It is no secret that patient experience in the US healthcare industry is deeply troubled.  Fewer than half of US adults feel that healthcare is handled well in the US. Healthcare costs continue to rise, patients say they have to wait as long as 52 days to schedule an appointment with a new physician, and almost 80% of Americans are at least moderately concerned that they won’t be able to get quality healthcare when they need it. 

Many companies are working to improve the dismal state of patient experience within healthcare. Perhaps the most notable recent activity comes from Amazon, which announced its intention to acquire the patient experience-centered healthtech company One Medical, for $3.9 billion.

On paper, the combination looks formidable. One Medical describes itself as a “membership-based primary care practice on a mission to make getting quality care more affordable, accessible and enjoyable for all through a blend of human-centered design, technology, and an exceptional team.” According to an SEC filing from earlier this year, The San Francisco based company operates 188 medical offices with over 750,000 members and 8,500 corporate clients. The company posted $623 million in net revenue last year

Amazon has vast financial resources and has been exploring healthcare for several years. Its press release for the acquisition announcement says healthcare is “high on the list of experiences that need reinvention”. It would seem that the tech giant certainly has the resources to deliver on the vision to reinvent experience in healthcare. But how do customers feel about that? Do they want a tech company to fix healthcare, and do they agree that OneMedical’s mission is the right one?

To help us answer these questions, we collected human insight by asking a number of One Medical’s customers to think about and reflect on their personal experiences with healthcare services. We also asked them about their reaction to Amazon’s intention to acquire One Medical. Everyone we talked to expressed strong feelings on these topics. In their feedback, we heard three key themes that are relevant to any company that wants to reinvent a category.

Key Findings

1) Understand the problem that people want you to fix

What Americans want most in healthcare is cost control. Although they would like to see improvements in other aspects of healthcare, most of the people we talked with said costs are their primary issue with the healthcare system. One person even pointed out that healthcare costs account for as much as 20% of his family’s expenses. For One Medical, Amazon, or any company looking to disrupt the healthcare space, the insights we captured tell us that this is the fundamental problem to zero in on. 

2) Does your solution address the problem(s) that customers care about most?

The customers of One Medical that we talked to have mostly positive reviews when asked to rate the experience that the service provides. The majority of our respondents liked the easy-to-use interface and found it straightforward to schedule an appointment with a quality health professional in a timely manner. The service is delivering on seamless tech and patient accessibility to care.

However, when asked to reflect on the company’s overall mission to “make getting quality care more affordable, accessible and enjoyable,” One Medical’s customers had less favorable reviews on the service’s ability to make healthcare more affordable or more enjoyable. The idea of making health care enjoyable was especially troubling to some people.  And as one of them said, “there is nothing about a healthcare experience that’s enjoyable” One Medical may be pursuing an impossible goal in this case.

3) Will people welcome your company to this space?

When we asked the group of One Medical’s customers to reflect on the possibility of Amazon acquiring the company, they had mixed feelings. On the positive side, most of the people we talked to were optimistic about Amazon being able to potentially utilize its vast resources to help One Medical extend its success in improving the patient experience.  Many respondents also pointed out Amazon’s history of innovation and were excited to see what new ideas a partnership between the two companies may bring to the market.

On the negative side, many One Medical customers expressed a significant degree of apprehension about Amazon potentially gaining access to sensitive, private health information. Some people expressed concerns about how that information might be used by Amazon to sell them more products, and others expressed worries about data privacy and security.

What did we learn?

  1. Be brutally honest with yourself about your image. A massive company like Amazon that moves into a new space is going to generate both intrigue and apprehension; intrigue about the new ways that it will approach solving problems and apprehension about what other agendas it might be pursuing. The larger the company newly entering into a new category, the more it is likely to experience distrust among consumers. This is especially true of tech companies. You know your intentions are good, but it is crucial to investigate and understand how consumers view you and to uncover their areas of concern. 
  1. Be very careful not to overpromise. Understand and empathize with how consumers feel about a category or an industry before you enter it. The human insight that we collected showed that the cost of healthcare is the single most important issue to American health care consumers. But the One Medical customers we spoke with did not feel like it has made much progress on that problem. The lesson: Be really clear about which problems you can solve, and don’t claim you are going to “fix” an industry unless you’re prepared to fix the central problems in that industry. (We’re not saying Amazon can’t fix healthcare costs, by the way; what we’re saying is that One Medical isn’t viewed by the people we talked to as evidence that Amazon can control costs.)
  1. Be very careful about how you communicate mission statements to the world at large. You need to test those statements with current and prospective customers to ensure that the vision connects to the things they care about and that you are positioned to realistically deliver on the claims of your mission. In One Medical’s case, the idea of making health care enjoyable came across as unrealistic and even out of touch. The vision you rally your team around may not be the right thing to communicate to the world. Be careful about advertising your internal ideology.

What are your thoughts? Share reactions and questions in the comments below.

Photo by Alexander Sinn on Unsplash

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