- The news that Amazon bought tech startup Health Navigator was widely covered by the media the week of Oct. 22.
- “The Health Navigator acquisition is likely to add fuel to speculation that telemedicine is the next healthcare sector Amazon could disrupt, though a potential commercial launch of Amazon Care to the general public is likely a ways away . . .” according to a Healthcare Dive report.
- “Amazon’s piloting the capabilities necessary to manage populations while they try to reduce their own healthcare costs and improve productivity,” the Healthcare Dive report continued.
Healthcare Dive is reporting that, “Amazon has bought tech startup Health Navigator in its first major health-related acquisition since the Seattle-based retailer purchased PillPack last year, the company confirmed to Healthcare Dive. Health Navigator, which provides online symptom checking, clinical documentation support and triage tools to route patients to the correct site of care, will be folded into Amazon’s virtual medical clinic Amazon Care.”
“Just last month Amazon launched a virtual care pilot for its Seattle-area employees,” said the Healthcare Dive piece. “That trial, called Amazon Care, includes telemedicine visits with a clinician, symptom checking, in-person follow-up visits if necessary and prescription drug delivery.
“The online retailer contracted with a Washington state clinic to provide medical services within the pilot, though the fold-in of Health Navigator implies Amazon wants internal control over Amazon Care’s platform,” according to Healthcare Dive. “The Health Navigator acquisition is likely to add fuel to speculation that telemedicine is the next healthcare sector Amazon could disrupt, though a potential commercial launch of Amazon Care to the general public is likely a ways away as the retailer wants to see how its corporate and fulfillment center employees respond to the trial before potentially scaling it out.”
I’m not sure there’s anything new here beyond what was covered in my Oct. 2 blog post related to the Amazon Care announcement. Like what hospitals have done with their own employees, Amazon’s piloting the capabilities necessary to manage populations while they try to reduce their own healthcare costs and improve productivity.
What remains to be seen is how they try to monetize what they learn.
- Will they launch their own pop health company that includes physical care delivery and/or risk assumption? (My money’s on “No.” The margins in care delivery and risk taking are, on average, abysmal. And for your efforts, you expose other parts of your business to significant reputational risk all while navigating a complex regulatory thicket.)
- Will they use these lessons to create a comprehensive pop health platform that can integrate virtual care (telehealth, Alexa devices, etc.) and analytics that can be purchased as a service by health plans or health systems who are in the business of making a margin in healthcare delivery or risk management? (This is my bet . . . the margins are better selling IT services and analytics to plans and providers than in care delivery and risk management.)