A letter has been sent to the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) by Senator Josh Hawley requesting an investigation into Amazon’s plans to purchase primary care company organization One Medical. The letter comes as a result of concerns regarding patient health information privacy and security concerns.
On July 21, it was announced that Amazon had settled a deal to purchase 1Life Healthcare, which provides primary treatment via One Medical. In the letter, Senator Hawley recognizes the FTC’s efforts to counteract America’s growing economic oligopoly and the influence of tech giants. However, he maintains that the One Medical acquisition requires particular attention. Senator Hawley contends that the acquisition will offer Amazon far too much power. One Medical currently offers membership-based treatment electronically at 188 facilities to over 8,000 employer clients. Hawley worried that Amazon’s move to purchase One Medical could have detrimental effects on patient privacy as it would consolidate the company’s position in the healthcare industry. He argues, “While HIPAA and other privacy laws exist to thwart the worst potential abuses, loopholes exist in every legal framework.” Amazon could utilize the information acquired through One Medical to advertise products based on the treatment they have received. “If an individual is diagnosed with high blood pressure by a One Medical doctor, will he later be advertised over-the-counter blood pressure medications whenever he shops at Whole Foods Market? Promoting wellness is one thing; dystopian corporate “nudging” is quite another.”
Hawley encouraged the FTC to question Amazon over their rationale for pursuing the purchase and the distinctions they plan to make between patient and retail customer data. Hawley also voiced concern over the possibility that Amazon’s dominant position in the market may undermine rival suppliers. “Amazon positions itself to eventually emerge as the dominant player in each, as cross-subsidization allows Amazon to offer services at a loss and data-driven network effects allow Amazon to market at a level its competitors cannot match. A market might be competitive now, but a few years after Amazon gets involved, it won’t be”.
For Senator Hawley, Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical should not be allowed as it poses too big of threat to patient privacy and safety. “Americans’ privacy and safety are now on the line in a wholly new way,” Hawley concludes. “Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to buy its way into this industry.”