It was only a matter of time before Amazon decided to go all-in on telemedicine. They appear headed in that direction with the recent announcement that they will be offering customers 24/7 access to medical care via their smart speakers. If you have an Amazon Echo or Alexa device, for example, you will only need to tell it you want to talk to a doctor. You will get a call back through your smart speaker in short order.
Admittedly, this is a pretty basic service that isn’t appropriate for medical emergencies. It also won’t do much for patients whose care requires diagnostic tools. But it is fine for someone who just needs medical advice about a non-critical problem.
Seeing a Future in Telemedicine
It is incredibly easy to mock Amazon for their efforts to get a foot into the healthcare industry. But give them credit for seeing a future in telemedicine, a future that some healthcare professionals don’t even see. As a company, Amazon is skilled at recognizing early-stage opportunities and maximizing them. Offering on-demand medical care by way of smart speakers is proof of that.
If there is any drawback to the plan, it is the fact that the service will be extremely limited. That is not the case for other telehealth providers whose technology affords both video and diagnostic capabilities.
More Advanced Solutions
CSI Health is a company that makes advanced telemedicine solutions. They design and build individual medical kiosks for employer health clinics, neighborhood pharmacies, educational institutions, and even rural health clinics. They also build portable telemedicine units that can be easily deployed in emergency situations.
What makes their solutions so much better than Amazon’s service are the on-board diagnostic capabilities all their products offer. With on-board diagnostics, providers can get real time data on heart rate, blood pressure, glucose levels, blood oxygen levels, and more. Technically, CSI Health could equip a medical kiosk with virtually any diagnostic tool a customer was willing to pay for.
Quality On-Demand Medicine
Comparing Amazon’s new service with the services provided by companies equipped with CSI Health solutions clearly illustrates two different business models. Amazon’s business model taps into the on-demand economy by giving customers instant access to non-critical medical care. Companies utilizing more advanced telemedicine solutions can offer the same service, but they can go one step further.
More advanced technology allows them to offer:
- virtual health screenings
- wellness checkups
- mental health services
- educational services.
None of this is to say that Amazon’s service will not be worth utilizing. Knowing the company’s track record, it is a safe bet that plenty of faithful customers will love smart speaker healthcare. With that in mind, Amazon is doing the entire industry a favor by giving other telemedicine providers every reason to improve their own offerings.
Not a Perfect Substitute
It should be obvious that smart speaker healthcare is not a perfect substitute for more advanced telemedicine or in-person visits. It is certainly not a substitute for emergency medical care. Customers choosing to utilize it should be cautious about the temptation of avoiding emergency or after hours care in favor of calling for a doctor on a smart speaker.
Where all of this leads is anyone’s guess. Will Amazon expand beyond smart speaker healthcare to begin offering advanced telemedicine clinics? Will they begin buying up medical groups and hospitals? Probably not. But there is a good chance that what company engineers learn about telemedicine from this new service will pave the way to developing better technologies in the future. After all, that’s the sort of thing Amazon does.