It was only last year that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy called Amazon Care one of the most exciting innovations in the company. But on Wednesday, employees learned that Amazon Care would close at the end of the year, an abrupt end to a program once center to their plans to reshape health care.
The abrupt shutdown doesn’t mean Amazon is leaving health care; it could simply mean a rethink. It’s recently purchased subscription-based primary care company One Medical, which offers services similar to Amazon Care. Reports indicates that Amazon is also interested in home health technology company Signify Health. Amazon still wants to take on healthcare, but it’s clarifying its approach: Instead of building from scratch, it’s taking over things that already work.
Other tech giants are going through a similar process of refining their healthcare strategies. When companies like Amazon, Google and Apple began forecasting their health-related ambitions about five years ago, the goals were lofty: to disrupt and redefine America’s multibillion-dollar health care industry.
Early attempts at big swings were less than successful. Amazon partnered with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to try create your own health company for employees from scratch, and that adventure collapsed in 2021. Apple tried to create its own primary care service, but employees raised data integrity issues derailed the project. Google dissolved its Health division last summer and redeployed its health efforts among other teams. Many Big Tech Efforts to Contribute to COVID-19 Response Efforts fell flat.
Until recently, Amazon Care seemed to be moving in a positive direction: It expanded nationally and had clients like Hilton and Silicon Labs. But according to a memo from Amazon’s senior vice president of healthcare, Neil Lindsay, it wasn’t a “comprehensive enough offering.” “what big customers wanted to see in a health care product. Health professionals working with Amazon Care said washington post what were they concerned about patient safety.
With the deal to acquire One Medical, they would have another problem with Amazon Care: combining two different data systems, says Brendan Keeler, a product manager at health technology company Zus Health and an expert in health care data systems. Looking at both, it makes sense for them to focus on One Medical rather than trying to build a new primary care service from scratch, he says. The process of building Amazon Care gave Amazon a better understanding of what healthcare solutions should look like, Lindsay said in her memo. One Medical might fit that image better, and it comes out of the box as a complete offering.
Amazon is good on the customer experience side, but not as experienced with the service that is actually provided in this case: healthcare. “Health care is tough and they’re smart enough to see the right approach for them,” says Keeler. “It’s them who look at their bets and say that buying proven solutions, Amazon equipping them, and scaling them is how we get where we want to go.”
It’s a similar approach to the one Amazon took with its pharmacy programs. It bought pharmaceutical startup PillPack in 2018. Then, in 2020, it launched Amazon Pharmacy, which also offers prescription home delivery, and was built on top of PillPack.
Like Amazon, Google and Apple are seeking to create the parts of healthcare that really make sense to them. For Google, maybe that is developing algorithms and back-end tools that you could then pass on to healthcare organizations for use. Apple is good at consumer tech — providing care per se may not be its focus, but smartwatch features and easy-to-use personal health records are more in its zone. “It makes more sense for the advancements they make to bring their particular expertise to bear in a way that they can only because of their scale,” says Keeler.
Technological expertise was never going to be a magic bullet for the many, many problems plaguing the American healthcare system. It is an unwieldy, inequitable, tentacled beast held together by fax machines and has been pushed to breaking point by the pandemic. The early failures and growing pains came as no surprise to people who work in health care and understand its sheer complexity. But the tech interest in healthcare isn’t new or shiny anymore, and if companies want to keep moving forward in the space, they’ll have to find the corner that makes sense for them.
However, finding it is no guarantee of success, and only time will tell if these companies are capable of making the kinds of big changes in the areas they are targeting; again, medical care is difficult. But if they are able to figure out ways to map the things they are already good at into health products, they might find a way forward. “If they’re not, it’s going to lead to failure,” says Keeler.