Amazon deepens its healthcare presence: A timeline of the past year

In the past year, Amazon has grown its healthcare presence with the launch of its virtual medical clinic Amazon Care as well as partnerships with health IT companies including Cerner and Change Healthcare.

Here's a breakdown of Amazon's healthcare ventures, acquisitions, product developments, partnerships and hiring trends reported by Becker's Hospital Review. The timeline includes Amazon's healthcare moves since June 2019.

June 11, 2019: Amazon donates $8 million total in Seattle and Arlington, Va., to help increase affordable housing units for homeless people in its two headquarter cities.

June 12, 2019: Amazon's online pharmacy PillPack is accused of violating customer privacy in separate lawsuits. The lawsuits claim PillPack, which Amazon acquired in 2018, violated privacy by calling or texting consumers to solicit business. PillPack denies the lawsuit allegations.

June 19, 2019: A federal judge bars former CVS Caremark executive John Lavin from working at PillPack for at least 18 months because CVS is a competitor and the new job would be too similar to Mr. Lavin's old position. The lawsuit also reveals that Amazon is looking to contract with health plans and employers to sell prescription drugs through PillPack.

June 27, 2019: Amazon launches its in-store package pickup service Counter, which it plans to debut at 100 Rite Aid drugstores across the U.S.

July 22, 2019: CNBC reports that Amazon is threatening to sue Surescripts to stop an attempt to limit PillPack's access to patient health data. Surescripts, an electronic prescribing company owned by companies including CVS and Express Scripts, was planning to cut off PillPack's access to patient drug data that comes from third-party entity ReMyHealth, which could seriously harm PillPack's business.

July 25, 2019: Former Amazon Alexa general manager and director Priya Abani joins AliveCor, a startup focused on building smartphone apps and devices to monitor users' heart rhythm, as CEO.

July 29, 2019: Surescripts threatens to terminate its contract with a vendor it claims fraudulently requested patient medication history to give to PillPack and turn the matter over to the FBI, according to CNBC.

July 30, 2019: Cerner names Amazon Web Services its preferred cloud provider to increase its analytics and machine learning services and enhance clinicians' use of the EHR.

Aug. 7, 2019: Amazon Web Services partners with the Pittsburgh Data Alliance in a machine learning research sponsorship focused on advancing innovation in cancer diagnostics, precision medicine, voice-enabled technologies and medical imaging.

Aug. 7, 2019: UCHealth launches a skill for the Amazon Echo that allows users to ask the Aurora, Colo.-based system's virtual assistant, Livi, for information about health conditions and hospital services.

Aug. 22, 2019: Amazon partners with State Farm to develop a new skill for its Alexa voice assistant that would allow people to monitor aging family members who live alone. With the Amazon Echo Show device, seniors will be able to send alerts and check-ins to their relatives and caregivers.

Sept. 10, 2019: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos signs a letter from 51 members of the Business Roundtable urging congressional leaders to pass a comprehensive data privacy law for consumers. The Business Roundtable is an association of the CEOs of the top U.S. companies.

Sept. 12, 2019: CNBC reports that Surescripts ended its relationship with ReMy Health, causing PillPack to now have to manually collect data from its patients by asking them directly for their prescription histories.

Sept. 24, 2019: Amazon launches Amazon Care, the company's virtual health clinic program for Seattle employees. Virtual services include in-app visits with a physician, nurse practitioner or nurse for employees seeking medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or referrals.

Oct. 8, 2019: Cerner CEO Brent Shafer highlights three key areas of focus for the Kansas City, Mo.-based EHR vendor's partnership with AWS during the annual Cerner Health Conference. Mr. Shafer says in addition to moving Cerner platforms to the cloud, Cerner plans to focus on the following areas as part of its innovation strategy with AWS: increase interoperability and usability of its platforms, transform data into insights and support rapid development and deployment of applications.

