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November 30, 2018

Swarming from Every Direction

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a little disoriented these days as I read the healthcare news. 

‘Oh, here’s a story about Amazon’s expansion into healthcare.  Wait, did I read that one already?  Nope, this is a different story, a different angle, a different Doerr (not a typo, explanation below) through which the behemoth is walking into this industry.’

It is dizzying, really, just trying to keep up with the army of Bezots (I should copyright that and sell T-shirts…on Amazon, of course).  Here is just some of the most recent news…

Amazon is directing the power of its massive cloud operation, Amazon Web Services (AWS), at a software development project to mine data – both structured and unstructured – from electronic health records. 

Don’t expect them to directly compete with Epic and Cerner and other EMR vendors – why bother with the hassle of implementations and users and help desk?  Let someone else do that pedestrian work.  Instead, they’ll just go after the real value-added stuff that sits those now digitized charts. 

If you are a start-up working to extract unstructured data from patient records, you are a dead man walking…you just haven’t fallen over yet.

They are also working with health systems and pharmaceutical companies on what we would consider to be ‘population health.’  The AWS machine will crank through millions of patient records to spot trends and early warning signs. 

We also learned recently that that are pushing a software that allows physicians to recommend products to their patients – purchased at Amazon, of course – through an application connected to the EMR.  ‘Mrs. Jones, you have hypertension and should have a blood pressure cuff at home.  I just sent you an email with a link to one.’  One click from the physician to send the email, one click from the patient to place the order, and bingo, it arrives. 

Finally, speaking of walking through every conceivable door into healthcare, famous venture investor John Doerr recently predicted the rollout of Prime Health.  Though he is not Amazon, Doerr was an early investor (large part of why he is rich and famous) and remains close to Bezos.  His quote last week: ‘My dream is to bring the efficiency of the ad words market to value-based care, to the health care markets,’ 

Think about how people use Amazon Prime now and just tailor that to healthcare.  Now does it make more sense that CVS and Walgreens want to own health insurance companies?  The death star is locked on to their existing business.

Amazon does not view healthcare the way you do, but through its lens of using big data to drive commerce. 

Who is big enough to take on Optum, IBM Watson, the largest health and beauty retailers, and about half of the healthcare IT ecosystem – all at the same time?  The same company big enough to take on Walmart a couple of years ago.

This will all be very convenient.

As long as you didn’t read Orwell.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.