Amazon is looking for a data scientist to study why health-care costs keep rising while employees aren't getting healthier

Key Points
  • Amazon's hiring efforts show that it will take a data-driven approach as it moves more deeply into health care.
  • The new hire would work closely with Atul Gawande's joint venture.
Atul Gawande
Lisa Lake | Getty Images

Amazon is dropping some hints about the kind of skills the company is looking for in its health-care partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan.

According to a new job posting, Amazon's health benefits department is looking to add a data scientist to its ranks, a role that will involve "external partners including the new healthcare venture."

The listing, posted in the past 48 hours, said the responsibilities will include collecting and analyzing data, supporting population health initiatives, and serving as a "subject matter expert." The candidate will work closely with the new Boston-based joint venture, which is building out its own team under the leadership of Atul Gawande.

The details of Gawande's health venture are still vague, but early announcements suggest that the companies will use technology and data science to bring down the cost of employees' health care while improving quality. According to Beckers Hospital Review, this would be the first-ever data scientist to join the Amazon benefits department.

For large companies, it's still uncommon to hire technologists and data scientists into their benefits departments. But that's starting to change, with companies such as Amazon leading the charge.

That's because health care is a unique problem for many companies. Worker health-care costs have continued to escalate in recent years, but health outcomes aren't improving. Data scientists could dig into the numbers and figure out what's going wrong.

The right candidate will "perform advanced integrated comprehensive reporting, consultative, and analytical expertise to provide healthcare cost and utilization data and translate findings into actionable information for internal and external stakeholders," the post reads. In other words, they will figure out why health care is so expensive but employees aren't much healthier.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"It makes total sense to have a data scientist on a team that represents the second- or third-biggest spend for many companies," said Rajaie Batniji, co-founder of Collective Health, a start-up that helps self-insured employers manage their health benefits. "It suggests that the first aim of the group might be to get each of their benefits plans to a better place."

Batniji said he's seeing other tech employers starting to staff up with analytics teams to figure out how to save money and offer better care.

Michael Yang, a health investor with Comcast Ventures, said it's a sign that employers are using benefits as a way to recruit and retain employees.

"Benefits is part of compensation, and talent appreciates it," Yang said. "In a talent competitive world, benefits could be the tie that wins."

In addition to hiring data scientists, Amazon is also investing resources in building its own employee health clinics. The company is starting small with a pilot for Seattle employees, CNBC reported in August.

Disclosure: Comcast Ventures, NBCUniversal and CNBC are owned by Comcast.

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