- Amazon's entry into healthcare is welcome but unlikely to kick off any huge system-wide change, according to the executive vice president and chief policy and external affairs officer of CVS Health.
- "They are very good at testing and learning," CVS EVP Tom Moriarty told Healthcare Dive at the Association of Healthcare Journalists annual conference Friday. "We don't discount them."
- Moriarty, along with Humana Chief Medical Officer William Shrank and UnitedHealth Group Enterprise executive vice president Austin Pittman, contend they welcome Amazon into the healthcare arena, and said there are enough problems to solve within the $3.5 trillion health economy.
The panel on the retail-ization of healthcare took time to address the elephant of the famously disruptive online retailer, with Humana's Shrank noting insurers were adopting strategies of retailers, but not their goals.
"The discussion of the retailing of healthcare has taken on a life of its own," Shrank said. "Retail is about increasing consumption; we in healthcare want to reduce unnecessary consumption."
The ecommerce giant has spent the past few years entering multiple healthcare markets: it has six HIPAA-eligible artificial intelligence Amazon Web Services offerings, sells glucose monitors and blood pressure cuffs directly to consumers, offers software that combs through medical records, and owns patents on technology that allows its smart speaker Alexa to detect when users are sick through changes to their voice patterns.
Amazon also recently rolled out marketing for its prescription delivery service, PillPack, last week to its 100 million plus Amazon Prime members.
Retail pharmacies like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS, now merged with insurance giant Aetna, are Amazon's most direct competitors and are beginning to feel headwinds from Amazon's entry into the prescription medicine market, according to analysts.
And the retailers are making moves in Amazon's direction.
As of April, CVS offers same-day delivery to 6,000 CVS pharmacies for roughly $8. The move is meant to leverage its many brick-and-mortar facilities dotting the country, an advantage the decentralized, largely digital Amazon doesn't have.
"We feel we have a really good model and our ability to act locally is going to make an impact," Moriarty said, although he said Amazon's technology advantage could leverage well across the healthcare space.
"Devices will be helpful to create that ecosystem, but you are not going to replace that physical element of healthcare," Moriarty said. But CVS acknowledges Amazon could have a huge impact on the industry, he told Healthcare Dive.
Humana and UnitedHealth might be open to partnering with Amazon on solving healthcare's challenges, Shrank and Pittman said.
UnitedHealth wants to "keep building collaborative relationships with people about how to address these issues," Pittman said. Meanwhile, Humana is "eager to figure out ways to collaborate," Shrank said.
Amazon has shown it's open to partnerships within the healthcare space. It joined hands with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway on a venture to lower employer healthcare costs, called Haven.
Details on the troika remain sparse. Headed by Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande, Boston-based Haven rolled out a website 14 months after its initial announcement. But the website provided few specifics and said only Haven would be leveraging data and technology to drive better incentives and create a better patient experience.
"If there's something that Haven proves will be innovative and can help drive better care, I wish them godspeed," Shrank said.