Healthy Returns

Hopes are high for Amazon's entry into health care—as long as they don't 'pull a Facebook'

Key Points
  • Amazon will be getting into the health-care business.
  • While full details of its plans aren't currently known, the company is already shaking up the industry.
  • Amazon has a chance to be successful, but experts say the company must be careful about how it uses patient data.
Bill George, Julie Grant and Faisal Mushtaq take part in a panel discussion on "What Will Amazon Do?" during the CNBC Healthy Returns conference in New York on March 28th, 2018.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Amazon can reinvent the drug supply chain and infuse transparency into the health-care system, but it needs to be careful with patient data, panelists said at CNBC's "Healthy Returns" conference.

It's no longer a question of whether Amazon is getting into health care, but the tech giant has remained mum on what exactly it's doing. Just the thought of Amazon entering the space has caused the industry to respond, said Faisal Mushtaq, CEO of Truveris.

"Amazon has done enough without actually doing anything (in health care) with all these mergers and acquisitions," Mushtaq said in a panel discussion moderated by CNBC's Christina Farr.

The CEO search is on for Amazon's big health venture with Berkshire and JPMorgan

One example is pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts selling itself to a health insurer, said Bill George, senior fellow at the Harvard Business School and former CEO of Medtronic.

"I think that was a move of weakness, not strength," he said.

Pharmacy benefit managers are the most vulnerable to Amazon's threat in his view. Industry experts have said Amazon can change the business model and add transparency to a system that's complex and not well understood to most.

In order for Amazon to be successful, it needs to develop something different than what's currently available and build trust with consumers, said Julie Grant, a partner at Canaan Partners.

"Find a great simple use case that hits millions and millions of lives and show that you really are going to be working on behalf of people like us versus just the businesses," she said.

One thing George said he doesn't want to see is Amazon selling patient health data.

"I just think if they want to have trust, they better not pull a Facebook," he said.

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