Amazon is pushing hard in healthcare. Here’s what it could mean for you.

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There is also the question of whether the effectiveness of the providers’ actual care would be welcome. “Many of us would be happy to get cheaper drugs, but are we going to be happy to have a cheaper doctor?” Caplan said. “A lot of people don’t want an efficient doctor who takes five minutes. They want someone who listens to them and knows them. It can be more difficult in the world of efficiency to have the same doctor.

Then there are ethical issues. “Will business ethics weaken medical ethics? Caplan said. “Just because you’re good at shipping carpets within 48 hours doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to take care of people’s health.”

Medical equipement

Over-the-counter equipment and supplies are a little-known source of high healthcare costs. With Amazon tightly tied to vendors, your doctor may be able to request on your account for crutches, Donovan said, not to mention wheelchairs, splints, tongue depressors, thermometers, hearing aids and syringes.

This could raise conflicts of interest, Caplan said. Amazon may give you a discount on its thermometer and not tell you about the other nine. It’s a health care consumer’s right to know all options, he said.

Convenience

One area where Amazon unquestionably excels is its user interface. Let’s face it, it made the purchase very, very easy. This ease and simplicity could extend to healthcare, which right now is a maze of rats,” Donovan said.

Convenience is an important part of the Amazon brand, Farr said, adding that it could make it easier to get medicine in the mail, a growing business.

Health care access

With Amazon’s lead in just about everything, it’s well positioned to expand One Medical’s telehealth options, Caplan said. Retail health care is already banking on convenience for people who need to be able to meet doctors at home.

“Getting an in-person appointment with a primary care provider quickly is especially difficult,” Caplan said. “I could see Amazon building something like nurses to help you with advice, faster access to a pharmacist if you have a question. They could even ask people to answer questions that aren’t in this country, although that would raise legal issues.

Privacy

The main concern here is probably privacy. If you get a prescription for the diabetes drug metformin, will you then start getting ads for glucometers or sugar-free candies? If you are prescribed statins, what if you start seeing advertisements for treadmills?

“This is a company that leverages data at the core of its business,” Caplan said. “Privacy is not one of the things that Amazon is fully committed to with sensitive health information.”

Farr is less concerned about medical confidentiality. “It would be a massive, massive deal if they violated HIPAA,” she said. “I’m much more concerned with consumer health information. There are far fewer laws protecting this information, such as using a portable device to keep up with your period.

from Amazon HIPAA Policy, which is published online, “is very standard in a good way,” Donovan said. An Amazon spokesperson said: “If the agreement were to go through, the HIPAA-protected health information of One Medical customers will be treated separately from all other Amazon businesses, as required by the law.”

Health disparities

Amazon Pharmacy and primary care companies have the potential to equalize healthcare, but they could also accomplish the opposite. “Some people won’t be able to access this world because they’re not internet and computer savvy,” Caplan said. “This could introduce a new form of health care disparity and inequality. Either you’re too old, or you’re in a rural area, or maybe you don’t have a computer because you’re poor. Amazon does not serve everyone.

Meanwhile, retail healthcare providers like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid tend to cluster in affluent urban centers like New York, San Francisco and Seattle, Farr said.

And expect to see the same as other companies expand their presence in healthcare. CVS Health has already in partnership with insurance giant Aetna. “There may be entries from other major internet social media companies into this space,” Caplan said. “I couldn’t predict who, but maybe Google, Facebook.”

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