Amazon Going for Number One in Healthcare with One Medical

Amazon Acquires One Medical for $3.49 billion

Across social media, the news of Amazon's acquisition of One Medical has been with positive reception and justified skepticism. From privacy concerns to over-consumerization of healthcare, where do you stand on the acquisition? 

Here's our take.

Amazon spent $3.49 billion to acquire a brand with a lot of loyalty in the B2B space. Similar to their acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon might let One Medical continue to operate under the existing name. 

Who helps to lead Amazon's healthcare division? Well, a few people depending on the side of the healthcare part of the business, so let's review a couple people with deep healthcare experience. 

Aaron Martin is VP of Healthcare at Amazon. Prior to Amazon, Aaron was the Chief Digital Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, headquartered in Seattle. Providence is widely considered one of the more innovative health systems. Aaron sits on a number of boards of technology companies many health systems and patients use across the United States, including Kyruus and DexCare. For 7 years he was also a board member at Avia, a digital health consultancy firm that worked with health systems across the United States on their digital transformation strategy. 

Bill Kopitke is Head of Healthcare at Amazon. Prior to Amazon, Bill was Managing Partner at Forward Foundations, a boutique investment firm. Before Forward Foundations, Bill was Senior Director at Vizient, the largest group purchasing organization in the USA. If you're not familiar with Vizient, many health systems, hospitals, and practices actually make purchases through Vizient. Everything from medical devices, to cotton balls, to laundry, and cleaning services can be bought through the Vizient catalog. For this reason, Vizient is a healthcare contracting expert. 

Privacy and data - Much of the United States's healthcare data are already stored on Amazon servers via AWS. EHRs, digital health companies, and the like all use AWS to build their products. Amazon has signed thousands of BAAs and is not new to how healthcare data can be used. However, if you look at must privacy policies in healthcare, there is often a statement that aggregated healthcare data can be used for research and development purposes. What will Amazon consider necessary r&d when they have so many aspects of their business?

So let's talk about privacy policies and data security. Recently, I was speaking with a startup and the founder didn't even know a line existed in his privacy policy. Startups often don't have the resources to spend the time and money on legal topics that companies like Amazon can. We can review Amazon Care's Notice of Privacy Practice's here. They don't sell data and they're held to the same standards of every other healthcare organization. 

The worry many people have is how Amazon is permitted to use the data. As you see in Amazon's policy, just like every other healthcare tech company, is the ability to use data for research and development. There are details on what type of research can be done here. So, don't expect Amazon to add "Customers with your medical diagnosis also bought these items" anytime soon.

In December of 2021, Oracle announced its plan to acquire Cerner, the second largest EHR company for health systems, behind Epic. One Medical also has a home grown EHR. In this blog post back in 2018, One Medical shared its tech ecosystem, called 1Life, was built on AWS and its core solution was One Medical's proprietary EHR. Amazon having its own EHR now means Amazon Care can operate on One Medicals' EHR as well. Between Epic and Oracle, if Amazon wanted to affirm its place in healthcare technology having an EHR was an absolute must.

In February of 2022, Amazon announced that Alexa was partnering with Teladoc to provide visits with Teladoc providers 24/7 on Alexa devices. With the acquisition of One Medical, we wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon ditch this partnership. 

For Amazon prime users who already pay over $100 per year, adding an additional $199 for unlimited primary healthcare services may not seem like a bad deal - it might even be less with the bundling. Soon "Hey Alexa - connect me with a doctor" might be a part of your prime subscription. 

On one hand, this is great. The ease of accessing a video visit engrained in a consumer's everyday workflow makes it much more natural to request a visit with doctor. However, the downfall of this is the scale of this implementation is immense. Millions of homes around the United States are now connected to a single medical organization. 

One on one quality time care with a patient isn't necessarily scalable. Will Amazon be prepared to connect LGBTQ affirming providers with patients around the clock? Will Amazon be prepared to connect culturally competent and sensitive providers with patients? Will Amazon be able to have mental health professionals available when the need arises? In healthcare, the rise of convenience often doesn't correlate with the rise of personalization. However, these issues also arise in traditional healthcare settings and Amazon's access to resources may mean they can provide a greater experience than we have today. We can't let imperfect block progress if it truly is progress.

Finally, lets talk about prescriptions. Amazon pharmacy lets users shop for medications, including prescription medication with a workflow and user interface very similar to shopping for everyday items. The acquisition of One Medical now means Amazon has a very large provider base available 24/7 who can prescribe what's medically necessary. However, this also means end users are essentially given an experience that let's them state what drugs they're in the market for.

In conclusion, Amazon acquiring One Medical creates a new breed of healthcare organization that can rival traditional incumbents and fight for systemic change, policy change, better reimbursement and more. Now, we're not saying they will, but here's to hoping they try. With great scale comes great responsibility. With great amounts of data comes great responsibility and for the sake of healthcare and all of us let's hope Amazon uses it for good.