The global e-commerce Major Amazon has made many awestruck with its foray into the hitherto untapped area of healthcare. Although, the company has a perfect platform for selling any product under the sun, including pharmaceutical items, but then why should it get into healthcare segment is the question that begs an answer, according to medium.com report.
If Kenneth Wu, the consultant in clinical operations for biopharmaceutical and medical device sponsors, who wrote a guest column in Clinical Leader portal, with the caption: “Could Amazon Revolutionize the Patient Experience in Clinical Trials?”, is anything to go by, then the e-commerce player’s next area of business is going to be in the pharmaceutical segment.
Wu wrote that pharmaceutical firms have excellent earnings and prolific profit margins. In 2015, an estimated $300 billion was spent on prescription drugs. If Amazon is shopping for long-term growth, strong margins, and global markets, and is willing to invest several billion, then pharmaceutical firms are the best prescription for global domination.
While Amazon might as well have innovative plans up its sleeves including the option of foraying into the electronic health records and telemedicine, as the company has hands on experience in marketing many of these products, the firm can easily assign its life science experts to look into these areas for the feasibility. Pointing to this direction, Wu’s column says that Amazon might as well bring unique capabilities to pharmaceutical development as well as clinical trials.
Four Good Reasons
The report cites four reasons how Amazon can flourish in this segment. First and foremost Amazon is capable of helping to design clinical trials from the patients’ perspective, thus reducing or literally eliminating patient screening by using access to electronic medical records. Using a computer network that stores encrypted medical records patients can have direct control over their records and enable access to those records for clinical trials, says the report, further citing Wu as saying, “As Wu explains, “Medical histories can qualify patients to participate in clinical trials based on protocol indication, standard of care and proximity to investigators.”
The second possibility is that Amazon, through its extensive database, would have the capability to create huge patient networks and identify their characteristics. Thus, it could identify qualified and willing participants for clinical trials at a much faster rate than through traditional means. By profiling member preferences, Wu figures that Amazon can complete patient recruitment in days or weeks, instead of months or years, thus helping enormously with clinical trial timelines, noted the report.
The third possibility is that Amazon can be helpful with clinical trial management, as there are Amazon devices that can improve the process. Echo devices — which incorporate speakers, a microphone, and digital personal assistant software — can remove the friction in protocol compliance. The personal assistant can respond to voice commands and perform tasks supported by applications, such as using rideshare service, scheduling appointments and medications and setting up payments.
Last, but certainly not the least is the fact that Amazon can provide the tools for being “more secure, accurate, and flexible than cloud based clinical trial data management systems”, citing Wu, the report said. It would be more cumbersome to replicate the data on multiple servers. What is more, it would avoid the tedium and tendency for errors that come with manual data entry, the report warned.
According to Wu, Amazon values “the next big opportunity.” He believes that the idea of selling pharmaceuticals is a natural outgrowth of Amazon’s strategy, but he would not be surprised to see the company get into pharmaceutical development and clinical trial management “if synergies are aligned.”