The Amazon Effect on Healthcare

March 14, 2018 Becky Koller

Yes, I am an Amazon Prime shopper. Yes, I find myself stocking up on kitty litter and toilet paper at all times of the day and night. My personal shopping habits — combined with my professional focus — has led me to think about how the collective experience with the world’s largest retailer is changing expectations and behaviors for everyone, even for us as healthcare consumers.  Yet, the healthcare industry seems slow to understand the holistic level of personalization experienced by patients and healthcare workers everyday.

Recently, my daughter informed me she needed a basic orange, short sleeved t-shirt for a school activity on Friday morning. It was Monday. My mom brain immediately went into conquer mode, and out to the Amazon marketplace I went. There were multiple options available, even some that were marked Prime (implying two-day shipping, in case you’re one of the five people in the U.S. who don't use Amazon). However, surprisingly, I could not find a suitable t-shirt that could be guaranteed by Thursday afternoon. Even on other retailer’s sites, a suitable t-shirt could not be found and delivered on time.

So, I called the Amazon Help Desk and had a very pleasant (albeit cumbersome) conversation with the help desk, and located a suitable t-shirt that could be delivered on Wednesday for an extra fee (yes, it was marked prime; that is for a different story). This Momma Bear ordered it, paid the extra fee, and let out a deep sigh. My baby bear was going to be compliant!

Fast forward to Wednesday, and the t-shirt didn’t arrive. In its stead was an email cheerfully saying it would arrive on Friday. To describe Momma Bear as not being happy would be a gross understatement of my emotional reaction. My Baby Bear was not going to have incorrect attire. Not this Baby Bear.

So, I called the Help Desk and connected with a cheerful, unsuspecting Amazon employee. I patiently, but sternly, explained the situation. Then, amazing things followed. She listened. She solved. She went above my expectations. By the end of the call, a replacement t-shirt was located and guaranteed to be delivered by 4:00 on Thursday. And she refunded my expedited shipping fee without me having to request it.

So, what does this crazy t-shirt experience have to do with healthcare? Amazon is changing the expectations in retail, and those same consumers are patients for healthcare providers and payers. Patients expect to be heard. They expect problems to be solved, and they are overjoyed when their expectations are surpassed. The healthcare industry must step up and develop ways to improve the experience for each and every patient. Providers must look at the patient journey in the light of digital connection methods and moments. They must be disciplined and determined to create “wow” moments for patients.

Patients must be met and engaged in the manner they prefer. Providers need to be able to see the complete patient picture quickly, and engage with the patient through chat, text, email or phone —  with a single view — complete with history, medications, allergies, and chronic conditions being immediately recognizable.

Here at Appirio, we use our Virtuous Cycle framework to help healthcare companies, providers, payers, and medical device manufacturers understand the importance of an integrated worker and customer experience. This integrated framework identifies gaps and opportunities to develop workers that are engaged, productive, and agile enough to create an experience taking the customer from awareness to satisfaction, then excited and amplified to share your products or services with others. Expectations are rising at dizzying speed.

So, how are you keeping up? Do you understand the gaps and opportunities in your patient experience? Do you know the parts of the experience that are creating “Wow” moments? How can you create more amazing touchpoints? Here at Appirio, we can help. Find out with a Virtuous Cycle Diagnostic. Contact me at to learn more!

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