Amazon Moving Into Healthcare

Is Amazon moving into health care? Here’s what can be known at this point and what those in the know suspect about Amazon’s plans.

Amazon Cares:

  • Most believe it is not speculation at this point. Amazon is already taking some actions in the healthcare space. Amazon is getting into health care and that is not speculation.
  • The company hasn’t spoken much about its plans, as it’s still determining the scope through a series of brainstorming sessions with experts in the healthcare space, but its hiring trends and recent product development suggests strongly where it could go.
  • Here’s a brief recap of what has been reported, what they don’t, and what the experts think about Amazon’s potential to disrupt the $3 trillion Industry.

What we know

  • The company is already selling medical supplies and equipment to clinics and hospitals, and it is looking to build out that business.
  • Amazon recently put out a job listing for an employee to network with top health investors in a bid to build relationships with health start-ups.
  • Amazon forged key partnerships years ago with some of the largest U.S. distributors, like Cardinal Health, and it has applied for the necessary state-by-state licenses.
  • Amazon’s cloud business, AWS, is pitching its services to health-care customers and competing head-on with Microsoft Azure and Alphabet’s Google Cloud.
  • Amazon is planning to take on the problem of rising employee health-benefits costs. The company announced a partnership with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to strategize how to rethink health care for their 1.2 million combined workers. The search for a CEO to lead that effort is still underway.
  • Amazon has partnered with Merck for a “challenge” to inspire Alexa developers to create “skills” to help people with diabetes manage their condition. And that’s just the beginning. Hospitals across the country are experimenting with Alexa for things like helping surgeons create check lists or sharing vital important with patients once they get discharged.

What we don’t know but suspect

Pharmacy:

  • Amazon is poised to do something big in the pharmacy space. It now has more than two-dozen people exploring opportunities, according to a recent report, which some say is a separate initiative from its partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan.
  • Amazon is positioning itself to shake up the experience of care and how it’s delivered. Cable news reported that Amazon hired one of the top physicians at an innovative primary care group called Iora health, and it secretly convened a meeting with some of the top thinkers in the space

Aging:

  • Amazon has spent a good deal of time thinking about the problem of aging, specifically on how technology can help.

Home Health Care & Technology:

  • Amazon sees the potential to bring voice technologies (Amazon Alexa) into the home, as well as the hospital and clinic.
  • Amazon spokesperson commented at a conference about loneliness, despite the rise in technologies designed for the home. Presumably, Alexa could help with that, although it would need to be redesigned to appeal to an older demographic.

Medical records:

  • Amazon is making inroads with the largest medical records companies, which is vitally important for efforts that make use of clinical data. This could indicate potential plans like making recommendations to physicians around drug pricing and quality, at the point of care.

Here’s a short list of some of the divergent industry views:

What the experts generally think:

  • Some in health care have a tendency to be skeptical, given that technology companies have tried before and failed. But former senior Amazon employees indicate that the health-care industry should get prepared for Amazon to impact the industry.

Negative commentary:

  • Some health professionals believe that Amazon won’t do much, as it learns about the complexities. Walgreens’ CEO said he believes Amazon has “opportunities around the world and in other categories, which are much, much simpler than health care, which is a very regulated business.”

Positive Commentary:

  • Two former Amazon execs who now work in health care suggest that there isn’t much that the company would be “afraid” to do. Health care might be highly regulated, and complicated, but that wouldn’t stop a company that once set an agenda to digitize every book in print. “Every industry has thought that Amazon wouldn’t disrupt them.

Amazon Impact

  • Whatever Amazon does, many expect that it will have some impact on the consumers and therefore the industry as a whole.
  • What’s realistic is that Amazon will at least attempt to get into health care on multiple fronts, and it will be more successful in some areas than in others.
  • Amazon’s hiring points to a broad strategy, as it now has experts from biopharma, primary care, health insurance and other sectors, on its payroll.
  • Some say Health care today treats its patients and consumers with a “one sized fits all” approach, rather than as individuals with divergent needs. Morgan Reed, president of a nonprofit group called ACT, The App Association — which represents software developers — said, Amazon could help the industry “move from ‘one treatment for all’ to treatment and medication just for you.”

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