Oct. 10, 2019: AWS announces Textract, a tool from its cloud computing arm that uses machine learning to extract text and data from scanned documents, can now be deployed for HIPAA-compliant tasks.

Oct. 15, 2019: Amazon announces it will begin sending employees to California to receive cancer care. The tech giant will pay for travel expenses for employees diagnosed with cancer who see physicians at Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope. The benefit is designed to lower healthcare spending and increase employees' choices.

Oct. 24, 2019: Amazon acquires medical tech startup Health Navigator to help power Amazon Care, which offers employees virtual visits, in-home follow ups and prescription deliveries.

Oct. 24, 2019: Amazon posts its first drop in year-over-year net income in two years for its third-quarter of 2019 earnings. Net earnings dropped from $2.9 billion to $2.1 billion despite overall revenue growth of 24 percent.

Oct. 30, 2019: Amazon partners with University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Cardinal Health and IT and digital health solutions provider Virtusa on an artificial intelligence collaborative research project to find best treatment and management strategies for subarachnoid hemorrhage and diabetes.

Nov. 4, 2019: Haven, the healthcare venture formed by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, begins testing some of its new insurance offerings on employees in Connecticut, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

Nov. 13, 2019: AWS launches AWS Data Exchange, which allows customers to search, subscribe to and use third-party data from companies including Deloitte and Change Healthcare within the cloud.

Nov. 18, 2019: PillPack rebrands to include "Amazon Pharmacy" in its logo and other paperwork; the internet pharmacy's branding changed from "PillPack, an Amazon company" to "PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy," which may suggest Amazon intends to expand its pharmacy ventures, according to CNBC.

Nov. 26, 2019: Amazon and Pittsburgh-based supermarket and pharmacy chain Giant Eagle form a partnership that will allow Amazon Echo devices to offer Giant Eagle pharmacy patients medication reminders.

Dec. 2, 2019: Amazon Web Services announces it will launch a voice transcription service for physicians called Amazon Transcribe Medical. The tech transcribes a patient visit and inputs the text directly into patients' medical records.

Dec. 3, 2019: Cerner announces it developed a new platform using AWS that supports data scientists in creating, deploying and managing machine learning models at scale. With the platform, dubbed the Cerner Machine Learning Ecosystem, developers can create chatbots that give patients access to their personal medical records as well as the ability to ask questions about their medication, diagnoses and medical conditions.

Dec. 4, 2019: Novartis teams up with AWS to develop a cloud-based data analytics platform to improve the pharmaceutical company's manufacturing, supply chain and delivery operations. The multi-year collaboration will focus on centralizing Novartis Insight Centers' data on AWS.

Dec. 9, 2019: The Guardian reports that the United Kingdom's National Health Service has provided Amazon with free access to healthcare information, which Amazon uses to develop, advertise and sell its own products. Amazon is not permitted to collect patient information. NHS partnered with Amazon in July to allow its Alexa device to offer health advice from certified physicians and pharmacists.

Dec. 16, 2019: Amazon enables data extracted from Amazon Comprehend Medical, its software that mines patient health records, to be linked to select medical ontologies.

Jan. 9, 2020: Amazon hires high-profile public health expert and pulmonary medicine physician Vin Gupta, MD, to support Amazon Care.

Jan. 20: The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon, along with tech giants including Microsoft and IBM, have been partnering with hospitals and health systems to analyze patients' medical records in order to develop new solutions. Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center signed a deal with AWS that gives the tech company permission to access patients' health information and use the data to design software that can read medical notes, according to the report.

Jan. 21: Amazon files to trademark its "Amazon Pharmacy" brand in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Jan. 24: Dallas-based Children's Health launches a pilot program to install Amazon Hub Lockers, enabling patients, families and employees to receive and return packages at the Children's Medical Center Dallas campus.

