Will Amazon change healthcare?: Health system CIOs weigh One Medical's acquisition

Amazon's plan to buy primary care network One Medical in a deal valued at $3.9 billion would bring almost 190 clinics, a subscription telehealth service, an electronic health record and contracts with thousands of employer clients under Amazon's umbrella, but health system CIOs have various takes on the acquisition with some saying this is all noise while others take the stance that the retail giant could change primary care delivery. 

Becker's spoke to five health system CIOs who answered the question: What does this acquisition mean for healthcare and primary care delivery? 

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Rich Rogers. Senior Vice President and CIO of PrismaHealth (Greenville, S.C.). Time will tell. I still think healthcare is personal and local. Patients like to know their physician and have a trusting relationship. They also like to go to their local hospital for services. This is just one more industry giant trying to influence healthcare. 

From a CIO perspective, this is just another independent group that we hope to exchange patient information with for the continuity of care and experience for the patient.

But, primary care is a difficult business. It will be interesting to see what Amazon can do to change the business model. It will also be interesting to see if patients and employers will be comfortable with a Big Tech firm having their most private and personal health information. History says "no."

Zafar Chaudry, MD. Chief Digital and Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Seattle Children's Hospital. Amazon is obviously serious about healthcare with this level of investment and this will give Amazon broader physical primary care access across multiple markets and may benefit patients in terms of primary care competition. 

Certainly, Amazon Care appeared to struggle to bring on clients, probably due to its lack of a track record. Near term ramifications are probably minimal, although I don't think this acquisition is going to help them fix what's broken with healthcare but will give Amazon access to more data for sure, which could be controversial. 

Whether Amazon can monetize this remains to be seen. One Medical wasn't exactly profitable before acquisition so this will help One Medical be more sustainable and help them as they venture into more value-based care arrangements. 

Amazon will still face the same staff recruitment and retention issues that healthcare delivery organizations are facing. The other challenge may be medical malpractice liability as Amazon, as the parent company, has huge assets that may be exposed in the case of any future possible medical malpractice claims.

Raymond Lowe. Senior Vice President and CIO of AltaMed (Commerce, Calif.). This acquisition is a prime example of how healthcare delivery will change. It also depicts how large organizations continue to examine inefficiencies in healthcare delivery and see opportunities to enhance this in traditional healthcare organizations.

Amazon has excelled with membership-based customers and One Medical has a very similar business model, which may align well with Amazon Prime. 

One Medical's membership-based primary care service offers its customers 24/7 virtual care access – Amazon will need to decide if they are to be their own health insurance product, or if they will forego it and offer its value-based subscription plan, providing concierge care that is more affordable, and perhaps bundled with their existing Amazon Prime membership.

Saad Chaudhry. CIO of Luminis Health (Annapolis, Md.). This acquisition means that Amazon is realizing that the future is in geographically-dispersed and on-demand care, backed by a digitally-enabled ambulatory network. And to get the most out of it in the future, you will want to extend your clinicians to the top of their license (off-load as much operational/admin work as possible via tech), while being able to provide care virtually, at home or in the clinic.

The country will need something akin to this in about seven years' time especially, because 20 percent of the U.S. population will be above retirement age by 2030. And we (the healthcare industry) will need to start building the care provision infrastructure of the future, today, if we are to effectively deal with the overwhelming demand for geriatric care headed for us.

Randy Davis. Senior Vice President and CIO of CGH Medical Center (Sterling, Ill.). This acquisition means little. Amazon continues to live under the illusion they understand healthcare when they do not. There is no magic wand for them to waive to make One Medical profitable. 

I want someone like One Medical to find broad success, it would in the end make us all more efficient and goodness knows hospitals in America today need a health shot of cost-reduction. But, One Medical won’t do it. So, it makes for interesting news, but It will mean nothing. 

In total, healthcare spending in the U.S. is $4.1 trillion, an acquisition of $3.9 billion is irrelevant. This falls into the category of policy wonks and "futurists" wanting it to mean more than it does.

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