Amazon has completed a major acquisition that will strengthen its healthcare abilities, after US regulators refused to challenge the deal.

It was back in July last year, when Amazon announced it will acquire San Francisco healthcare provider One Medical for $3.9 billion (£3.24bn).

It was predicted that this deal would prove a test for regulators and lawmakers, many of whom have stated they want to rein in the market power of the biggest tech companies.

Image credit: One Medical

Health move

The acquisition was intended to further Amazon’s moves into the medical industry, which date back more than 20 years.

US senator Amy Klobuchar at the time said she was calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “thoroughly investigate” the deal, citing Amazon’s previous investments in healthcare and the implications of the company’s access to medical data.

Amazon it should be remembered was a major investor in Drugstore.com, a start-up that launched in 1999 and was acquired by US pharmacy chain Walgreens in 2011, and more recently bought prescription delivery firm PillPack in 2018 before launching its own Amazon Pharmacy subsidiary in 2020.

One Medical offers a subscription-based model where users pay a monthly fee to have access to doctors, including, but not limited to, virtual appointments.

The deal will turn Amazon into a provider of primary medical care with access to more than 200 brick-and-mortar doctors’ offices, along with roughly 815,000 One Medical members.

The One Medical deal would also allow Amazon to expand its telehealth services and acquire valuable relationships with hospital systems.

Regulatory go-ahead

So now fast forward from the summer of 2022 to February 2023, the US Federal Trade Commission said it would not challenge the purchase.

That said regulators are still investigating potential competitive and consumer harms of the transaction.

Hours after the FTC decision, Amazon on Wednesday announced that One Medical will offer new customers a $55 discount on annual memberships for a limited time. One Medical membership is available to new US customers for $144 (a 28 percent discount) for the first year.

“We’re on a mission to make it dramatically easier for people to find, choose, afford, and engage with the services, products, and professionals they need to get and stay healthy, and coming together with One Medical is a big step on that journey,” said Neil Lindsay, senior VP of Amazon Health Services.

“One Medical has set the bar for what a quality, convenient, and affordable primary care experience should be like,” Lindsay added. “We’re inspired by their human-centered, technology-forward approach and excited to help them continue to grow and serve more patients.”

Doctor will see you now

“If you fast forward 10 years from now, people are not going to believe how primary care was administered,” said Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

“For decades, you called your doctor, made an appointment three or four weeks out, drove 15-20 minutes to the doctor, parked your car, signed in and waited several minutes in reception, eventually were placed in an exam room, where you waited another 10-15 minutes before the doctor came in, saw you for five to ten minutes and prescribed medicine, and then you drove 20 minutes to the pharmacy to pick it up – and that’s if you didn’t have to then go see a specialist for additional evaluation, where the process repeated and could take even longer for an appointment,” said Jassy.

“Customers want and deserve better, and that’s what One Medical has been working and innovating on for more than a decade,” he concluded. “Together, we believe we can make the health care experience easier, faster, more personal, and more convenient for everyone.”

One of Amazon’s biggest rivals in combining technology and health care is Google, which acquired fitness tracking company Fitbit in 2021.

London-based AI company DeepMind, which Google bought in 2014, operates a health care division that was absorbed into Google Health in 2019.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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