Carolinas chases dream of becoming healthcare's 'Amazon Prime'

Charlotte health system wants patients to have no reason to go elsewhere.
By Bernie Monegain
11:37 AM
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Photo illustration by Wendy Almeida

CHARLOTTE, NC — The next big thing for healthcare might already exist in a different industry.

That’s why Carolinas HealthCare looks to online retail companies, for instance, to gauge where the technology market is going, Craig Richardville, chief information and analytics officer at Carolinas said.

“It makes you start thinking, what is the ‘Amazon Prime’ for healthcare?” Richardville said.

[Also: Carolinas HealthCare IT chief: Interoperability will be solved in 5 to 6 years]

Prime, of course, is Amazon’s $99 annual membership that offers free overnight shipping, movies, TV shows and other perks to members. The idea is that Prime subscribers get enough incentives that they buy almost everything from Amazon.

Richardville keeps up with what is happening in industries outside of healthcare, most notably the large banking, retail and energy sectors in Charlotte. That includes regular meetings with CIOs and relevant counterparts in those companies.

Richardville, along with CHS Vice President of Information and Analytics Pamela Landis, wants to anticipate the technologies that Carolinas can quickly embrace, things that come in an untimely manner or situations that call for a total change in directions. Landis pointed to virtualization of care as a case-in-point.

“The IS division, working with our clinical partners, said ‘we’re going to go into this, and it’s going to be early,’” Landis said.

Landis and the team envisioned a flip in the market. When that occurred, CHS had been running the program for two years.

“We were ready,” Landis said. “We started early, got it going, got the operations done, the technologies done and everybody at the table. When the uptick started, we were prepared.”

Today, CHS provides live, 24-hour access to medical providers via camera-enabled smartphones, tablets or computers. The visit costs $49.

That service alone doesn’t make Carolinas the Amazon Prime of healthcare — but it helps Carolinas move in that direction.

Landis said that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos set out to create a virtual storefront by first selling books, then added music, movies and so forth.

“Then you move into ‘now I’m going to add more services because I’ve gotten better at this, and I understand more,’” Landis said. “It’s kind of like what we try to do here.”

The ultimate strategy is to become the de facto standard of care and experience, Richardville said, to make the health system into one which patients ask, “Why would you go anywhere else?”

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com


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