Amazon Attacking Health IT Opportunities

Getting a footing in the health IT industry is more challenging than it looks. After all, even tech giants like Microsoft, Apple, and Google haven’t managed to take over despite their evident interest in the field.

Apparently, that hasn’t daunted Amazon. The retail giant has pulled together a secret team dedicated to exploring new healthcare technology opportunities, according to a CNBC report. And unlike other companies attacking the space from outside, Amazon has a history of sliding its way into unexpected markets successfully.

According to CNBC the new team, which is named 1492, is working to find an easier way to extract data from EMRs as well as push data into them. In doing so, Amazon is going up against a very wide field of competitors ranging from small startups to the healthcare arms of giant tech vendors and consulting firms.

What distinguishes Amazon’s approach from its competitors is that the online retailer hopes to aggregate that data and make it available to consumers and their doctors, sources told CNBC. The story doesn’t say whether Amazon plans to sell this data, and I don’t know what’s legal and what isn’t here, but my bet is that if it can, Amazon will pitch the data to pharmaceutical companies. And where there’s a will there’s a way.

In addition to looking at data management opportunities, 1492 members are scouting out ways of repurposing Amazon’s existing technology for use in healthcare. As another article notes, some healthcare organizations have already begun experimenting with delivering routine medical information and even coaching surgeons on safety protocols using Amazon voice-based assistant Alexa.  The new group, for its part, will be looking for healthcare applications for existing Amazon products like the Echo and Dash Wand.

The 1492 group is also preparing to build a telemedicine platform. Your first thought might be that the industry doesn’t need another telemedicine platform, and generally speaking, you would probably be right.  But if Amazon can get its healthcare IT bona fides in order, and manages to attract enough doctors to its platform, it could be in a strong position to market those services to consumers.

Make no mistake: We should take Amazon’s health IT effort seriously. At first glance, healthcare may seem like an odd arena for a company best known for selling frying pans and socks and discount beauty supplies. But Amazon has expanded its focus many times over the years and has typically done better than people expected. It may do so this time as well.

By the way, the retailer is apparently still hiring people for the 1492 initiative. I doubt it’s easy to find the hiring manager in question, but if I were you I’d inquire. These jobs could pose some interesting challenges.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

3 Comments

  • “easier way to extract data from EMRs as well as push data into them.” based on what source?

    Wrong on so many levels.

    FYI Amazon doesn’t have any contracts with any health care providers nor any hooks into any EHR’s so how they would they get the data let alone push into an EHR? At best they might be able to package CCD’s but that isn’t their play. It is the consumer, not the patient space.

    Also, the big new hires on their team are a sales person from box not a technical team and someone who ran an event space for health care with no technical background not experts in technology, privacy or security.

    Their play isn’t in the EHR space at all is is direct to consumer and the healthy wealthy.

  • #AmazonHealthCare has a great opportunity. Just because, #Amazon enters into a very crowded space late in the game. Amazon can learn from the mistakes of the other giants in the same arena. Actually, they all tried and failed. They keep on trying and making the same fundamental mistakes. I believe that the reason for these failures is a failed paradigm. Amazon can learn from the experience of the past. Bring about a paradigm shift that is so necessary. Then and only then, Amazon will succeed and beat the competition, help the public and improve our limping healthcare. #PatientsRus!

  • Thanks for both of your posts.

    @#SF HealthIT, the source I drew upon, as noted in the article, was the CNBC article to which I linked in my text. I can’t speak to which contracts Amazon may or may not have with providers, nor what if any hooks they may have into EHR platforms. I also have no direct knowledge of whom they’ve hired to support this initiative other than what the CNBC article offered.

    You sound like you have inside information on this initiative — if so, by all means fill us in further.

    I agree completely that Amazon is going after consumers. That’s where Apple and Google are playing as well.

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