The latest twist in Amazon’s road into healthcare emerged with reports speculating that the company is building primary care clinics for its employees. And while Seattle-area medical groups and hospitals are likely wondering what that might mean for their patient populations the initiative, should it happen, could have implications beyond the Pacific Northwest in short order.
As costs continue to rise and quality stagnates, employers footing the hefty bill for their employees health benefits are looking for ways to make sure managing employee health doesn’t kill their business.
That is exactly where Amazon has an edge: Using big data, analytics and business intelligence to drive down costs while also ramping up consumer convenience and satisfaction.
Amazon not first with on-site clinics
Amazon would not be the sole intrepid company establishing its clinics for its employees. Boeing and Disney do it. John Deere, too. Most recently, Henry Ford Health System and automotive giant GM announced plans for direct employer-contracted healthcare.
Should the company create clinics, however, many people will be watching closely because of its unique potential to shake things up.
“Amazon has established itself right now as disruptor 2.0,” said Paul Keckley, president of the Keckley Group, a healthcare advisory firm. “It has a take-no-prisoners approach to taking costs out of the systems. In 1.0, there were a lot of innovators doing different things. What Amazon does is say ‘we’re going to take this to scale.’”
Keckley said depending on what survey you read, an employee clinic can save $2,000 a year per employee if it is well-utilized. Employers are already paying skyrocketing healthcare costs for other providers in their respective markets, so why not do something semi-radical and try and head some of that off at the pass by providing a healthcare solution in-house, increasing access to care and the likelihood an employee will use it to reduce more costly episodes of care.
Although Amazon’s plans are little more than speculation at this point, on-site clinics and arrangements like the one GM and Henry Ford Health just struck set the stage for employers to make more demands of healthcare delivery organizations for market-based solutions, according to Rita Numerof, healthcare industry expert and founder of Numerof and Associates.