Should I worry about Amazon stealing my Job?

What does Amazons' push into healthcare mean for healthcare professionals?

Amazon joins the like Apple, google and IBM in entering the digital health arena but what does this mean for healthcare in the U.K and for the professionals that service the industry?

The biggest news to hit the healthcare sector recently has been Amazons $1billion acquisition of Pill pack, a US online Pharmacy. Pill Pack has licenses to operate in all 50 states and provides its patients with a high tech solution to the polypharmacy problem engulfing America. According to Pill Pack, over 40million Americans are on more than 5 medications a year while 50% of these are not adhered to correctly. Pill Pack has grown quickly through the use of robust technological processes including the use of barcode scanning and medication verification, while it’s app serves more as just a diary. Its data is shared with doctors and healthcare professionals involved in your care to provide a feedback loop on the way to perfect health. 

The huge valuation is not surprising even though the company was only valued at $361million during its last funding round in 2016. Amazons premium paid shows a real commitment to invest in healthcare and it wants everyone to know it’s serious. And it was taken seriously. By everyone. Just a day after the announcement, shares in traditional pharmacy chains (such as those of Walgreens Boots Alliance) saw their collective value drop by £13billion as investors are aware of the massive technological and logistical prowess Amazon will bring to the table.

To give a fair reflection, the 10%+ drops seen by some companies were due to panicked investors and since then, they have begun to recover so is this all just being blown out of proportion? Well, no, not really. As mentioned earlier, Amazon has the right set of tools to bring some serious change to the healthcare market - logistics, technology, business prowess are just some of the things they excel at and coincidentally, are some of the things that currently hold back pharmacy companies at the cusp of cracking the online pharmacy model.

When technology has been introduced to an industry, there's typically been huge amounts of backlash due to fears of job losses, a reduction in pay and as we all know, we can be resistant to change.

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Yes, we know that Amazons move into healthcare is localised to the US at the moment but it won’t be long until Amazon perfects the technique and either one of two things happen; Amazon moves into new markets or their practices are cough*copied*cough by companies looking to get a head start in the U.K. Either way, should HCPs be worried?

I do not think so. When technology has been introduced to an industry, there's typically been huge amounts of backlash due to fears of job losses, a reduction in pay and as we all know, we can be resistant to change. However, as we have seen with the likes of electronic records, e-prescribing, electronic prescriptions and new diagnostic equipment to name a few - technology has set the bar and private companies and the NHS have had to update. Update to survive in some ways, but also update to progress, to drive change and serve populations. 

The implications of Amazon's acquisition of healthcare professionals remains to be seen. Should pharmacists be worried? Scandals involving online pharmacies alongside the reams of red tape surrounding NHS procurement and distribution will mean that pharmacists will likely continue to provide the same service they have done for the last 20 years. In some ways, there lies the problem - the role and processes undertaken by pharmacists have largely remained the same and therefore Amazons move into the healthcare market should act as a nudge for pharmacists and owners to employ new ways of working.

Doctors will likely see a shift from periodic updates when patients visit them to a more dynamic overview of their patients. Technology such as what Pill Pack provides with real-time reporting of adherence will give doctors new insights into a patients treatment plan and allow for more targeted treatment plans. While a time frame for these changes is hard to give, given the almost daily advancements that the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple make, it would be hard to see the working practices of healthcare professionals change drastically over the next 2-3 years. 2-3 years is long enough for all healthcare providers to plan for a changing environment and customer/patient profile.
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Of course, the NHS governing bodies will be the organisation that needs to prepare the most. With an influx of technology coming into the sector, the NHS needs to think very carefully about the role of technology in healthcare and provide the necessary protocols and standards. We’ve seen previously how the technology procurement process of the NHS has led to fragmented systems which do not work together nicely (think NHS spine) and with technology set to be the driving force of healthcare, the NHS needs to sort out how data is stored and accessed by thousands of different users in a safe and positive way.

Data is really what this comes down to. Data drives changes and changes (made the right way) lead to positive outcomes. Amazon and co are kings when it comes to data capture and analysis which will only be good news for patients (data breeches etc set aside) but what has struck fear into certain parts of the healthcare professional community is how much experience and resource the likes of Amazon and Google have when it comes to implementing a new way of doing business. Amazon already has a powerful distribution and logistic chain, they are already able to procure, store and select items with a high degree of accuracy and they have by far one of the best customer support and communication systems available so when they figure out how to provide value from their data to consumers, implementing their medication/health service will come easily.

If anything, the Amazon move into health care should worry the NHS the most as it has overarching control of what we do as healthcare professionals. The NHS is still in a good position to plan for the next roll out of private and public technology investments into the system and needs to ensure that patients are able to utilise the technology to improve health and service standards. 

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P.s the need for pharmacists, doctors and Nurses will always exist. Even if Amazon takes over the industry with their computers, they will need healthcare professionals to drive clinical and patent interaction updates to their own systems. Nothing can ever be perfect, everything evolves and healthcare professionals need to adapt to provide a value that can be used to further drive change along the way.