Oh the grocery store checkout line… where dreams go to die. Whether we’re stuck behind an elderly shopper writing a check by hand, someone with two baskets full in the 15 items or less line or simply arguing with the automated kiosk, most of us can agree that this is an aspect of life we could really do without.

gifs website

Lucky for us, Amazon just unveiled Amazon Go, its vision for the future of grocery stores. Amazon Go is a smart store that leverages machine vision and machine learning technology to know when you’ve picked up an item. It then automatically charges you for your selected items upon leaving the store. You simply download the Amazon Go app, scan a QR code to enter the store and your groceries are charged to your Amazon account once you leave. This is all done without registers, cashiers or checkout lines.

Amazon is calling it ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping.


Other chains have attempted to augment the check-out process with in-cart scanners or automated self-checkout machines. Although these technologies can make it easier, they add complexity to the shopping experience, rather than making it simpler. Amazon decided that augmenting the checkout experience wasn’t enough… they wanted to eliminate it altogether.

The insights Amazon tapped into are reminiscent of Uber. By taking a user-centered perspective, both companies were able to create systems that eliminate painful experiences (paying for a taxi in the middle of traffic that is frantically honking at you might be worse than the grocery checkout line).

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the motivation for Amazon Go is only about the shopping experience. The technology that enables ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping works by tracking your behaviors throughout the store. What you pick up. Where you walk. When you decide to put something back. They’re all tied to your Amazon profile. It is the physical manifestation of the kind of metrics that helped Amazon become the e-tail giant it is today. This is the Holy Grail for retail marketers.

Why Is This Important

Today’s healthcare system is a lot more like a grocery store checkout line than an Amazon Go store. Yes, technology has been incorporated to augment painful experiences… but those systems have created an endless proliferation of accounts, stakeholders, interfaces and points of failure/complication. Getting prior authorization for a medication can take days if not weeks. Sometimes patients balk and just don’t fill the script. Navigating systems of care can feel like a game of shoots and ladders. Health insurance literacy rates are falling due to complicated HSA plans designed to keep monthly premiums low.

What if we took inspiration from Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping. What would ‘Just Get Better’ healthcare look like?

We are inundated with apps, screens, dial in numbers and chat-bots. The ‘fixes’ to improve the system have left us confused and our attention fragmented. Many say that the future of user interfaces is no interface. That things will ‘just happen’ when we want them to.

That’s the essence of ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping and should be the vision for ‘Just Get Better’ healthcare. How do we leverage sensors and machine learning to help diagnose and deliver therapies to those in need? Can we create systems that meticulously track patients throughout the healthcare journey? Could those platforms eliminate painful experiences?

Like it or not, companies like Amazon and Uber are changing customers’ expectations. ‘Just Walk Out’ shopping, while now a ‘wow’ factor, will become a baseline expectation in the future. Those who can’t meet it will no longer be relevant. These expectations will eventually bleed into healthcare. The question is: who in the industry is going to be able to deliver on them? And how?

About the Author:

Zach Friedman