This is the latest in LSA’s Skate To Where the Puck is Going series. Running semi-weekly, it examines the moves and motivations of tech giants as leading indicators for where markets are moving. Check out the entire series here, and its origin here.
Growing up in a family where the head of the household was a doctor, I got an early and intimate view of the profession’s pain points. Like many SMBs, doctors are often drowning in paperwork and admin functions that deviate from their core competency and reasons for choosing that profession.
This is often stated as an imperative for SMB marketing tools. The common line is that SMBs are too busy being chefs, roofers and lawyers to be marketers. Beyond marketing, this principle applies equally if not greater to the wider range of SMB SaaS tools that streamline SMB operations across the board.
With that backdrop, Amazon’s latest update to its Transcribe product scratches an operational itch for SMBs, and it specifically zeros in on doctors. Known as Amazon Transcribe Medical, It’s a smarter dictation tool that makes it easier for doctors to capture their post-procedural notes.
As background, doctors are known to record themselves to document notes about patients or procedures. Traditionally, there would then be admin support in some form to transcribe those voice recordings so that the notes could be filed and compliant with medical records standards.
This longstanding practice of dictation stems from a combination of doctors’ scarce time and their subpar handwriting (it’s not a myth). So the practice has become established, but it’s still a time drain for doctors to have to stop and spend time dictating their notes into a voice recorder of some sort.
So Amazon’s new tool creates a purpose-built voice processing engine for doctors that automatically adds annotations based on voice inflection. For example, it places commas in the right spots and new paragraphs — taking place of the traditional voice commands like “new paragraph.”
This essentially creates a customized voice processing use case that applies Amazon’s ever-improving speech to text processing (care of Alexa and other voice/AI initiatives). But it does so in a way that is purpose-built for the unique needs and pain points of doctors, including HIPPA compliance.
If done right, the AWS voice integration could streamline the process and save time. Along with the reduction of admin duties mentioned above, available time is a pain point for physicians. So the name of the game for any SMB Saas tools targeted to this vertical is streamlining things and saving time.
To Verticalize or Not to Verticalize
The other notable principle here is the focus on a specific use case. For all of the reasons above, this is a pain point that is specific to doctors. This supports the broader SMB SaaS strategy to focus on individual pain points within specific verticals, rather than take a broad horizontal approach.
This is a question (among others) tackled in an upcoming LSA white paper on SMB-targeted SaaS. There are lots of dynamics and considerations, but the short version is that a highly vertical approach improves product quality and focus but diminishes the addressable market.
LSA’s Modern Commerce Monitor tells us that verticalization shines in areas that have a high degree of operational nuance, or regulatory oversight. That makes sense as the software that serves these verticals has to likewise come equipped with purpose-built features to address category-specific idiosyncracies.
For example, operational support in medicine has regulatory considerations for patient records (HIPPA) which need to be baked into back-office support such as appointment scheduling and billing. SMB SaaS tools that support legal and finance SMBs have different but similar considerations.
Beyond regulatory dynamics are operational nuances. There, we see successful verticalization in places like home services and automotive per the MCM data below. Notice also that the third vertical that’s called out specifically for success in verticalized strategies is “Health & Medical.”
This factor should help Amazon tap into a real need among doctors. The downside is that doctors aren’t always terribly tech-adoptive, so selling tools to them is a bit of a double-edged sword. We’ll be watching closely as Amazon rolls this out, and if doctors are really adopting and finding value in the new tool.