How will Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical Impact Healthcare impact?

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Health experts say Amazon’s purchase of One Medical’s telemedicine and primary care service could impact the healthcare landscape in many, not entirely positive, ways. ANGELA WEISS / AFP via Getty Images
  • Amazon has announced that it will acquire subscription healthcare provider One Medical
  • With the new merger, the company plans to improve the way people book appointments and the experience of being seen by a doctor.
  • The acquisition raised questions about drug costs as well as data privacy concerns.

Amazon is a name you probably associate the most with ecommerce. Now, the retail giant is deepening its presence in the healthcare sector.

On July 21, Amazon announced plans to acquire One Medical, a primary care and telemedicine service, in an all-cash deal worth $ 3.9 billion. The agreement is currently pending regulatory approval.

The One Medical platform is provided on a membership basis and offers patients access to 24/7 virtual care via a telemedicine app. The company also has 188 physical clinics in the United States.

In a press release announcing the acquisition, Amazon Health Services Senior Vice President Neil Lindsay said healthcare is “at the top of the list of experiences that need to be reinvented.”

He said the merger would improve the health experience with a “human-centered, technology-based approach”.

Lindsay added that Amazon hopes to improve the way people book appointments and the experience of being seen by a doctor.

Echoing this sentiment, One Medical CEO Amir Dan Rubin described the merger as “an immense opportunity to make the healthcare experience more accessible, convenient and even fun for patients, providers and payers.”

Amazon already has a few skins in the health game. In 2017, the company bought the health food chain Whole Foods and in 2018 announced the purchase of PillPack Inc., an online pharmacy.

They also offer Amazon Care, a service that offers health care to employees of some companies.

Additionally, Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division, provides healthcare products and offers a healthcare accelerator for start-ups.

What does this latest acquisition mean for the healthcare industry in the United States and, more specifically, for the patient experience?

Looking at the healthcare industry as a whole, Sebastian Seiguer, JD, CEO of Johns Hopkins-backed digital health platform emocha Health, believes the acquisition will have little impact on the status quo.

“There is no reason to believe that Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical will have a major impact on healthcare. There are thousands and thousands of healthcare facilities in this country and there are many other virtual primary care providers, such as Eden Health, Heal and PeopleOne, ”he points out.

Ali Parsa, PhD, CEO of Babylon, a major competitor of One Medical, agrees but believes the acquisition could cause a “ripple effect” in how other healthcare professionals approach customer care.

“Amazon has a bad reputation for the way it manages its workforce, but it has a great reputation for the way it focuses on its customers. The attention they bring to the customer will be very valuable in the healthcare industry, “he says.

“We may see a positive impact because other healthcare professionals will also feel they need to improve the patient experience.”

Like Babylon and other telemedicine service providers, the current One Medical model allows patients to see a doctor in minutes.

For an annual fee of $ 199, members can book appointments, renew memberships, and track medical records via the company’s app and website.

Parsa believes that under Amazon, the company will continue to roll out video and text services, which could make appointments and referrals quicker and more accessible.

According to Lindsay, the merger is an opportunity to “give people back their precious time”.

He suggests that it will hopefully replace some of the more uncomfortable aspects of seeing the doctor, from getting a quick appointment and trekking to the pharmacy, to finding a parking space outside the clinic.

The acquisition could also enable the integration of Amazon’s other healthcare offerings, including grocery and pharmacy.

In theory, this means that Amazon could become a one-stop shop for your healthcare needs, providing primary care, health food retailing, and prescriptions.

Seiguer is not entirely convinced of the benefits of such a service.

“Having food choices and medical data combined looks like it might ultimately only benefit the patient’s health,” he says.

“However, the fact remains that the highest cost drivers in this country are the lower-income people with life-threatening chronic diseases,” he explains.

“These populations are not Amazon Prime members, do not shop at Whole Foods, and will not appreciate the convenience of bundled grocery, pharmacy and primary care subscriptions.”

The acquisition also raised questions about anti-competitive effects as well as data privacy concerns.

While a built-in service that combines elements of Amazon’s other healthcare offerings may seem like a boon to some, it may be worrying to others who are concerned about how their sensitive medical data is shared.

Fortunately, Seiguer says there are laws in place to protect your medical data, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“With the majority of health tech startups hosted on Amazon Web Services, there is no change in the scope of the data that Amazon holds as a custodian,” says Seiguer.

“The fact that Amazon owns these lines of business does not change One Medical or Amazon Web Services’ obligations to comply with HIPAA.”

Amazon says data privacy concerns are unfounded.

“Both One Medical and Amazon have strict policies that protect customer privacy in accordance with HIPAA and all other applicable privacy laws and regulations,” Amazon spokeswoman Angie Quennell said in a statement.

While the acquisition has the potential to improve patient access to primary care, Seiguer believes it may fall short of the people who need medical care most.

He says Amazon’s health strategy lacks an approach to managing chronic conditions for the most expensive and vulnerable populations.

“Drugs are a critical element in chronic disease management and the ever-increasing cost of drugs will only increase if Amazon’s approach is widely successful,” he says.

“The convenience of prescription and delivery has artificially inflated the demand for drugs and caused drug prices to rise. These price increases benefit the entire drug supply chain, including Amazon. “

Those with chronic conditions may also feel they benefit more from in-person visits to a regular doctor they know and trust, a comfort that could be removed if One Medical adopts a telemedicine-centric approach.

Much remains to be seen on how Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical will affect healthcare in the United States.

There are concerns about the effect it could have on data privacy and the rising cost of drugs.

On the other hand, it could mean that having access to doctors 24/7 and being seen – and indeed referred – becomes the norm more quickly.

Fast and affordable healthcare will be a welcome improvement over long waiting times for appointments, but Seiguer says it shouldn’t come at the expense of quality patient care.

“More choices for access to health care can only be beneficial for the customer experience,” he speculates.

“But health care is not a commodity and there are limits to evaluating the customer or ‘user’ experience with respect to the quality of care.”

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