What's Amazon's next move in healthcare? 5 predictions

Amazon could look to home-based care or insurance for its next move into healthcare, health system digital and innovation leaders told Becker's.

After the tech giant completed its $3.9 billion acquisition of primary care clinic chain One Medical in February, observers are eager to see where in healthcare Amazon will turn its attention next.

"With their broad reach, robust supply chain and growing fleet, I wouldn't be surprised if they expanded into the remote patient monitoring and home health sector," said Laura Marquez, senior director of digital transformation for Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health. "As their provider base grows, they could focus on meeting the customer where they are by providing in-home visits, especially in underserved and rural areas."

Amazon reportedly bid for home health company Signify Health last year but was bested by CVS' $8 billion offer.

If Amazon does pivot to the home, it will also have to compete with Best Buy, which bought remote patient monitoring platform Current Health for $400 million and partnered with health systems including Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger and New York City-based Mount Sinai Health System and NYU Langone Health.

Prior to the One Medical deal, Amazon started its digital Amazon Pharmacy, which offers free delivery. It rolled out RxPass, a $5-a-month service for Prime members who take generic medications. And it debuted Amazon Clinic, a messaging platform where patients can get treatment for more than 20 common conditions without appointments or video visits.

"We're on a mission to make it dramatically easier for people to find, choose, afford and engage with the services, products and professionals they need to get and stay healthy," said Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, in a Feb. 22 statement.

In the future, Amazon might manufacture its own generic medications or create its own commercial-like health insurance, Saad Chaudhry, chief digital and information officer of Annapolis, Md.-based Luminis Health, told Becker's for a Feb. 1 story. Or the company could deliver prescriptions for its subsidiary Whole Foods, said Jeff Cohen, MD, chief physician executive of community health and innovation at Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network.

However, others believe Amazon will eventually retreat after wandering into the intricate maze that is American healthcare.

"The delivery of clinical care in the U.S. is bounded by an 'iron triangle' of cost, access and quality that has proven resistant to change in over 60 years of efforts even with massive adoption of technology," said James Whitfill, MD, chief transformation officer of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based HonorHealth. "My guess is that after a few years, this complexity plus changes to HCC [Hierarchical Condition Category] methods by CMS in Medicare Advantage will drive Amazon to pull back into more traditional transaction spaces where they naturally excel."

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