News Briefs Archive

How Amazon is Homing In On Health-Care Disruption

Oct. 17, 2018

A world in which Amazon’s virtual assistant tells you grocery items to purchase that follow the diet prescribed by your doctor, and on the way out, you grab your pharmacy prescription, may be coming soon, according to reporting by Sarah Kelley in The Business Journal.

“I can see a time in the very near future that [Amazon virtual assistant] Alexa grabs from your calendar that you’re going shopping to Whole Foods and it makes suggestions as to some items to pick up,” Mick Rodgers, managing partner with Axial Benefits Group in Boston, told Kelley. “They’re going to use technology and a bricks-and-mortar pharmacy to drive down costs.”

At the Employee Benefits 101 Live Roundtable Oct. 10 at the Holiday Inn Boardman, Kelley reports that Rodgers discussed how the Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase venture is attacking the health-care system, and what that will mean for employers. Joining Rodgers as a presenter was Bob Gearhart Jr., CEO of Boardman-based DCW Group, which sponsored the event.

Rodgers was an adviser for PillPack Inc., the prescription delivery service acquired by Amazon in June. He was involved in the early stages of Amazon’s foray into health care. He said one of the advantages Amazon has is its technology, such as Alexa, and its bricks-and-mortar store, Whole Foods, which it acquired in August 2017.

In January, Amazon posted a job listing on its web site for a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance position, which was immediately taken down once people started tweeting about it.

“They’re trying to get HIPAA-certified so there can be communications with medical management, with dietary restrictions or dietary programs that can help different illnesses and a general interaction that can help on a daily basis,” Rodgers said.

Amazon’s Alexa is not HIPAA-certified, which means it can’t record patients’ lab results or other types of health information in a clinical setting.

Through Whole Foods, Rodgers expects Amazon to set up bricks-and-mortar pharmacies, which will drive drug prices down and make it more convenient for consumers to fill prescriptions. “You can buy it online and pick it up with no waiting at Whole Foods,” he said.

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