The Longevity

Amazon Hires Top Health Tech Exec, Sparking Chatter they are Ready to Enter Healthcare Market

This week, news broke that Missy Krasner, former VP at corporate cloud management company Box and former founding member of the now defunct Google Health, will be joining Amazon’s team. While her new role is not yet certain, hiring expertise of her caliber adds yet another sign that Amazon is getting ready to enter the healthcare market.

The exact extent of Amazon’s ambitions aren’t yet clear, but rumours that it wants to enter the pharmacy market – including selling prescription medicines direct to consumers – has sent a chill down the spines of many existing healthcare company execs.

CNBC reported in May that Amazon was assembling a team to break into the $400 billion US pharmacy market.  Its first stepping stone to that destination could be the acquisition of Whole Foods, a chain of upmarket grocery stores which has 450 locations across the country. These shops could accommodate pharmacies to provide face-to-face contact with millions of American customers.

Krasner’s hiring has sparked more chatter and speculation on just what their intentions might be in healthcare.

Reports are suggesting that Krasner could find a role Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud division, which already has links to major health names like Bristol-Myers Squibb and healthcare software company Orion Health.

The appointment could be part of a larger push into the pharmaceutical space – as also reported by CNBC – which has already begun with the company selling medical supplies in the US.

Rather than establishing a bricks-and-mortar presence, Amazon may well want to focus on developing online pharmacy services. However the sector is more heavily regulated than other sectors, whether that is the US or other countries.  The company has tried to enter the market once before – in the late 1990s it formed an alliance with, but the venture ultimately proved unsuccessful.

In addition to the Whole Foods acquisition and Krasner hire, Amazon has been making moves to position its voice-enabled Echo assistant, Alexa, as useful for various medical applications.

Alexa and its hardware platform Echo are being tested in numerous medical settings, including in surgery and as a remote patient monitoring tool.

A deal made earlier this year with WebMD saw Alexa gain the ability to provide peer-reviewed medical information when asked by an Echo, Echo Dot and Fire TV user.

The company also has Echo Show – a version of the hardware that includes a camera and touchscreen display which, if it can meet compliance measures, lends itself to remote consultations with doctors.

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