Amazon.com on Tuesday announced a joint partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to create an independent health care company for their employees, putting an end to months of speculation that the technology giant was eyeing a foray into the medical industry. It’s yet another endeavor for the company, which last year spent $13.7 billion to enter the grocery business with its acquisition of Whole Foods Market. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.)
But as the online retailer expands into new industries — cloud computing, drones, tech gadgets, moviemaking and now health care — some privacy experts say the company’s increasingly dominant role in our lives raises concerns about how personal data is collected and used. What happens, for example, when a company that has access to our weekly shopping lists, eating habits and in-home Alexa-based assistants, also becomes involved in our medical care?
Research shows that increased access to patients’ medical records and history reduces the cost of health care. But it also raises privacy concerns, particularly as companies use predictive technology to guess which patients may end up with a certain illnesses or chronic disease, said Idris Adjerid, a professor who specializes in health technology and privacy at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.
“Amazon is a data-centric company that’s good at artificial intelligence and machine learning, so it doesn’t take much to see that that’s what they’ll bring to the health care industry,” he said. “It’s all very tantalizing but there is also a constant tension between the pros of predictive health care data and the challenges.”
Read the entire story at The Washington Post.