Amazon Just Walk Out Speeds Food Purchases at Hospital

Published: January 31, 2024

Saint Joseph’s/Candler Hospital is the first healthcare site to adopt the automated purchasing leveraging computer vision as shoppers walk out the door

Healthcare workers at Saint Joseph’s/Candler Hospital in Georgia are the latest users of Amazon Just Walk Out technology that enables them to select food or drink purchases and be charged accordingly, without scanning product bar codes or interacting with store Point of Sale (PoS) systems.

The hospital’s SmartBytes store sells meals, snacks and beverages that is not manned by personnel. Instead, healthcare workers who shop there use their ID badge to be identified, find their product and walk out the door.

The system, which went live in December 2023, leverages computer-vision, sensor fusion and generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology to identify each item removed from the store, thereby linking those items with the individual making the purchase.

Automated Purchasing at Third-Party Stores

Amazon Just Walk Out stores and payment systems have been rolling out in stadiums, airports and other vendor sites across the country. The company has reported 120 third-party store deployments and growing.

The idea behind the technology is to let consumers shop and skip the checkout. Recently Amazon released a version for UHF RFID technology to identify each product uniquely, typically in cases in which apparel is being sold. Apparel can be challenging for computer vision technology, while food items are more predictably recognizable.

Most recently Amazon is targeting the food vendor sites of healthcare facilities.

Need for Convenience in Healthcare

While this is the first Just Walk Out store in a hospital, the Seattle behemoth is targeting the sector. The healthcare market stands to benefit from technology that brings automation to purchasing, Jon Jenkins, Just Walk Out VP wrote in a blog.

“Many hospital staffers do not carry their wallets and phones during working hours, which can make the purchase of food and beverages inconvenient,” he said.

Additionally, with most hospital cafeterias and stores open during regular business hours, quick and easy access to food can be challenging for hospital night-shift staff.

Frictionless Solution

The solution was provided by Morrison Healthcare, who has partnered with St. Joseph’s/Candler for over 70 years, to provide food and nutrition services, including clinical nutrition support, patient dining, and managing retail food service operations, says Taylor Miller, Morrison Healthcare’s regional director of operations.

In mid-2021, Candler opted to adopt the Amazon Just Walk Out solution for its employees “to support in the evolution to more frictionless service,” Miller says. “The addition of automated payment technology at SmartBytes creates a…cashless food market that’s accessible to both Candler employees and hospital visitors anytime.”

The technology is paired with badge payment functionality so that workers can pay for their selections with nothing more than their personnel badge.

That, said Jenkins, “will provide health care employees 24/7 access to food and beverages, while expanding the functionality of their employee badge beyond identification and building access to payments linked to payroll.”

How it works

Employees of Savannah’s Candler Hospital scan their badges as they enter. The badge ID stored in the system software is linked to their payment information such as a credit card account.

As they leave the store with their selected merchandise—such as a sandwich and drink—the computer vision technology identifies the items they are carrying and create a virtual shopping basket. The worker then simply leaves the store and is charged for their purchase.

The technology works for visitors such as patients’ friends or family members as well. They would provide a credit card or other payment method before entering the store to be then charged for the items they remove.

Allowing All Day Access

Just Walk Out technology enables the SmartBytes market to be open all day, every day, Miller says, and provides a more robust food option than vending machines would.

“The market is located near the emergency department, providing a nourishing, convenient food option to those waiting on loved ones,” he adds.

Candler Hospital management will review the impact of the SmartBytes shopping experience before determining how the technology could be deployed in other areas of the healthcare campus, according to Paul Hinchey, St. Joseph’s/Candler’s president and CEO.

Key Takeaways:
  • Amazon Just Walk Out has opened for the first time in a healthcare facility.
  • The computer-vision technology identifies goods as they leave the store and links purchases to a user’s badge ID for sales transactions.