Amazon Alexa and Patient Engagement

By Kevin Schulman, Stacy Wood
2019 | Case No. SM328 | Length 20 pgs.

The Palo Alto Health System had three hospitals, 1,600 physicians, and over 1 million patients each year – and a new risk-based model that incentivized the prevention of illness, as well as early intervention in patients with chronic illness. Engaging with patient populations involved clinical interventions, but also involved a marketing approach to encourage patients to adopt health behaviors and keep following those practices.

This case study investigates this marketing aspect of health care, and looks at ways in which Amazon’s Alexa, an interactive speaker that connected people to the Internet and the cloud-based Alexa voice service, could enhance health care efforts. With patient permission, Alexa could collect specific health-related information, and could help schedule patients for medical screenings and then report back important laboratory results. One early adopter was the U.K. National Health Service, which contracted to use Alexa to provide health-related content to patients – the same information that was available on the public website. The case study considers health care privacy issues, and asks students to consider whether a marketing approach to health care, in this case using Alexa or another Internet personal assistant, would be a successful strategy for the Palo Alto Health System.

Learning Objective

The case study asks students to think critically about the concepts of marketing and consumer behavior, and apply them in the discussion of health care. Would a marketing-focused approach to health care enhance the experience and outcome for consumers – the 1 million patients of Palo Alto Health System? Specific aspects discussed include market segmentation, and whether an interactive personal assistant like Amazon’s Alexa can address segment-specific messaging.
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