This won't hurt a bit: Amazon now a US healthcare provider
Closes takeover of One Medical, has your shopping habits and medical info
Updated 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. That provides Amazon potential access to at least some of 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 24/7 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, though it will keep an eye on things at Amazon and One Medical.
FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar told the media this week 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 probe 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. Alongside Amazon's troves of customer purchase histories, video-watching behavior, and the records from other medical technology companies it's purchased, this internet mega-souk now holds potentially lucrative data.
And also very sensitive data.
An Amazon spokesperson told us the biz will observe relevant privacy regulations, such as America's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - not that is has a choice to ignore it - and has a good track record of safeguarding customers' data.
One obvious application for One Medical's data is marketing medical products and services, which is regulated by the USA's Department Of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The dept considers marketing as 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.
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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. ®
Update on February 24
A spokesperson for Amazon has been in touch to say the e-shopping goliath and One Medical’s data remains separate, that Amazon does not have unrestricted access to One Medical patient health records, and that One Medical's data has not been merged in with the internet giant's other databases.
Amazon Pharmacy, Amazon Clinic, and One Medical are three separate HIPAA-covered business operations, we're told.
That said, earlier this week, after we asked Amazon how it was going to use health data from the One Medical takeover, another representative told us the tech giant, where permitted under HIPPA and other controls, may use some of that acquired information to, for instance, send out pharmacy refill reminders and help customers find appropriate care.
Our take from this is that One Medical's patient data is separate from the rest of Amazon, though Amazon has left the door open to tap into some of that personal info for commercial purposes, where allowed by law. We're happy to revise our article to reflect this, and have done so.