Amazon health venture taps former Zocdoc technology chief as new CTO

Atul Gawande
The new Amazon-led healthcare venture has hired former Zocdoc CTO Serkan Kutan as its new technology chief, to work under CEO Atul Gawande, M.D. (pictured). (Amar Karodkar/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The new healthcare venture started by Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, which still does not have a name, continues to add notable executives to its roster with the addition of Serkan Kutan, the former Zocdoc chief technology officer, as its new CTO.

In a blog post on LinkedIn, Kutan announced, “I am thrilled to now announce that I am serving as CTO of this new venture, which represents, in my opinion, the most promising attempt to improve health care in the U.S. We owe it to our children to tackle this giant and the founders’ long-term, not-profit seeking approach is exactly what it will take to make a difference,” he wrote.

“The challenging task will require the best technology team in health care,” Kutan wrote in the blog post. He also said in the post that he received a news alert about the hiring of Atul Gawande, M.D. as the new healthcare venture’s CEO last summer and thought “to be the CTO for this initiative would be a dream job.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Kutan started his new position in January. The new organization is also ramping up its hiring efforts and Kutan posted a link for jobs postings

An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Kutan served as CTO at Zocdoc for three years, where he helped to build up its doctor booking platform, and he also worked as a principal engineer at Amazon for two years, where he was an architect for the company’s retail catalog systems, according to his LinkedIn profile. According to CNBC, Zocdoc is one of the few health companies that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has personally funded through his investment group, Bezos Expeditions.

Zocdoc is currently facing pushback from doctors after announcing changes to its pricing model. The company says it will start charging a per-patient fee in New York, a move that some doctors aren’t happy about, according to a CNBC report.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced plans to launch a technology-driven healthcare venture last January. At the time, the companies said the initial focus will be on technology solutions that provide “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the three companies plan to leverage their combined resources "to create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans."

In June, it was announced that Gawande, a widely recognized surgeon, public health researcher and author, would lead the new company as CEO.

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Since that time, the company, which is headquartered in Boston, has remained quiet on its plans or specific strategy yet has continued to tap notable healthcare executives to fill its leadership roles.

In September, Jack Stoddard, formerly digital health manager at Comcast, was hired to serve as chief operating officer. The health care venture also scooped up a well-known health insurance executive, Dana Gelb Safran, who specializes in analyzing data to improve patient health, according to CNBC. Safran, formerly a chief performance measurement and improvement officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, was hired in November to fill a role with the title “head of measurement,” CNBC reported.

The company’s pilfering of healthcare executives has stirred up some controversy with Optum accusing former executives of taking trade secrets with them to the still-nascent disrupter.

The insurer filed a lawsuit (PDF) against a former executive, David Smith, who was hired in December to be the joint venture’s director of strategy and research, saying Smith will be unable to serve in the role due to noncompete clauses in his contract with Optum. Smith is also not the only Optum staffer who was lured away from the insurer, according to the suit.