Last week, GeekWire reported unexpected news: Amazon will be shutting down its Care initiative, according to an internal memo which indicates that it is not “the right long-term solution for [Amazon’s] enterprise customers.” Per the memo, Neil Lindsay, Amazon Health Services Senior Vice President, explains that “Although our enrolled members have loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it is not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers we have been targeting, and wasn’t going to work long-term…”
Undoubtedly, Amazon Care was revolutionary in concept and was poised to become one of the most beloved disruptors in healthcare. The company was aiming to not only streamline a massive virtual care offering, but also provide way for in-person clinical services. In addition, with Amazon’s recent acquisition of One Medical, healthcare pundits were excited to see the potential transformation that the company would effectuate in the industry. Now, with this surprising news of Amazon Care shutting down, these same pundits are asking the question—is healthcare really that hard to disrupt?
Notably, this is not Amazon’s first time changing course on one of its healthcare projects. In 2018, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase collaborated to form a new venture named Haven, with a goal of disrupting care. However, just 3 years after Haven was started, its respective leaders decided that it was time to disband the company, as tackling healthcare would likely require a different approach.
Indeed, if these three globally renowned companies were not able to successfully tackle issues in healthcare, what hope is left for other players? One central conundrum with healthcare that makes it so challenging to disrupt, especially in the United States, is how siloed it has become. Any innovator or policymaker that wants to create change has to deal with so many different angles, including insurance companies, pharmaceutical developers, private hospitals, public healthcare entities, private clinics, individual physicians and other clinicians, and ultimately and most importantly, patients.
Without a doubt, healthcare is a tough nut to crack. For example, over the last 5 years, innovators have pored over artificial intelligence with the hope that it can disrupt healthcare across a variety of subsectors, including care delivery, research, diagnostics, and even treatment plans. However, many healthcare enthusiasts are disappointed in AI’s lack of traction, as much work still needs to be done to perfect the technology and make it mainstream.
There have been some successful ventures, however. Digital health and the inculcation of technology within healthcare in general has definitely progressed significantly. I’ve written in the past about various aspects of healthcare innovation, including the use of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and other advanced computing tools within the realm of care delivery. These aspects indeed seem like worthwhile endeavors in bettering care and patient outcomes.
Assuredly, healthcare has proven to be an extremely challenging industry to meaningfully disrupt. However, while many areas still require more work and investment to perfect, there are other aspects which have flourished and have truly improved patient care. Innovators and leaders must continue their efforts on this front without getting discouraged, as this will be the only way to ensure a better future ahead.