Amazon makes another attempt to enter healthcare

SEATTLE, US: Amazon signed an agreement in July to acquire One Medical, a technology-centred primary healthcare provider that combines in-person, digital and virtual healthcare services. Given that Amazon recently announced the closure of its Amazon Care telehealth service after just two years of operations, the latest acquisition represents another attempt to bring the Big Tech company into the US healthcare market.

The purchase of One Medical would be one of the retail giant’s most expensive acquisitions if it is given the green light by US anti-trust regulators. The two companies entered into a merger agreement in late July in which Amazon was to pay US$3.9 billion (€3.9 billion) in cash for the young company. In September, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested more information about the merger, effectively halting the deal until the two companies have complied with the regulator’s requests. FTC Chair Lina Khan has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s business practices and of the expansion of Big Tech into other industries. The collection of private data is reportedly one of Kahn’s central concerns.

When asked earlier this year about Amazon’s expansion into healthcare, Kahn told the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, that there was “more work to do to fully understand what it means for these businesses to enter into all these other markets and industries”.

One Medical is a membership-based service that aims to transform primary healthcare with “calming offices” that are located close to where its members live, work and shop. The San Francisco-headquartered company is also high-tech. It offers around-the-clock access to virtual care and allows members to book appointments and track their healthcare records using an app. Acquiring One Medical would provide Amazon with a healthcare workforce, a physical network of around 180 offices across 12 US states and access to the virtual healthcare technology that One Medical has built.

One Medical ended the third quarter with 815,000 members—14% more than it had had in the previous quarter—and a US$117.3 million loss from its operations.

“We think healthcare is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention.” Neil Lindsay, Amazon Health Services

Comments made by Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, suggest that, through the acquisition of One Medical, Amazon would seek to bring to patients some of the advantages that have made its retail and foodstuffs businesses a success with consumers. Lindsay said in a press release: “We think healthcare is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention. Booking an appointment, waiting weeks or even months to be seen, taking time off work, driving to a clinic, finding a parking spot, waiting in the waiting room then the exam room for what is too often a rushed few minutes with a doctor, then making another trip to a pharmacy—we see lots of opportunity to both improve the quality of the experience and give people back valuable time in their days.”

Lindsay added: “We love inventing to make what should be easy easier and we want to be one of the companies that helps dramatically improve the healthcare experience over the next several years.”

Amazon is not new to healthcare. The company founded Haven Healthcare in 2018 together with investment bank JPMorgan Chase and conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. Haven’s operations ended in early 2021. As it has done in other industries, Amazon has used strategic acquisitions to attempt to gain traction in the healthcare industry, including through its 2018 purchase of online pharmacy PillPack, which now operates as Amazon Pharmacy. In 2019, Amazon acquired medical tech start-up Health Navigator which, in turn, helped it to build Amazon Care. The telehealth and home-based care service reportedly delighted patients but failed to get enough employers on board, and Amazon recently announced that Amazon Care would not live to see 2023.

As the purchase of One Medical inches forward, Amazon’s aims in the healthcare industry remain to be seen. Some health industry experts expect the company to narrow its focus towards the provision of care to older adults, or to focus on employer healthcare. Amazon is one of the largest private employers in the US, and healthcare is a major expense for the one-time bookseller.

Amazon
Dental business
Digital technology
Mergers
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