Amazon seeks to ‘reinvent’ healthcare

The e-commerce behemoth wants to purchase a network of clinics

Amazon announced a $3.9 billion deal to acquire One Medical primary care organization, seeking to reinvent, improve and expand its virtual healthcare services with a network of dozens of doctors’ offices across the United States, according to a press release on Thursday.

One Medical offers both virtual and in-person visits at some 188 locations is the US. however, despite having some 767,000 paid subscribers and providing employee health benefits to thousands of companies, including Airbnb and Google, the membership-based service showed a net loss of $90.9 million in its first-quarter earnings report. 

Amazon’s acquisition proposal will cover One Medical’s debt and is estimated to be around $3.9 billion or $18 per share in cash, if it receives US regulatory approval.

“We think healthcare is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention,” Neil Lindsay, the senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, said in a statement announcing the deal. “We love inventing to make what should be easy easier and we want to be one of the companies that helps dramatically improve the healthcare experience over the next several years.”

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The CEO of One Medical, Amir Dan Rubin, in the meantime praised an exciting “opportunity to transform health care and improve outcomes by combining One Medical’s human-centered and technology-powered model and exceptional team with Amazon’s customer obsession, history of invention, and willingness to invest in the long-term.”

Amazon has been offering virtual medical services to its employees since 2019 with its “Amazon Care” program, which connects patients with doctors and sends professionals to users’ homes if necessary. Amid an increased demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, the program has since expanded to cover non-employees, offering in-home visits as well as telehealth services.

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Earlier this year Amazon also announced its Echo devices, powered by the Alexa AI virtual assistant, will be able to put customers in touch with doctors hands-free via the telemedicine company Teladoc. Concerned users need only state “Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor” to be hooked up with a call center, where they can share their symptoms.

A Teladoc spokesperson promised at the time that Amazon will not be able to access, store, or record the content of any Alexa consultations. The virtual assistant is infamous for its propensity to “accidentally” eavesdrop on clients when it’s supposed to be dormant, and using humans to hone its voice-recognition services without customers’ knowledge.

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