Hospital leaders primed for competition with Amazon

Health system executives told Becker's they weren't surprised by Amazon's latest healthcare inroad, One Medical for Prime, but said their own virtual care potential extends beyond what the tech giant offers.

Amazon launched the new platform Nov. 7, allowing Prime members to add One Medical subscriptions for an extra $9 a month and get unlimited on-demand virtual visits. Amazon acquired the membership-based primary care company in February for $3.9 billion.

"Anything that can make healthcare easier to navigate and create access is a win," said Jeffrey Sturman, senior vice president and chief digital officer at Hollywood, Fla.-based Memorial Healthcare System. "This new offering from Amazon is smart and certainly supports the way we all need to think about delivering better services."

Mr. Sturman said Memorial's competitive advantage is that it has specialists — One Medical for Prime only offers virtual primary care — and thus can provide greater continuity of care under a "single technology-enabled environment."

But, he added, "convenience is the key with Amazon One Medical" and this is where health systems have a "huge opportunity to improve."

Bradley Crotty, MD, chief digital engagement officer at Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health, said the integration of Amazon Prime and One Medical was "expected" but will push others in the healthcare industry to more quickly innovate to balance digital convenience with high-quality care.

But nonprofit health systems also have an opportunity — and responsibility — to make these tools available to more people, he noted.

"It's essential for healthcare systems to develop long-term strategies that account for digital-first, consumer-centric approaches that also connect with their community-oriented missions serving diverse populations," Dr. Crotty said.

He added that "fragmentation" can result from these new healthcare platforms, so health system partnerships will be important.

Nigam Shah, PhD, chief data scientist at Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Health Care, said he doesn't view Amazon as a competitor to academic medical centers, which serve a "very different function" with their focus on research, education and patient care.

"One can imagine complex procedures being done at AMCs, and follow-up care being managed near the patient's residence via offerings such as One Medical for Prime," he said.

He also cited Curai Health, a virtual care platform that is used by Amazon Clinic, another telehealth service from the tech giant (Amazon Clinic is cash pay, whereas One Medical for Prime is via membership).

"Having a nationally scaled primary-care offering by a tech company offers AMCs the opportunity to partner and expand their impact," Dr. Shah said.

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