Amazon.com, Inc., one of the largest American e-commerce companies, has disrupted several industries in the past. Most recently, they attempted to get into one of the country’s most complex and biggest industries around: healthcare. In a bold move, the tech conglomerate’s push into the world of health insurance and pharmaceutics cost a combined $30 billion in just two hours of trading.
Based in Seattle, Washington, Amazon has created a reputation of shaking up industries before, including books, cloud computing, food, fashion, furniture, and countless others. They teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, creating an alliance that will attempt to succeed at what many others have failed to do – provide reliable, affordable or free healthcare for the American people.
However, it still proves to be quite challenging. After their official announcement last January 30, the trio’s vague yet market-moving bold idea of launching an independent and more affordable healthcare company immediately backfired within the industry. Within just two hours of trading, the market value of 10 large .
Facing Challenges since Day 1
Critics are already nitpicking the move, but many others think Amazon’s strengths may help their non-profit approach to healthcare. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and Forbes Magazine’s wealthiest person as of November 2017, acknowledged that his company’s most recent collaboration might face many challenges.
“The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” he said in a statement. “Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”
“The ballooning cost of healthcare acts as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Berkshire Hathaway.
With a projection by a Willis Towers Watson that US employers expect healthcare costs to rise 5.5% this year, an upsurge from last year’s 4.6% increase, the average national cost per employee is now around $12,850. Clearly, the trio led by Bezos, Buffett, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon want healthcare to not be a burden to both employers and employees.
“Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But, we also do not accept it is inevitable,” Buffett affirmed.
With a union composed of three top global companies, why is Amazon getting all the beef? Some see it as, while all three can supply both employees and resources, Amazon is the one in the group with particularly relevant technological competency and bravery, as well as a history of disrupting industries.
Starting from Scratch
In essence, Amazon and its partners are starting with a clean slate. New York Times best-selling author Chunka Mui cited that compared to those already inside the current healthcare industry, Amazon does not have legacy systems to update, business models to protect, and most especially, they do not have any existing healthcare customers to please. Their experimental healthcare approach can leverage their existing connections and technologies, without the need to make money – a freedom and flexibility only their alliance with Berkshire and JPMorgan can offer.
Harvard Business School professor Robert Huckman looked at Amazon’s current strong points may lead them to becoming a healthcare giant. For one, their expertise in things such as one-click ordering may help streamline certain healthcare processes. “(It) could be used to improve health care delivery by addressing the administrative hassle and scheduling challenges faced by patients seeking routine services in a one-stop setting,” he suggested.
Among many other ideas Huckman pointed out, he also mentioned Amazon is willing to experiment. While they do not yet have a full solution, as affirmed by Buffett, their joint venture with Berkshire and JPMorgan allowed them a new space to play around with bold ideas and innovations. “Amazon may be able to play a key role in allocating resources to solutions that show themselves, over time, to be promising,” he said.
While the debate over the trio’s attempt at transforming healthcare goes on, it’s important to realize and acknowledge their path is a challenging one – one where Amazon may find a way to become a leader once more in an industry they disrupt.