The following is an excerpt from our cover story printed in Specialty Pharmacy Times. Republished with persmission.
Co-Written by Ron Lanton, III, ESQ, Frier Levitt Government Affairs, and Victor Morrison, Next IT Healthcare
July 28, 2017
WHAT IF YOU AWOKE TO THIS HEADLINE? “Amazon Acquires Specialty Pharmacy”
Graduate pharmacy class: circa 2030.
“Good morning, class! Today, we will be doing a case study on specialty pharmacies, starting with their early success introducing a disruptive new service model to accommodate the influx of biologics in the 1990s and early 2000s and then moving on to how, like Kodak, Blockbuster Video, and countless others, they didn’t recognize the implications of emerging digital technologies and were made obsolete by 2025. Let’s get started. Alexa, please project case study 124 onto the center screen.”
This scenario is real, and other industries offer many examples of the dire consequences of digital disruption. With shrinking margins, a dated focus on incremental platform improvements, the increasing desire of consumers for digital self-service, and heavy strategic reliance on human resource–dependent call centers, specialty pharmacies are facing significant and likely fatal disruptions as they enter the crosshairs of technology.
Clinging to a strategy that dictates that high-touch models are the only way to remain viable, most specialty pharmacies have no strategic clarity to support the critical move to digital and mobile health (mHealth) engagement.
A quick survey of the current specialty pharmacy digital landscape indicates that most websites are still glorified business cards and mHealth is the elephant in the room, getting little more than lip service. With a glaring lack of digital engagement options for consumers, specialty pharmacies are still spending significant organizational energy utilizing unscalable call center resources to chase down patients for onboarding, adherence interventions, refills, etc.
Enter Amazon, the most technologically advanced, consumer-centric digital retail distribution organization in the world. With Amazon, you have an entity in prime (pun intended) position to disrupt the specialty and/or retail pharmacy industry.
How difficult would it be for Amazon to buy a small specialty pharmacy licensed in all 50 states and leverage their advanced distribution system and consumer relationship platforms to create an unprecedented ability to deliver specialty pharmacy services and therapies at scale?
Their Alexa, Echo, and Dot conversational user interfaces, synchronized with their ubiquitous Kindle smart devices, could very effectively engage patients, answer questions 24/7, enable the collection of real-time clinical insights, and drive adherence/refills with real-time interventions.
With traditional call center costs dramatically reduced by Amazon’s ability to deliver a pervasive front-end engagement channel for millions of patient relationships by using technology, the ability to compete for payer contracts and deliver more lucrative pharma services at a lower cost would be unprecedented.
By disrupting the current limited-scale high-touch model with an infinitely scalable smart-touch technology-dependent model, Amazon could leverage remote-monintoring devices, artificial intelligence-powered conversational user interfaces, behavior-based real-time virtual coaching, and a low-cost optimized call center to deliver personalized and holistic daily engagement at any point during the patient’s clinical journey at an extremely low price point.
The smart touch approach would trigger a transformative move from traditional call centers that support adherence to a monthly therapy to an unlimited digital engagement platform that will uncover unprecedented real-time data insights and enable optimized adherence to the right therapy.