These days, you hear a lot about online retailer Amazon’s “empire.” The e-commerce giant, which has been blamed for the deaths of traditional retail stores, sells clothing, electronics, groceries, video streaming services and even home services. Now Amazon has entered the healthcare industry. Could the trillion-dollar company put established pharmacies, medical supply companies and doctor’s offices out of business? Would you order a physician from Amazon?
Amazon’s Efforts to Break Into Healthcare
Amazon has taken many steps toward the goal of moving into the healthcare sphere over the past year. January brought news that Amazon would be working with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway on a “joint healthcare venture.” In June 2018, Amazon bought online pharmacy (and popular health app) PillPack. Amazon plans to expand its business of selling medical supplies to hospitals. Already, Amazon is selling its own brand of over-the-counter health products and is adding to the healthcare skills its virtual assistant, Alexa, can perform.
Expanding their selection of medical supplies for hospitals, health items for patients and functions for the Alexa device may seem like the next logical step for an online retailer. Yet, there’s more. Amazon’s Grand Challenge team is reportedly working on complex healthcare problems, including researching cures for cancer.
Will Amazon Monopolize the Medical Industry?
No one’s suggesting that today’s cancer patients can count on Amazon to cure their illness. However, as Amazon has made bold moves in the healthcare sphere, potential competitors have seen an impact in the stock market. It’s understandable that established brick-and-mortar pharmacies are anxious about such a powerful new threat to their profits.
A Forbes contributor argues that these retailers, which are increasingly developing in-house clinics with face-to-face providers, have little to fear unless Amazon begins offering direct patient care. However, if Amazon can send plumbers and cleaning crews to your home, is employing its own team of doctors for virtual or in-person care really out of the range of possibility?
There are pros and cons to online medical services. One reason why the healthcare industry might be wary of Amazon is because the e-commerce giant has announced the intent to innovate better ways of delivering care and reduce the inefficiencies that make healthcare so expensive. Amazon’s success could be mean disaster for existing healthcare players who benefit from the current system despite improving cost and quality of care for patients across the United States.