Jan. 31: After Amazon reported revenue growth of more than 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 in a Jan. 30 earnings release, the company's market cap surpassed $1 trillion, according to CNBC. The company's shares then dropped and close with a total value of $999.96 billion, the WSJ reported.

Feb. 6: Amazon in a company blog post describes its plans to create 15,000 new jobs in Bellevue, Wash., where the tech giant already employs more than 2,000 workers.

Feb. 17: Amazon's hiring website lists more than 37,800 full-time jobs — most in software development — potentially the most ever listed at once by the tech giant, according to The Seattle Times.

Feb. 18: Amazon's virtual medical clinic Amazon Care goes live on the company's employee benefits portal. It becomes available to Amazon employees who work at the company's headquarters and their dependents.

March 4: The Washington Business Journal reports that Amazon may expand its virtual clinic services to employees working at its second headquarters in Arlington, Va.

March 6: CNBC reports Amazon is working to develop a vaccine for the common cold through a secret project called "Project Gesundheit." A small group is working on the yearslong project as part of Grand Challenge — Amazon's 100-person research and development team tasked with finding solutions to ambitious global issues.

March 9: Amazon, along with Microsoft, pledges $1 million to a COVID-19 Response Fund in Washington's Puget Sound region. The fund provides financial support to nonprofits and community-based organizations addressing COVID-19 in Washington.

March 11: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple representatives, among other tech giants, meet at the White House to discuss ways to prevent further spread of disinformation about the novel coronavirus.

March 16: Amazon announces it plans to add 100,000 employees in the U.S. to meet demands amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

March 21: Amazon and Sprint select Seat Pleasant, Md., as their new city where the companies will launch a $200 million nationwide disease surveillance and chronic disease management telehealth program.

March 23: University of Washington Medicine and Seattle Children's Hospital join Amazon Care in delivering at-home coronavirus test kits to people in the Seattle area.

March 24: Amazon is among a group of 17 large health systems and big tech companies across the U.S. to form the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition, a collaboration to coordinate pandemic response efforts using data analytics.

April 8: AWS makes its COVID-19 data lake available to the public to support hospitals, researchers and public health officials. The data lake is "a centralized repository of up-to-date and curated datasets on or related to the spread and characteristics of the novel coronavirus and its associated illness, COVID-19," according to the AWS data team. 

April 10: AWS and the Yale School of Public Health partner with nonprofit consortium Volunteer Surge to recruit and train 1 million volunteer healthcare workers online before sending them into the field to help with COVID-19 care. 

April 16: Mr. Bezos writes in a letter to shareholders that Amazon aims to regularly test all employees for COVID-19 to prevent the spread of the virus.

April 24: Amazon opens a nonprofit online store for COVID-19 first responders that sells face shields, surgical masks, ventilators and other supplies, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.

April 27: Amazon partners with Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic to allow access to Alexa to spread updated information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 11: The WSJ reports Haven CEO Atul Gawande, MD, aims to step back from the day-to-day operations of the company and become chairman. The venture — a collaboration between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase — hired Dr. Gawande as its first CEO in 2018. However, since then the company has made relatively few revelations and Dr. Gawande now wants to focus on his policy and advocacy work.

May 19: Amazon extends its telehealth benefit through Amazon Care beyond its employees at Seattle-area offices to include warehouse workers near its headquarters, according to CNBC. The virtual care benefit expansion to fulfillment center employees in the Seattle area was planned before the COVID-19 pandemic, and employees have pushed for more widespread access to the benefit.

May 28: CB Insights reports that based on Amazon's recent partnership and moves in digital health, Amazon's next move could be launching a benefits marketplace for employers and payers.

June 8: Three Amazon warehouse workers are suing the tech giant over its contact tracing efforts during the pandemic, according to CNBC. The lawsuit alleges Amazon didn't follow proper guidelines from CDC and other public health agencies when it comes to contact tracing and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Amazon says it has followed local and federal guidelines at its sites, including the CDC's guidelines for contact tracing.  

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