Amazon's secretive special projects group has considered products for consumers to conduct medical tests in the home, which could take the company into the health diagnostics space, according to a person familiar with the company's plans.
Two people say the company was in discussions this year to buy a venture-backed diagnostics start-up called Confer Health, but those talks did not result in a deal. Via its web site, Confer develops hardware for at-home tests starting with fertility and infections like strep throat. Their tests are designed to provide clinical grade results at home without visiting the doctor's office.
The person said that Confer would have fit into a medical diagnostics project that was being actively explored over the summer. That project was led by a team under Babak Parviz, who joined Amazon from Google in 2014 to create a special projects lab focused partly on health. Within its diagnostics unit, the company was interested in fertility and geriatric tests for seniors, this person said. A different person who met with Parviz around the same time also said that he expressed strong interest in home health testing.
It is not known whether Amazon has decided to move forward with the project. One person said that Confer deal talks fell apart in the summer, around the time that Amazon made the decision to acquire the Internet pharmacy company PillPack.
But a move into the home health-testing space would be a signal of Amazon's ambitions to remake the entire health care supply chain. It could bring Amazon into competition with testing giants Quest and LabCorp, as well as retail health centers where the bulk of tests are performed today. If successful, it could save people trips to the doctor's office for simple things like checking to see whether they have the flu, and reduce the spread of communicable disease.
Confer has raised just shy of $10 million in venture capital and is advised by Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive who has been notoriously bullish on Amazon. Amazon and Palihapitiya did not return requests for comment. Confer Health declined to comment.