Report Predicts an Amazon.com-like Future for Healthcare Marketplace

Consumers increasingly are willing to take a chance on non-traditional healthcare providers—including in settings such as retail clinics or through mobile health devices—depending on cost and convenience, a new report finds.

Whether it’s called “patient engagement” or “patient/consumer empowerment,” consumer preferences, driven by lower cost and new technologies, will change how healthcare delivery looks within a decade, according to a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute concludes.

“Healthcare’s new entrants: Who will be the industry’s Amazon.com?” is based on a survey of 1,000 US adults. The study predicts that in ten years “the health business will look and feel like other consumer-oriented, technology-enabled industries” with its own “Amazon.com-style, iconic, new economy brands. Incumbents face critical decisions about whether to compete with these emerging healthcare players, or align with them.”

The survey found that middle-aged Americans are the most likely to say they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to choose non-traditional settings and delivery systems—if the cost was lower than traditional options—than other peer groups. Some of these non-traditional options included MRIs in retail stores or pharmacies (84.4 percent said they were very likely or somewhat likely); at-home urinalysis test with a smartphone attachment (41.7 percent); send a digital photo of a rash or skin problem to a dermatologist (54.8 percent); have a visit with a physician via a smartphone application (38.6 percent); among others.

The report cautions the healthcare community that new entrants to the market, such as mobile health device makers and startups, “will propel the democratization and decentralization of healthcare, allowing consumers to access care anywhere.”

An essay published with the report highlights Walgreens’ push to offer services beyond strictly pharmacy retail, which now include infusion therapy, cholesterol screening and counseling for chronic conditions, a partnership with a lab business, aligned with nearly 200 well known health systems, the acquisition of an online prescription company, and international alliances.

Companies such as Walgreens, “as well as some newcomers and some hybrids—are sketching out the contours of the New Health Economy,” the report states.

 

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