The news of a partnership between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan entering the healthcare industry raises questions about the form the online giant merchant’s participation will take. Telemedicine may be one channel, possibly in addition to filling medication prescriptions. Telemedicine encompasses many aspects of patient care. From remote disaster site help for first responders to patient post-surgical care that boosts compliance while cutting the number of office visits and readmissions, the list of telehealth apps seemingly grows daily. But what do you do if you want to talk with a doctor when you’re home with a sick child, or you’re stuck at home because of bad weather? Maybe you’ll ask Alexa.
Swedish healthcare company KRY provides accessible care with a network of physicians available for smartphone video calls at extremely affordable prices. There are currently more than 200 doctors in the KRY network. Children 20 and younger and adults over 85 can consult with network doctors for no charge. Adults pay a flat fee of 250 kroner (about $30). To book an appointment with a physician, users download the KRY app to an iOS or Android smartphone and log in with BankID (the most popular form of secure electronic identification in Sweden). In the app, patients describe their symptoms, answer questions, upload images if appropriate, and choose an appointment time. A doctor calls the patient directly for a video chat for up to 15 minutes. KRY sends required doctor’s notes or prescriptions immediately after the call. If necessary, the KRY physician makes referrals for further care to appropriate providers who contact the patients directly. KRY claims it does not keep sensitive information about visits and medical charts are encrypted.
Given the growing interest in telehealth services in the U.S. and in other countries — as witnessed by the KRY offerings — it is reasonable to predict that Amazon might apply its tele-expertise and voice-controlled user interface technology. The Echo Show includes a video display, and is already available. Could this become the nexus for an Amazon telehealth offering in the near future?