Are Digital Therapeutics the Next Amazon Investment?

The digital health industry has seen dramatic growth in the past few years, and digital therapeutics is helping to create new inroads with physicians and patients due to their simplicity and advanced patient experience. Its use of technology has captured the interest of venture capitalists, investors, healthcare systems, and most notably, big tech. With Amazon’s recent movements in health investments, could the tech giant be making moves into digital health to help make medical care as reliable as a Prime delivery?

Recent investments by Amazon Health

During the past year, Amazon has made several investments in the healthcare space. In March, Amazon invested $2M in Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to test artificial intelligence tools. The company also partnered with numerous health entities, including Boston Children’s Hospital, Atrium Health in Charlotte, N.C., Livongo, Express Scripts and Cigna.

In July, Cerner partnered with AWS as its preferred cloud provider, making access and interconnectivity a priority to share healthcare information across devices. Amazon acquired Health Navigator to provide technology and services to digital health companies. The company also launched Amazon Transcribe Medical, a voice transcription service for physicians that inputs text directly into medical records and integrates into devices or apps.

Perhaps the largest announcement from Amazon came in Oct. 2020, when they launched Amazon Pharmacy – a new platform which aims to make medication management as easy and convenient as shopping on Amazon’s website. These recent investments and launches continue to signal that Amazon is working to create a new healthcare experience that disrupts the market and revolutionizes the patient position.

Focus on interconnectivity

One area where Amazon continues to invest is the solution of interconnectivity – a backbone of digital health. More digital health platforms are being built on Amazon’s AWS operating server systems, which enable more connectivity, easier sharing of information, and data collection. Amazon’s existing AWS infrastructure is critical to the success of many of its healthcare initiatives. With more tech giants trying to expand their cloud platforms, this has become a competitive space.

Throughout all of the acquisitions and investments, Amazon has carefully crafted a network of interconnectivity that unites patients, physicians, payers, PBMs, and the various systems they use. Amazon can support future platforms that unite claims management, patient monitoring, electronic medical records, and supply chain management software. Acquiring a digital therapeutic solution that puts that level of transparency and connectivity into patients’ hands seems a likely future step.

Amazon disruption

Amazon’s ability to disrupt the retail marketplace is the result of prioritizing the customer experience. The company concentrates on innovation and unconventional ideas, which means it’s constantly experimenting with new initiatives, but this also means Amazon isn’t afraid to fail and move onto the next bright idea.  But the tech philosophy of “move fast and break things” creates a challenge for the healthcare industry that requires evidence-based health solutions. Digital therapeutics offers a caveat to that focus by bringing tech-driven solutions direct to patients, with a focus on supporting care.

The rapid growth of digital therapeutics has resulted in the commercialization of evidence-based applications that are becoming major disrupters to the healthcare market – something that likely pleases Amazon leadership. Digital therapeutic solutions are already demonstrating their ability to positively impact public health and reduce healthcare costs, with greater support from regulators, payers, and providers. As a result, tech companies are looking to other channels such as the B2B2C selling model in order to increase market penetration and generate more sustainable revenue streams.

What’s next

It’s clear that a digital therapeutics tool could be the next Amazon health entity. But this move is not unique to the tech giant. Many are advancing in the space by playing to their strengths: Apple’s patient-centric vision prioritizes consumers, while Google continues to apply AI to everything from medical devices to lifestyle management solutions. And Microsoft is building health data management on top of its cloud platform Azure.

While Amazon has barely scratched healthcare’s surface, it has the potential to upend the space with its e-commerce expertise. Without the need to make money in healthcare, the high margin and convoluted parts of the healthcare business are ripe for disruption. As the digital health space becomes more competitive, Amazon is particularly well-positioned to create a new environment with a transformative digital therapeutic tool. Due to its success in patient experiences, ability to connect systems, and capture various parts of the ecosystem, Amazon’s digital health future will either change how the system is designed or force existing players to become more competitive.

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