.
Having already entered sectors such as finance and media, tech heavyweights are now eying global health spending, which is expected to reach $8.7 trillion by 2020.
Big tech companies are even making the powerful global pharmaceutical industry lose sleep. Between 2013 and 2017, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) registered 186 health-related patents. Microsoft registered 73 patents and Apple, 54. This volume represents a 38% increase in the number of patents for these three companies every two years.
Amazon’s strategy to grow business in the healthcare market
Among the big tech companies vying for the healthcare market, one, in particular, has been a standout. That would be Amazon, which is the leader in regard to innovation. They have been openly seeking to expand their participation in the sector.
In 2018, Amazon invested $3.5 trillion in healthcare. This investment took place through various initiatives. Those with the most impact:
- The acquisition of the online pharmaceutical service FarmPack;
- The development of a feature to detect colds and the flu in their voice-operated assistant Alexa (Artificial Intelligence);
- The sale of health care products on its e-commerce;
- The launching of their own clinic to meet the needs of their employees.
Amazon’s great ambition is to turn Alexa into some kind of “Dr. Amazon”.
Imagine that you have a sore throat. You inform Alexa and the device responds by asking if you want to book a doctor’s appointment or have a virtual consultation.
If you choose the virtual option, the doctor asks you, through Alexa, about your symptoms. He decides to send a messenger to your home with a small portable device in order to run some basic tests for things like sore a throat. The test comes back positive, so a virtual document is sent with a prescription for antibiotics.
Behind the scenes of this project is the already consolidated “Internet of Things”, which supports Alexa, along with applications of Artificial Intelligence.
And that is a revolution, even though this vision of the future seems like science fiction. Several experts point out that Amazon’s idea is to start by providing things like medicines and then creating ways to facilitate the experience of healthcare management for users.
Amazon also owns Whole Foods. The mission of this arm of Jeff Bezos’ company is to be “America’s healthiest grocery store.”
Although it is still unofficial, it is already speculated that Amazon will create a web service for people to access meal plans, kits, recipes, etc. A kind of “virtual nutritionist”.
Attention to users and their data: the secret of Amazon and other big techs in the healthcare market
In addition to market competition, Amazon and its competitors have another common point: users and data.
They turn their attention to the user experience and their data by creating solutions for the healthcare market. We must not forget that these companies have Information Technology in their DNA. Therefore, IT is the backbone of their investments; it is also what governs their projects, products and services in all spheres of the market.
One strategy widely used by big tech companies is User-Centrism. This term was coined by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger in The Cluetrain Manifesto (1999). It refers to the notion that consumers are increasingly controlling how services are delivered to them, rather than being forcefully managed by suppliers.
It is precisely this approach that makes Big Tech companies the darlings of the masses: they are constantly improving the user experience, enhancing the way they provide customisation and improve usability. Finally, they create and manage tailor-made products and services.
At the same time, and interconnected to User-Centrism, is strategic data management. Among the various concepts that centre around User-Centrism is “Data-Driven” which, in a nutshell, refers to data-driven management.
Driven by data, big tech companies establish processes and operations to facilitate the acquisition of the necessary information. They are also transparent about restrictions to access and methods of governance. This leads to more mature techniques such as prescriptive, descriptive, diagnostic and predictive analyses.
In summary, the differential of big tech companies in the healthcare sector, as well as on other fronts, is user-centred performance. And at the same time, sophisticated data management.
This is where they create interactive and more usable systems and services, through the application of human/ergonomic factors and knowledge about usability and its techniques.
What do you think? Are you able to visualize the power of big tech companies in the healthcare market? Dig deeper into this subject: download the e-book now: Trends in Innovation in the Health Care Market — 2019!