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This won’t hurt a bit: Amazon now a US healthcare provider

Amazon’s $3.9 billion deal to buy its way into the healthcare world is complete, as it and US healthcare chain One Medical on Wednesday announced the consummation of a merger the pair have been working on since 2022.

Amazon therefore now owns and operates a chain of “221 medical offices in 27 markets across the US,” according to One Medical’s latest Form 10-K annual report. Amazon can also now access the health data of One Medical’s approximately 836,000 patients.

An Amazon spokesperson told The Register that One Medical’s current CEO, Amir Dan Rubin, would remain at his post, and that the company isn’t planning any layoffs as a result of the acquisition. 

One Medical’s model is built around adding on-demand technology to medical care. It has mobile apps that provide patients with 14/7 access to video chats with doctors, plus other other remote services. The outfit also promises next-day appointments. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said One Medical’s model will eliminate hassles and waits for its patients, who he said “want and deserve better.” 

“If you fast forward 10 years from now, people are not going to believe how primary care was administered,” Jassy said. 

The announcement comes a day after the US Federal Trade Commission decided it had no objections to the deal, but will keep an eye on things at Amazon and One Medical.

We reached out to the FTC for comment, but it didn’t immediately respond. FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar did speak to Bloomberg yesterday, and said that the Commission was continuing “to look at possible harms to competition created by this merger as well as possible harms to consumers that may result from Amazon’s control and use of sensitive consumer health information held by One Medical.”

An FTC investigation into Amazon’s plans to purchase Roomba maker iRobot continues.

One Medical patients like you also bought …

One Medical’s tech-centric model generates a lot of data. Merged with Amazon’s troves of customer purchase histories, video-watching behavior and the records from other medical technology companies it’s purchased, Amazon now holds potentially lucrative data. 

And also very sensitive data.

An Amazon spokesperson who talked to us on background assured The Register that the company will observe relevant privacy regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – not that is has a choice to ignore it – and has a good track record of protecting customers’ data.

One obvious application for the data is marketing medical products and services, which is regulated by the USA’s Department Of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

The DHHS considers marketing is anything that communicates a product or service and encourages the recipient to buy it, and it has strict rules about how personal medical data can be used to sell stuff.

HIPAA “requires an individual’s written authorization before a use or disclosure of his or her protected health information can be made for marketing,” DHHS said on its website. It’s not clear how disclosure rules would apply to Amazon and One Medical, as the combined entity owns all the data being used to market to its customers. 

Amazon hasn’t explained its future marketing intentions for One Medical other than with vague mentions of services such as pharmacy refill reminders, which we note the DHHS does not consider marketing. 

We asked DHHS to detail how it plans to address Amazon’s use of One Medical data to market to customers and will update this story if we hear back.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for a terms of service update from Amazon or One Medical and be sure to give it a read. ®

source: The Register