Imagine you have a cold. Well, you think it’s a cold, but you’re not sure. Instead of calling your doctor—which could mean a long wait for a quick, impersonal visit—you consult Amazon’s Alexa. With its vast index of medical records, Amazon’s cloud computing algorithm quickly compares your symptoms with those of millions of other people and returns the most likely diagnosis. And then you’re on your way.
This is hypothetical, but it’s a future that’s not far off, said Timothy Hoff, professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. A “perfect storm” of primary care physician shortages in the United States, a national push toward quantifiable outcomes, advances in technology, and the “corporatization of healthcare” has created a ripe environment for retail thinking to transform healthcare, he said.
“What we’re seeing now is this tug-of-war between a physician-centric healthcare model and a corporate healthcare model,” Hoff said. His new book, Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health, examines this very issue.