Editor's corner: Fierce Healthcare's 10 most-read stories tracked Amazon's latest moves, COVID variants and the labor crunch

It was a pivotal year for healthcare as the industry grappled with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic including financial disruptions and critical labor shortages along with industry disrupters making big moves to shake things up.

Taking a look back at the most-read stories of 2022, it's no surprise that the latest healthcare plays by Amazon and Mark Cuban's drug company were top of mind for our readers. Amazon shutting down its hybrid primary care service, Amazon Care—which was exclusive news reported by Fierce Healthcare—topped the list as the most-read story in 2022. The tech giant's announcement that it planned to buy One Medical for $3.9 billion also made the top 10 list.

The evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic with new variants, new booster shots and vaccination efforts also topped headlines this year. Three of Fierce Healthcare's top 10 stories in 2022 centered on the spread of new variants in the fall, the "tripledemic" impact of the flu, COVID-19 and RSV as well as studies looking at death rates among the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated.

This year also saw hospitals and health systems grappling with a labor crunch. Fierce Healthcare stayed on top of the latest developments, covering New York state's efforts to tackle healthcare workforce retention with a $3,000 payout (seventh most-read story) as well as stories on healthcare layoffs that cracked the top 20.

The ongoing controversy over the use of Facebook's Meta Pixel tool in hospital and patient-facing websites also grabbed readers' attention and made the top 10 of our most-read stories. Rounding out the top 10 list was our special report profiling 20 healthcare movers and shakers to watch.

The Fierce Healthcare editorial team worked hard throughout 2022 to bring you the biggest stories shaping the provider, payer, tech, digital health and retail healthcare markets. The stories featured here were written by Paige Minemyer, Robert King, Dave Muoio, Anastassia Gliadkovskaya, new staff writer Frank Diamond and myself. And this year, we also welcomed new staff writer Annie Burky to our team.

In 2023, we look forward to bringing you more essential stories that keep you up to date and track the biggest trends shaping the industry.

Here's a look at the stories Fierce Healthcare readers were drawn to most this year.

1. Amazon Care is shutting down at the end of 2022. Here's why

Three years after it began piloting a primary care service for its employees that blended telehealth and in-person medical services, Amazon plans to cease operations of its Amazon Care service. Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, told Fierce Healthcare that Amazon Care wasn't a sustainable, long-term solution for its enterprise customers.

2. SXSW 2022: Why empowering female patients is key to addressing gender gaps in care

During the SXSW conference in March, healthcare experts outlined why empowering female patients is key to address gender biases in medical care, as Paige Minemyer reported. While health and medicine have made great, innovative strides in developing new therapies and models of care, there's still plenty of work to be done to ensure those innovations work for women, experts said.

3. Cuban's drug company launches pharmacy, promising striking savings on generic drugs

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban shook up the healthcare world when he launched Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs in January 2021 to offer low-cost rivals to overpriced generic drugs. In January, the company rolled out its online pharmacy as part of an ongoing effort to provide consumers with low drug prices, Anastassia Gliadkovskaya reported.

4. New COVID-19 variant's spread draws concern from CDC

In late September, President Joe Biden declared an end to the COVID-19 pandemic just as scientists were warily tracking a new variant. The emerging variant proved, once again, how unpredictable the COVID-19 outbreak can be as the healthcare industry strives to adjust to a "new normal."

5. More vaccinated than unvaccinated died from COVID-19 in August: analysis

Frank Diamond reported on an analysis published in August that found more people who'd been vaccinated against COVID-19 died than those who weren't vaccinated. However, medical experts stressed that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is still the best way to stay out of the hospital and to stay alive.

6. New York distributing bonuses to 'hands-on' healthcare workers statewide—here's who's eligible for up to $3,000

As the nation's hospitals grapple with major labor shortages, New York state decided to take healthcare workforce retention into its own hands with a $3,000 payout to "hands-on" healthcare workers who work full-time. The payments were described as a thank-you to front-line caregivers as well as a bid to head off labor shortages straining the healthcare industry.

7. CMS finalizes 8.5% rate hike for Medicare Advantage, Part D plans in 2023

In April, the Biden administration finalized an 8.5% increase in rates to Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, slightly above the 7.98% proposed in February. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did not increase the coding adjustment beyond the statutory minimum. Critics have charged some MA plans engage in risk adjustment tactics, such as upcoding, to increase unnecessary diagnoses and glean overpayments from Medicare. 

8. Amazon scoops up primary care company One Medical in deal valued at $3.9B

This year, we saw retailers like Walgreens and Walmart making a big splash in primary care. During the summer, there were reports that One Medical was considering its options after attracting and then rejecting preliminary acquisition interest from CVS Health. It seems Amazon made the right offer, to the tune of $3.9 billon. The online retail giant plans to buy One Medical to expand its reach into primary care. That deal is still being reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission.

9. Advocate Aurora, WakeMed get served with class action over Meta's alleged patient data mining

A tracking tool installed on many hospitals’ websites has been collecting patients’ sensitive health information—including details about their medical conditions, prescriptions and doctors' appointments—and sending it to Facebook, according to a June report from nonprofit investigative newsroom The Markup. Dave Muoio followed the developments of the Meta Pixel controversy and the impact on hospitals, including breach notices and class-action lawsuits.

10. From CVS to Google, here are 20 healthcare executives to watch

As the healthcare industry undergoes massive transformation, the Fierce Healthcare team caught up with 20 executives who are leading the charge and changing the game. For this special report, we profiled executives from Walmart Health's David Carmouche to Centene's Sarah London.