Can Amazon Solve Healthcare?

 

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A while back I was thinking about what a confusing, complicated, and costly mess the American healthcare system has become. Then I had what I thought was a creative idea to solve the problem. It felt a little crazy at the time, but now it seems more and more possible every day. What if a company like Amazon decided to use its massive influence and infrastructure to reform the way we manage and provide healthcare in this country?

Amazon is one of the biggest and baddest disrupters in business today. When they enter a new market it immediately alters the landscape. Their impact on retail sales has literally changed the way the world shops. After a relatively humble beginning as an online bookseller, Amazon has since moved into areas like tech, entertainment, shipping and now, with the acquisition of Whole Foods, they’re about to transform the food industry. Why not healthcare?

Some Stats about US Healthcare and Amazon:

  • Total Annual US Healthcare Expenditures: $3.2 trillion

  • Annual Medicare/Medicaid Expenditures: $1.06 trillion

  • Annual Cost of Prescription Drugs: $450 billion

  • Amazon’s Gross Revenue in 2016: $136 billion

  • The Number of People Amazon Employs in the US: 500,000+

  • The Number of States Where Amazon has Drug-wholesaling Licenses: 12

Given those kinds of data points, a company like Amazon could clearly be our healthcare salvation. They could start by rolling the new model out to their own people first (they have a track record of guinea pigging ideas on employees as well as consumers) and eventually offer healthcare services to all of their customers. Hey Jeff Bezos, I propose Amazon Prime Healthcare for all!

Here’s how it might work: Amazon buys a national drug store chain and converts the locations into “Amazon Prime Care Stops.” Staffed primarily by Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, this would be the entry point for all of your healthcare needs: prescriptions, OTC meds, lab tests, and minor health interventions. Pick up or delivery would be simple with Amazon’s current shipping platform. These Prime Care Stops would charge a reasonable monthly fee per person or per family.

The upside is that the patient becomes the primary customer (instead of the insurance and drug companies). With Amazon’s management and infrastructure, national healthcare would become much more affordable. Medicare and Medicaid could also purchase services from Amazon. In this model, the legacy insurance companies would continue as shared risk pools for major medical events like serious accidents or diseases.

This type of major policy change would not be without its challenges, of course. Prescription drug prices would need to decrease dramatically and malpractice insurance would have to be reformed, to name just a few examples. But with a big company like Amazon and its financial leverage, I’m confident it could work.

Since I came up with the idea, Amazon has joined with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to develop new solutions to the healthcare problem. And Walmart recently announced that they are now in talks to acquire Humana. This kind of competition and out-of-the-box thinking can only be beneficial for the consumer. It seems like my idea isn’t so crazy after all…and a healthcare solution may be on the horizon.

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