While it appears Amazon’s plans to create a healthcare company aren’t fully formed, the use of data and digital tools are two likely priorities moving forward, according a Wall Street Journal report.
The news outlet obtained a document from December that outlined an initial proposal for a joint venture between Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway that was officially announced by the three companies on Tuesday. Although industry experts speculate the new business would take over health insurance and pharmacy benefits for employees of those companies, one source told the Wall Street Journal that idea is no longer on the table.
But the document does spell out a clear interest in data and new digital health gadgets. Part of the plan includes an initiative to create a healthcare data warehouse. The companies also want to partner with healthcare systems to use technology to care for patients outside of the hospital, along with digital tools that facilitate data sharing.
Those aren’t particularly innovative concepts in the healthcare world. Telemedicine adoption is on the rise and health systems are already investing in digital tools to streamline patient care. But Amazon’s market power, combined with its tech prowess, could be a driving force for more widespread adoption—similar to the way Apple’s foray into medical records is viewed by some as a sea change for better patient access to health data.
Greg Caressi, transformational health senior vice president at Frost & Sullivan, sees this as an initial step that could lead to broader participation in the healthcare market.
"Companies who are financially responsible for their employee's healthcare and need a healthy and productive workforce to remain competitive, are searching for answers and looking to innovate beyond the current health system approaches," he said in an email to FierceHealthcare. "This is an example of innovative companies combining to create new models to address health care and health system issues that impact their business. They are disrupting the system to meet broader goals, which will advance change in a slow moving ecosystem."
Telehealth companies are certainly reading into the new partnership with some optimism. American Well CEO Roy Schoenberg told CNBC Amazon’s description of its new venture closely aligns with the goals of telemedicine. Meanwhile, Tyto Care CEO Dedi Gilad told Politico Amazon could be searching for outside vendors to fill that need.
While the details of the new venture are undoubtedly fuzzy, its clear digital health will play a critical role in whatever transpires. Despite a press release short on specifics, the companies pointed to technology solutions that provide “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost” as an initial focus.