Amazon is set to buy One Medical, a group that operates over 180 medical offices throughout the US. It’s Amazon’s latest acquisition in the healthcare space. The company purchased the online pharmacy PillPack in 2018.

Amazon is set to acquire primary healthcare firm One Medical in an all-cash deal worth nearly $4 billion. Last year, Amazon placed its healthcare efforts under Amazon veteran Neil Lindsay, who believes that “healthcare is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention,” noting that Amazon hopes to “…dramatically improve the healthcare experience over the next several years.”

Amazon, One Medical and big data

This latest acquisition is expected to provide Amazon with access to physical health clinics, payer and hospital system relationships. One Medical has also created its own electronic medical records system, and retains 15 years’ worth of patient records that Amazon could leverage.

Although individual patient records are mostly protected by US federal health privacy laws, critics of the deal have raised concerns regarding Amazon’s ‘big data’ expertise.

Says Sacha Haworth, executive director of the Tech Oversight Project advocacy group, “Amazon having back door access to private healthcare data is frankly a terrifying thought.”

Amazon, One Medical and data scrutiny

US Senator Amy Klobuchar, who also serves as the Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, pressed the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the pending deal, expressing concern over the deal’s potential impact on privacy rights.

Healthcare, tech and privacy  

In recent years, Google, Microsoft and Apple have also made nascent efforts to move into the healthcare space. As is Amazon’s experience, their efforts were hampered by regulator scrutiny and privacy advocates.

In the US, concerns regarding healthcare data transparency, data ethics and surveillance have heightened in recent weeks, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

Amazon has not yet responded to a press inquiry regarding whether or not US consumers’ protected health information could be turned over to law enforcement or state government agencies.

Amazon’s healthcare ambitions

The One Medical acquisition is reflective of Amazon’s years-long effort to break into the healthcare industry. In 2018, the company purchased the online pharmacy known as PillPack for $753 million, which was later transformed into Amazon Pharmacy.

Amazon has also purchased Health Navigator, a small medical tech startup that provides telehealth visits and home-based visits for employees of certain organizations. With the help of this acquisition, the company built Amazon Care.

Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy recently informed staff that Amazon Care represents one of the company’s crowning innovations. The company will expand Amazon Care through new partnerships and services within the next half year.

Speculation abounds

Healthcare tech research analyst at Citi, Daniel Grosslight, says that Amazon’s One Medical acquisition is really “an entry point” for Amazon. “And then it’s about what else Amazon can do with a patient.”

In a statement, Amazon notes that it will still need to comply with HIPAA. “Both One Medical and Amazon have stringent policies protecting customer privacy in accordance with HIPAA and all other applicable privacy laws and regulations,” said spokeswoman Angie Quennell.

“Customers’ Protected Health Information (PHI) is protected by Amazon’s practices and by law, including HIPAA and we will retain our focus on this as we continue to grow our healthcare business, including the acquisition of One Medical.”

Digital healthcare and security

As healthcare information and services move into the virtual world, companies, non-profits and consumers are curious and concerned about electronic healthcare data footprints.

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