Sometimes an idea occurs to you while strolling along a strand of sand that is just too good not to pass along. While on vacation, I think I’ve hit on a good start to a solution regarding the healthcare industry. Since it seems, as of this writing, that consensus on this topic in Congress is not going to be forthcoming shortly, I’ll just throw out the following as a suggestion.
Let’s turn over to Amazon.com the entire industry of keeping us well and fixing us when we’re sick. The big picture is this: Amazon is known for offering the lowest prices on almost any item you might wish to purchase. They will deliver those items right to your front door. Amazon is NOT the government. (That should please conservatives.) And everything would be accessible online. (So healthcare would be available to the masses, thereby assuaging the fears of liberals.)
It’s probably fair to say that a vast majority of every household in America has either ordered something from Amazon or has had a package delivered from it. So Amazon’s already a known entity and comfortable arrangement. Started in 1994, the largest online retailer has grown to be a $61 billion-a-year business that just keeps getting bigger. $100 of stock purchased in Amazon’s IPO would be worth about $64,000 today. Not a bad return on investment. Originally basically just a warehouse and delivery organization, Amazon has branched out considerably. Over the last few years, it has bought dozens of other companies. And most recently, it has acquired the Whole Foods grocery chain, with more than 450 organic stores.
Much as Wal-Mart changed the face of Main Street, USA, whenever it moved into a town by forcing Mom and Pop shops to either adapt or perish, Amazon forces modifications and transformations as well. Major supermarket chains across the nation are probably thinking their collective business plans are not going to work quite as they thought in the near future.
Chances are, Amazon will use Whole Foods as its “last mile,” meaning you will most likely be able to order whatever foodstuffs you want on the Amazon site and then either pick them up at your local Whole Foods, or have them delivered right to your door. And, in normal Amazon tradition, probably for less than you’re paying for foodstuffs now.
Assuming Amazon’s grocery gig works out well, I’m thinking healthcare might be next on the horizon. Maybe medical providers could appear via video on Amazon and patients could pick and choose where they want for care and what they want to pay. Perhaps several price points would be available. For example, if you need a knee replacement, you could choose your doc, your surgery center, your rehab personnel, etc. Or, some enterprising soul might post a “do-it-yourself” knee replacement kit that you could have delivered right to your doorstep. Now granted, the latter is a risky kind of proposition, and you’d undoubtedly have to sign a waiver or two, but if you have faith in your abilities (and maybe a little help from a friend or two), you can have treatment for less.
What if some medical issues might also be able to be handled by drone? As those flying machines get more and more sophisticated, perhaps there may come a time when Amazon would send a drone to your house. It could hover over your head, tell you to open your mouth for a tongue depressor while a medical practitioner looks down your throat via high-def camera from a location miles away and diagnoses your problem immediately. He or she could then even order the needed medicine, and that same drone could deliver it to you shortly thereafter.
Change may not happen overnight, but maybe a new crop of doctors and other medical providers will sign up with Amazon to offer their services. That would definitely increase competition and, most probably, drive down prices. Amazon could buy up the current crop of “doc-in-the-box” free-standing clinics and use them as distribution points and as places you could go for emergencies. Eventually, Amazon might take a look at bringing hospitals into the fold.
With all that said, it would be prudent to mention Jeff Bezos. If you don’t know that name, you probably should. Bezos started Amazon. He’s a billionaire and obviously a successful entrepreneur. Does that ring a White House bell? Perhaps if Amazon can help solve the healthcare crisis, the name Bezos may be one you see on a ballot someday in the near future. Crazier things have happened.
©MMXVII. William J. Lewis, III
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