Imagine a patient who is having knee surgery. The person’s doctor will prescribe medication for recovery, provide instructions for physical therapy exercises, and tell the patient to get a variety of products, like ice packs and knee braces.
But in many cases, doctors have no way to actually connect patients with the right products.
“They often hand out pieces of paper,” said Mike McSherry, CEO of healthcare technology company Xealth. “They’ll [turn] their computer screen and do an Amazon search with the patient… They’ll hand out photocopies of products. Then it’s left to the patient to shop online or walk into a Walgreens store and discern: ‘Hey, does this look like the knee brace they recommended for me?'”
Xealth is hoping to close that gap with a new feature that links doctors, patients and ecommerce platforms. The company announced the new feature Thursday alongside a new integration with Amazon. Rumblings of the ecommerce integration were first reported in July.
Here’s how the feature works: After, say, a knee surgery, a patient’s doctor can recommend a slate of products that the patient will need in recovery. They might include things like special ice packs, a chair for the shower and a cover to keep their cast dry.
The doctor can send those product recommendations to the patient through the Xealth platform, which automatically connects them to ecommerce platforms where they can acquire the products. Currently, Amazon is the only ecommerce platform integrated with the system, although McSherry said Xealth will add more.
“Much like you can’t force patients to only pick up medications at a single pharmacy chain, you can’t force patients to procure products form a single ecommerce vendor. So there’s going to be increased patient access and choice that’s going to lead to transparency,” he said.
The Xealth platform already lets doctors ‘prescribe’ digital services including instructional materials, devices, meal delivery services, and even Lyft rides. Adding products makes a lot of sense.
“Ecommerce has played a significant role in people’s consumer lives, and we are now enabling that same consumerization… in their patient lives,” McSherry said.
Amazon has been making a steady push into healthcare. Just this year, it acquired prescription drug delivery company PillPack and started a joint venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to tackle healthcare costs and released a machine learning service for analyzing healthcare records.
While the feature is not an official partnership with Amazon, McSherry also said the company worked with Amazon and Xealth’s clinical customers to figure out the best way to set up the system and integration.
The new feature is initially launching at two of Xealth’s health system partners: Seattle-based Providence St. Joseph’s Health, which will implement the feature in its Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which will use the feature in orthopedics and maternity care.