When Amazon launched its healthcare service, Amazon Care, in September 2019, McKinsey reported only 11% of consumers were using telehealth. Obviously, things changed over the course of the pandemic when the adoption of telehealth surged and then stabilized at 38x higher than pre-pandemic usage, according to McKinsey.
As other major tech and retail players such as Walmart and Google look to make greater inroads in healthcare, many speculated about the ripple effect this would have on the wider healthcare system. Would this spell the end for up-and-coming telehealth startups or merely create more demand as virtual care offerings become integrated into the standard of healthcare delivery?
What we have seen is companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google applying pressure to push the healthcare industry forward as a whole—inspiring other companies to pioneer health tech innovations and forcing outdated healthcare institutions to evolve faster. As Amazon now expands its hybrid patient-centric healthcare model, the company is tapping into something very critical—patients’ desire for a healthcare system that puts them first.
A Shift in Healthcare Delivery
We’re not so far removed from times when patients were filling out paper symptom diaries and manual forms to track and report their health and family health history status. Now, with the ability to use health testing and sensors to passively monitor almost every biometric measure of interest, we’re able to obtain an objective snapshot of a patient’s health. Personal health trackers, such as smart watches, rings, and other devices, in addition to at-home testing capabilities, make health reporting more convenient and accessible than ever before. These advances produce higher quality, more objective health data that can be used to assess the effectiveness of treatment interventions and dramatically reduce the burden on patients and the greater healthcare system overall.
Meanwhile, virtual telehealth is reducing the barriers to care such as geography, appointment wait time, and cost. But even as established leaders in healthcare, new telehealth startups, and big tech companies push virtual care forward, they have a responsibility to ensure this new model of care is truly accessible. If these benefits are limited to just the subset of the population who can pay a premium for access, we are missing an opportunity to democratize and scale access—and ultimately life-saving health benefits—to the segments of the broader population who would benefit most from these innovations.
When healthcare is not convenient, many disregard their health. In fact, a study published in JAMA Network Open found 41% of patients skipped care during the pandemic. Providing access to care, health tests, and treatments for patients when, where, and how they prefer is revolutionary. With the at-home testing market valuation now predicted to reach $2 billion by 2025, companies are betting on the staying power of this shift in the healthcare system. The cumulative impact of the combined technologies that enable patients and consumers to choose what works best for them is the future of healthier healthcare delivery.