The Amazon Effect: Has Consumerism Finally Come Calling for Healthcare?

Hello healthcare, meet consumerism! We’ve been hearing about its pending arrival for quite a while. It started as a faint drumbeat in the distance. Over the years, it’s become louder and more consistent.

The Amazon Effect: Has Consumerism Finally Come Calling for Healthcare?

But for all the noise it was making, consumerism seemed so far away from reaching the healthcare sector…until recently.


Why is now the time for consumerism and healthcare to collide? For one, consumers are more savvy and have raised the bar in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role as well. It introduced many consumers to telehealth for the first time while also provoking tough questions about why healthcare was still so hardwired and immobile. Finally, consumers have more skin in the game these days. For more than a decade, Americans have assumed increased financial responsibility for their healthcare. With greater expense comes greater expectations.
All of this means one thing for your health plan: it’s time to start thinking more like Amazon. Here are three strategies to get you started.


STRATEGY #1 – Go Big with Big Data

Data is the foundation of building a more personalized experience for consumers. Health plans are better positioned than almost any other type of business to accomplish a more personal touch since they possess an abundance of member information obtained from multiple sources: health assessments, biometric screenings, social determinants of health, medical records, claims, member-generated data, pharmacy records, etc.

This “gold mine” of information has the potential to provide a detailed portrait of each member’s general physical condition and specific health behaviors, from exercise and stress levels to smoking, eating habits and participation in preventive tests such as mammograms, Pap smears, dentist visits, flu shots, pneumonia shot and colonoscopies.


To deliver a personalized customer experience that includes individualized recommendations, Amazon hosts an estimated one billion gigabytes of data across more than 1,400,000 servers. Unfortunately, many health plans have segmented application silos—claims, consumer management, etc.—which make it difficult to create a unified platform that can analyze the data as a whole and identify trends, gaps in care, etc., in a systematic and timely manner.

Some health plans are following Amazon’s lead by leveraging analytics and technology to “mine” their data. By applying segmentation, risk stratification, personas and other techniques to existing consumer data, health plans can create an integrated customer profile that serves as the foundation for more effective marketing. In addition, data from third-party sources, including
demographics pulled through a postal database, information about internet and social-media consumer interactions, and purchasing habits can also be incorporated to further refine and clarify the customer profile. The result is a precise understanding of what “the next right thing to do” is for each member and the ability to provide customized communications containing the information and resources each member needs to take charge of their health.

STRATEGY #2 —Provide a Digital Front Door

The term “Digital Front Door,” sometimes referred to as a “Hub,” has been around for decades. During that time, it has evolved into more of a buzzword, acquiring multiple definitions that can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. For our purposes here, we define the Digital Front Door as a consumer-first model of engagement that delivers a consistent, cohesive and personalized
experience across all communication channels, meeting members where they are and providing the right information at each touchpoint— all available through a single point of access such as an app or website.


Just as Amazon has radically transformed retail shopping from a brick-and-mortar setting to an online experience, a digital front door can redefine the healthcare experience for members. Imagine a scenario in which multiple tools and resources are made available to members. From a single “Benefits” web page, members can conduct a provider search, research low-cost options, view treatment timelines and details, and even earn rewards for selecting high-quality, low-cost care. On a single “Payments” web page, members can view what every family member owes to every provider, make a payment and immediately see how this payment impacts their deductible.

In addition, imagine a personalized marketing platform that generates and then sends personalized emails and timely notifications to remind members about upcoming appointments and prescription refills as well as suggest low-cost care options.

The healthcare system is extremely complicated and cumbersome for members to navigate. A digital front door helps simplify the process, which not only creates more satisfaction among members but also encourages more engagement with a health plan’s resources.

STRATEGY #3 —Expand Telehealth Services

Many health plans are now recognizing that telehealth is here to stay. Both consumer and provider willingness to use telehealth has increased significantly with the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, telehealth offered a bridge to care in a time of need and now offers a chance to reinvent the way healthcare is delivered. Regulatory changes that enable greater access and reimbursement for telehealth services are being made with the goal of improving healthcare access, outcomes, and affordability. Today, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of consumers say they would be willing to use telehealth in the future.


By offering next-day or even same-day delivery through its Prime service, Amazon is now the most convenient store on the planet. Health plans can follow its lead by embracing the new level of convenience made possible by telehealth. Convenience is a major driver of the popularity of telehealth. Driving to a walk-in clinic is still time-consuming and has the disadvantage of seeing a provider who is probably not familiar with the patient’s medical and personal history.

Technology can sidestep these inconveniences with at-home consultations using telemedicine. This is especially true for behavioral health, which has emerged as a major driver behind a continued increase in virtual care. Health plans that continue to expand their coverage of telehealth services for both physical and behavioral health issues will be well-positioned to attract the growing number of consumers who are comfortable with technology and value convenience.

The Time Is Now

Consumerism is finally here. Is your health plan ready to respond? Just one last dose of urgency. In addition to thinking “like” Amazon, think about this. Amazon has continued to show interest in the healthcare space and seems committed to expanding its footprint. In the future, your organization could likely be competing against companies like Amazon, who have consumerism embedded in their core DNA. Will your member experience be able to compete?

Is your health plan ready to think more like Amazon? The Onlife team would love to offer a 1:1 consultation to assess your readiness in these key areas and discuss your response to the arrival of consumerism in healthcare. Contact us today.