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Amazon’s healthcare push is a threat—and an opportunity—for the industry

The e-commerce giant recently announced a huge healthcare expansion. The rest of the industry will have to build more seamless, user-focused experiences to compete.

Amazon’s healthcare push is a threat—and an opportunity—for the industry
[Images: Paper Textures/Unsplash; asikkk/iStock]
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That Amazon Prime membership could soon come with a free same-day doctor’s appointment. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that we need a robust digital healthcare system that extends from the doctor’s office into the home—and the e-commerce Goliath just jumped into the ring prepared to win it all.

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Investors have flocked to the sector over the past 12 months, and some Wall Street analysts have projected several years of robust growth. However, between last December, when news of Amazon’s planned move into healthcare began leaking in the media, and this March when the company officially announced its plans, stock prices for legacy health companies such as CVS, Walgreens, and digital-first disruptors along the lines of GoodRx lost billions of dollars in value and reshuffled the presumed leaderboard.

What can existing healthcare providers do to survive and thrive in the face of what will surely be heated competition? The simple answer is to take a page directly from Amazon’s playbook: Create an incredibly easy-to-use one-stop digital shop for everything prospective patients could ever need and pay obsessive attention to customer experience and satisfaction.

Amazon is renowned for taking costly business expenditures—cloud computing, logistics, and fulfillment—and developing solutions that solve internal challenges while also becoming profitable to the company. Next up on the list is healthcare. Amazon plans to offer 24/7 chat access to clinicians, nationwide telemedicine access, in-home diagnostics, health provider house calls in select cities, and prescription drug delivery, all within an easy-to-use interface.

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Consumers have come to expect frictionless experiences online and in the physical world. Want a ride somewhere? Press a button. Need your groceries? Press a button. However, today, far too many people seeking healthcare must navigate an endless sea of paperwork, providers, insurance companies, and websites from the mid-’90s. And after all that, they often don’t walk away with what they need.

Because healthcare in America is not user-friendly, people defer or delay care and let prescriptions go unfilled or unused. Thousands of lives are lost as a result, and these challenges cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars each year. If we can figure out how to send burritos on demand and connect billions of people over social networks, we can surely simplify and improve healthcare.

As the founder of digital pharmacy Capsule, I believe the healthcare system of the future will be a seamless, integrated, digital-first experience. The front door will be a single interface that lets you quickly determine whether you need to see a doctor in-person or by video and help you schedule a same-day appointment. Your pharmacist will coordinate with the insurance company behind the scenes to get you the best medications for the best price. You’ll know the costs upfront.

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And prescriptions will be delivered directly to your home or office at a time of your choosing. You’ll be able to text questions and concerns to your doctors and pharmacists and be supported by a digital community of caregivers working around the clock to make sure you stay healthy and well.

We’re not there yet. While the pandemic pushed some of the biggest players in health to expand and improve their digital offerings, they still haven’t mastered how to weave these things together into a seamless, delightful experience. For example, a customer looking for telemedicine access on two of the largest conventional U.S. pharmacies’ websites must navigate a rabbit hole of clicks before either being left at a dead end or encouraged to “try an in-person visit” because the service is unavailable. Amazon will not make this mistake.

The company built a global e-commerce empire modeled on frictionless design. The lesson for the rest of the healthcare industry is to pivot immediately to survive. Form partnerships with innovative companies in digital pharmacy, telemedicine, and home care to create an integrated vertical stack for digital healthcare. Make navigating your website or app as easy as ordering a book. When you make it easy for patients to seek virtual care on-demand, it helps prevent minor problems from becoming major ones down the road.

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Pharmacies, insurance companies, and healthcare providers must prioritize giving patients a one-stop digital shop for all their health needs. Like Amazon has always done, healthcare companies should be focused on building the best customer experience. If they pull it off, the results will be better care and better health outcomes for everyone.


Eric Kinariwala is the founder and CEO of Capsule.