Dr. Maulik Majmudar has spent years toiling on a task Amazon must master to disrupt the nation’s health care industry: getting physicians to incorporate novel technologies into their practices.
This week, he announced he is taking a new job with the ecommerce giant following several years incubating new technologies at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In an interview with STAT Monday, Majmudar, the former associate director of the health care transformation lab at Mass. General, said the job at Amazon offers a chance to drive the uptake of technology solutions that could impact patients worldwide.
“The thing that truly attracted me was the opportunity to work with really meaningful products and services at the scale and scope Amazon has” around the world, Majmudar said in the interview. “There is an incredible amount of opportunity to bring into practice existing technology and digital tools that actually improve the experience and health and wellness of patients.”
Majmudar, who practiced cardiology until taking this job, declined to discuss his precise role at Amazon, but said he is working directly for the company, not the joint venture company being led by Dr. Atul Gawande. Amazon is working on an array of initiatives to build its health care business, including the use of artificial intelligence tools such as Alexa to make care more efficient and cheaper. It also recently acquired the online pharmacy PillPack as part of an attempt to upend the nation’s prescription drug business and is growing a unit focused on selling supplies to hospitals.
Majmudar has spurred the development of an array of technology products at Mass. General. He helped create a contest to drive innovation called the Ether Dome Challenge, which takes its name from the invention of surgical anesthesia at the hospital in the 1840s. The contest has generated a wide array of inventions, including a text messaging app to notify patients when they’re running behind, videos on atrial fibrillation that can be watched from mobile devices, and virtual tours to help patients understand the process and purpose of MRIs before undergoing their procedures, among many other products.
“You can have all the invention you want. But if you can’t actually implement and deploy it at scale and sustain it, it really is not going to have the impact that you anticipate.”
Dr. Maulik Majmudar
“At the innovation lab, we were all about the last mile — dealing with the implementation barriers,” Majmudar said. “You can have all the invention you want. But if you can’t actually implement and deploy it at scale and sustain it, it really is not going to have the impact that you anticipate.”
That describes the primary challenge facing Amazon and other technology companies as they seek to use data and digitally enabled products to upend medicine’s traditional practices and business models.
One colleague said Majmudar’s understanding of the cultural and business factors that often impede medical innovation makes him ideally suited for his new job. “He’s trained clinically and can think like an MBA and an entrepreneur as well,” said Zen Chu, a health care professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. “He’s going to have a million ideas whipping past him from inside Amazon and outside, and he’s got the pattern recognition to figure out what is both clinically right and a good business as well.”
Chu and Majmudar co-authored an article for Fortune discussing the power of Apple’s research kit to change clinical practice by making it easier for physicians to gather and analyze sensor data and other information.
“This is the most exciting time in history for health technology to improve lives around the world, and the smartphone is a core enabler for health communication, education, monitoring, and telemedicine,” they wrote. “New technologies and services are extending this impact into diagnosis and simple therapeutic interventions.”
While he has successfully incubated tech inventions at Mass. General, Majmudar has also encountered barriers in his effort to implement mobile technologies. He served as a founder and chief clinical officer of Quanttus, which struggled with delays and technical challenges developing a wrist-worn device to monitor blood pressure.
After spending years and millions of dollars on that effort, it released an iPhone app for tracking blood pressure measurements that fell short of initial expectations, according to an article in MIT Technology Review, which reported the company struggled to solve accuracy problems related to the wrist-worn product.
But the challenges faced at Quanttus — gaining enough capital to bring a product to scale in a defined time frame — will be different from the ones he faces at Amazon, which has plenty of time and money to invest in changing health care.
“Putting innovations into practice is the part that gets me really excited,” Majmudar said, adding: “Even existing tools are rarely being utilized at their maximum potential, so how can we even just start with that, get adoption, get distributions … and drive behavior change not necessarily from the patient side, but from the provider side to actually deploy and adopt these tools? For me, it’s the right time to be part of that.”