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What an Amazonified One Medical means for employee and consumer health data

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Our editor Meg is on vacation, which is great for her, but sad for me. If you miss her as much as I do, check out her interview on This Week in Tech. Today: why an Amazon-owned One Medical may be difficult for consumers and employers to deny, health care startup layoffs and a burst in unionization.

Amazonifying primary care

Amazon is buying One Medical for $3.9 billion, and the deal’s not only shaking up direct-to-consumer care, but employer-based health care as well. Some consumers are less than pleased that Amazon — in addition to being their grocer via Whole Foods, their convenience store via Prime and their home assistant via Alexa — is poised to be their primary care provider, too. But convenient digital primary care access may outweigh any data concerns.

Consumers and human resource managers will have to decide themselves whether to embrace an Amazonified One Medical. The purchase may ring antitrust alarm bells, but it will be difficult for regulators to target as it’s not a monopoly in the traditional sense.

  • Christina Farr, a health tech investor with OMERS Ventures, said the deal may signal Amazon’s ambitions to build a “digital front door” to health care.
  • Primary care is increasingly elusive for most Americans. “For so many people, convenience trumps anything else,” Farr said. “If they're going to offer a convenient, affordable experience for people, then that might be the thing that causes them to join a service like this versus cancel their membership.”
  • Bringing retail and primary care together could be transformative. Josh Bersin, an HR industry analyst, described a possible scenario: “Imagine you're clicking through the Amazon web page, you click on a bottle of aspirin, and the website says, ‘Are you having problems with headaches?’” Bersin said. “‘Would you like to visit a clinic? Click here to make an appointment.’ I mean, that's not a bad idea.”

But for some people, Amazon meshing retail and medical businesses together is a terrifying thought. Why? It’s a powerful amount of data.

  • Your medical information should be safe under HIPAA. Amazon told me as much: One Medical customers’ HIPAA-protected information will be “handled separately from all other Amazon businesses” and won’t be shared “for advertising or marketing purposes of other Amazon products and services without clear permission from the customer” should the deal close. Compromising your medical data is illegal, and would be devastating for Amazon. Plus, spreading your data around would be rather hard to do considering how decentralized Amazon’s various businesses are.
  • But not all health information is protected by HIPAA. Think about your aspirin purchase on Prime, or information from the Amazon Halo band. Americans are even more aware of this secondary health data in a post-Roe world. “The concern is having such a big, powerful company that has [its] hands in so many different areas of people’s lives being able to also gather data about people, even tangentially, around their health,” data privacy expert Debbie Reynolds said.
  • Cloud consultant Corey Quinn canceled his One Medical subscription already because of his data concerns. The potential for internal data misuse is enough to deter him: “When you have 1.4 million employees, you can’t guarantee that anything has never happened,” Quinn said. “I don't particularly want the notes from my therapy appointments being something that anyone at Amazon has access to.”

Experts don’t think the data aspect will scare away potential individual or enterprise customers.

  • Michael Yang, health tech and workplace tech investor at OMERS Ventures, said the deal likely doesn’t change One Medical’s appeal to enterprises, even if employees have concerns about health data.
  • Some companies that could be considered competitors, like Google, host One Medical clinics on site. Could the prospect of hosting Amazon-owned clinics in their facilities spook them? Yang doesn’t think so, given One Medical’s ability to bring health care spending down.
  • “It would be penny-wise, pound-foolish to take a stand against a quote-unquote competitor when your employees need it and you as an employer want them to have it,” Yang said.

One Medical isn’t the only option out there, though. If nervous employees lobby against an Amazon-backed One Medical or employers become spooked, enterprises and consumers can always go elsewhere. Once the deal is finalized, it will be interesting to see how an Amazon-owned One Medical pitches itself.

Read the full story.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

↓ Shopify is laying off 10% of its workforce, The Wall Street Journal reports. The layoffs will impact roughly 1,000 workers. CEO Tobi Lütke told employees that consumers are making fewer online orders, slowing revenue for the company.

↓ Mural is doing a second round of layoffs, the company confirmed to Protocol last week. It didn’t say how many people would be affected.

↓ Several health care startups had layoffs last week: New York-based Capsule cut 13% of employees, Seattle-based 98point6 slashed 10% of its staff and Seattle-based RealSelf let 11 people go, or 5% of its workforce.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.


They created Digital People. Now they've made celebrities available as Digital Twins: Soul Machines co-founder and CEO Greg Cross and his co-founder Mark Sagar, Ph.D., FRSNZ are leading their Auckland and San Francisco-based teams to create AI-enabled Digital People™️ to populate the internet, at first, and soon the metaverse.

Read more from Soul Machines

By the numbers

Feel like you’ve been hearing lots of rumblings of worker organizing? It’s not just in your head — unionization is on a tear, folks. We’re six months into 2022 and already the number of groups filing to unionize has surpassed the total for last year. The National Labor Relations Board said on July 15 that the number of union petitions in the first nine months of the 2022 fiscal year increased by 58% compared to the same time last year: nearly 2,000 this year compared to fewer than 1,200 last year.

“The NLRB is processing the most cases it has seen in years with the lowest staffing levels in the past six decades,” NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said in the press release.

More stories from us

Some companies are doing their first round of layoffs. Others are already onto a second round.

SignalFire CEO Chris Farmer explains why he decided to invest in a downturn.

Impossible Foods is fighting to protect a key ingredient in meatless meat from competitors.


They created Digital People. Now they've made celebrities available as Digital Twins:Soul Machines is at the cutting edge of AGI research with its unique Digital Brain, based on the latest neuroscience and developmental psychology research.

Read more from Soul Machines

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

The EEOC issued a cause finding against Tesla. (CNBC)

A new report details how remote workers are more productive than ever. (National Bureau of Economic Research)

Google fired Blake Lemoine, the worker who claimed the company’s chatbot generator was sentient. (The Washington Post)

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