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What Healthcare Systems Can Learn From Amazon

With its Amazon Go concept, Amazon is on the cutting edge of making shopping more efficient and quicker for customers. As medical providers look to make healthcare buildings more efficient, experts are looking at Amazon for inspiration. 

Amazon Go
An example of an Amazon Go storefront from the company's promo video

With the Amazon Go concept, shoppers have their information stored in their cellphones and after tapping their phones at the entrance, they can fill their bags with everything they need and walk out, no checkout line required. 

The use of technology to speed up one time-consuming process, shopping for groceries, could also be used for patients in a waiting room, Array Advisors principal Fady Barmada said. 

"Imagine being able to do the same thing in a healthcare location," Barmada said at Bisnow's Mid-Atlantic Healthcare Real Estate forum Thursday. "You walk in and the facility recognizes you, you’re automatically registered and put in a queue. As soon as it gets to you, you can go in. That’s the type of service and tech integration we’re moving toward with healthcare." 

Ray Brower Fady Barmada
Callison RTKL's Ray Brower, Anchor Health Properties' Paula Crowley, JLL's Matt Coursen and Array Advisors' Fady Barmada at Bisnow's Mid-Atlantic Healthcare Real Estate forum

CallisonRTKL Vice President Ray Brower had an example of a healthcare system doing just that.

One of his clients, whom he did not name, created an app for its cancer patients that helped with scheduling. The app also featured GPS location services so the reception desk gets notified when a patient drives onto the campus. This gives them roughly a seven-minute head start to get patients' services ready before they actually step up to the reception desk. 

"It allows for more immediate rooming and much more convenient access to services," Brower said. "That's the future." 

While looking for the next technological innovation can be exciting, Anchor Health Properties Chairman Paula Crowley warned about spending too much on tech. When her clients build outpatient facilities, the IT budget is typically only about 20% of the overall construction costs, so she said it is important to use the money wisely. 

"We want to be careful with technology," Crowley said. "It sounds great, but I think it’s got to be affordable and it has to be easy. There’s enough complexity in putting these projects together and it's our job to make it as easy as possible to get the project done."  

Dave Moreno, Jen Harrington, Margaret F, Gill Wylie, Charles Weinstein
AKF Group's Dave Moreno, Anne Arundel Medical Center's Jennifer Harrington, Suburban Hospital's Margaret Fitzwilliam, Johns Hopkins' Gill Wylie and Children's National's Charles Weinstein

Much of the IT budget for healthcare systems gets devoted to maintaining and expanding electronic healthcare records, limiting the ability to try new creative ideas, Anne Arundel Medical Center Vice President of Clinical and Support Services Jennifer Harrington said. 

"There’s a lot of cool stuff out there but our ability to pay for it sometimes is very limited," Harrington said.  

Technology also tends to evolve over longer time periods than builders have when designing healthcare systems. 

"What we’re finding is the need for infrastructure and building is potentially outpacing our knowledge and the evolution of technology," Harrington said.

To stay prepared for future technological innovations, Harrington said it is important to design buildings with flexibility. 

"We hear the term flexibility a lot," Harrington said. "Our ability to build structures we can change dynamically to meet different needs. So as we're able to take advantage of technologies and that infrastructure we can adapt and incorporate it."