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Can Amazon Get Healthcare Subscriptions Right?

Tien Tzuo
CEO, Zuora

Recent news of Amazon’s $3.9B acquisition of OneMedical immediately brings forth the possibility of primary health care becoming “Primeary” health care. Before Amazon’s buy-out, OneMedical already had 767K subscribers and subscription tiers (starting at $199/yearly for individuals) for its health services. Amazon’s resources could help make that next big, nationwide step. 

While it’s currently unclear if “Primeary Healthcare” will become a reality, Amazon already has a primary care branded health care app for employers. The groundwork is already there. Getting into health care could also potentially boost their Prime subscription business. A quote by Trilliant Health’s Sanjula Jain, Ph.D. sums it up: “Notably, approximately 44% of Americans have an active Amazon Prime membership, while the largest U.S. health system, HCA Healthcare, serves just 1% of Americans.”

Everyone wants to try something new in the industry: Embleema, founded in 2017, allows patients to have greater control over their health care data. Even CVS shared in an earnings call this week that it plans to get into primary care by year-end.

I want to look at the bigger picture here: what it will take for technology companies like Amazon to branch out into healthcare-as-a-service?

There’s three things. 


First up is the experience. Why subscribe to a different healthcare experience versus what you already have? Because everything from booking an appointment, to finding a quality doctor you connect with, or picking up prescriptions from a pharmacy of your preference will be within arms reach. Think about how painful it is to find a new primary care provider or book appointments today.

I know a few One Medical users and many rave about the excellent telehealth services. It’s convenient – as it should be. Costs can be driven down for customers, while still maintaining profits for the healthcare industry. As we have all heard before, “health is wealth”. Giving the patient more control about their healthcare experience can only be a good thing.

Although keep in mind, rolling out health-as-a-service is a much more complex task than it may seem. If Amazon wanted to offer a B2B insurance solution for employees, it would have to create programs and abide by different laws in fifty different States. It serves as a lesson for other technology companies curious about healthcare: it takes time and is full of regulations that they must abide by. 

As businesses like Netflix and Spotify saw success with subscriptions, the healthcare industry is trying to engineer their own equivalent. What consumers really want is participatory health: a concept with powerful implications that focuses on patient engagement, and inherently, experience. It won’t take long to see startups and services that take this into account and show the industry that participatory health is the new approach to healthcare and what consumers need.


Privacy is extremely important when it comes to healthcare. It’s a touchy subject, but an important one since research has acknowledged that healthcare companies do not invest as heavily as they should in protecting patient data. Hospital and insurance company hacking incidents are becoming increasingly common, especially with ransomware. While comforting, merely complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States isn’t enough to protect user data. 

This is where health-as-a-service can take lessons learned from technology companies (who invest heavily in cybersecurity) and merge them with the promise of keeping a person’s medical information private from advertisers. Tech companies entering health have to build privacy and security for their customers.

A big part of healthcare is predicated on privacy. Privacy when dealing with your personal physician, nurses, and pharmacy. The last thing anyone wants is a potential “information broker” situation, where your medical information is sold to third parties. 

Subscription companies that build long standing relationships with their customers, build an understanding of what they want and what will keep them subscribed. However, in healthcare, the personal data you provide already establishes that customer profile to begin with. Keeping that information private is one of your most important responsibilities in retaining customers subscribed to health-as-a-service. 


Health care providers enjoy a certified level of trust from customers and exist at the opposite end of the spectrum, compared to technology companies, where users report trusting them the least out of all industries with personal data. A McKinsey report stated that 44% of surveyed consumers trusted healthcare agencies, versus just 17% for tech companies.

However, the building of a “trust” stage in a healthcare organization’s journey to usership is a long-term effort. Trust can bring in customers because they believe they’re in good hands. Similarly, betraying trust can drive customers away. A survey conducted by Thales Group outlined that 70% of respondents would stop doing business with a company if it experienced a data breach. This is why establishing trustworthiness, investing in cybersecurity, and being upfront about potential data breaches is extremely important in building trust for healthcare-as-a-service. 

Can Amazon really get into primary healthcare? I believe so by putting the patient first. If the right preparations and partnerships are made, with the strong foundation that the company already has with subscriptions and customers thanks to its Prime membership program, then Amazon might just succeed in the jungle. 

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