Amazon CEO Andy Jassy remembers rolling his eyes as his parents told him they grew up without color TV, he told Fortune CEO Alan Murray in Davos. His own kids roll their eyes when he tells them he grew up without internet or mobile phones. But despite the new age of technology that’s transformed laptop screens to virtual doctors’ offices, Jassy thinks the stories of the country’s current healthcare system will be the ones that shock his future grandkids.
“My kids’ kids will not believe what the healthcare experience was for us,” Jassy said in an interview with Fortune on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
After completing Amazon’s $3.49 billion move to acquire One Medical, a chain of primary care practices with a headquarters in New York City, Jassy hopes to revitalize and reduce the time people spend on securing doctors’ appointments and commuting to primary care offices and pharmacies with his healthcare model that have left industry regulators spooked by the rise of tech-leaders’ interest in medicine.
The frustrating experience of a doctor’s visit is familiar to most, Jassy points out. It requires booking appointments weeks in advance (if you’re lucky), commuting to the office, several idle stints in waiting rooms and examination areas, a brief meeting with the doctor, and then a trip to the pharmacy. The lengthy stay you clock in when visiting the doctor can be pegged to labor shortages, tedious back-end computer tasks for doctors, and Americans who are experiencing more chronic pain than in years past.
“That experience is just kind of nutty,” Jassy told Fortune, and believes it will, “completely go away with the future of healthcare.”
Jassy’s plan for One Medical seeks to alleviate some of those symptoms, especially those on the patients side of the table. The healthcare model will offer in-office services and 24/7 access to virtual care services, on-site labs, and programs for preventative and mental health care, according to its website. It offers an app-based platform for patients to connect with providers on minor ailments like colds, flus, allergies, stomach, skin and digestive issues, and more.
“It has an amazing digital interface, you can chat with doctors and get same day or next day appointments,” Jassy said. “Whatever pharmaceutical needs you have, they’re connected to Amazon Pharmacy that you just get sent to your house within a day.”
The care model is member-based with about 815,000 members and 200 brick-and-mortar physician offices in the U.S., according to the American Hospital Association. In comparison to other companies’ healthcare clinics, the association states that HealthHUBs CVS Health operates more than 900 clinics while Walmart operates 32 health centers in five states and plans to open 28 more locations this year.
One Medical is not Amazon’s first foray into healthcare. Another healthcare pursuit, called Haven, was disbanded in 2021 after less than three years of operation by a trio of tech-CEOs, including Jassy, along with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet. A Harvard Business Review cited reasons like the pandemic, which drastically shook the country’s hospitals, and insufficient market power, even from the country’s most powerful companies, to budge healthcare provider’s prices–which was one of their biggest focuses.
The price point is now an important factor in how well Amazon’s latest healthcare model fares, according to American Hospital Association. One Medical, which already has a strong relationship with health systems, could be a way for Amazon to combine One Medical data with its own data on prescriptions and costs to bring more price transparency to patients.
Of concern, most seriously is the ability for patient’s health data to be secure and not used as part of marketing algorithms that use health data to recommend products.
The Federal Trade Commission, a government agency that monitors corporate monopolies and enforces consumer protections, announced that it will monitor Amazon and One Medical’s use of patient data specifically.
According to a joint statement by chairperson of the commission Lina Khan and other members, since “personal health information is sensitive data,” the commission will enforce safeguards and controls that protect this data and will deem “marketing based on sensitive data such as health data,” in violation of the law.
In another statement, the commission emphasized that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, does not mean that a patient’s health data is completely unshareable, and that in fact this data can be legally shared so long as personal identifiers that could trace back to the patient are removed.
When a company states it will abide by the healthcare act, it means “they must simply remove from that data certain markers that would tie that data back to you,” according to the statement. “I think that most people would be surprised to hear that.”
The commission also continues to investigate Amazon’s economic dominance as it grows One Medical.