A Wall Street bank has a new theory on Amazon’s plans to get into healthcare

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Jim Tanner/Reuters

  • It’s still unclear what Amazon’s healthcare strategy looks like, despite speculation over the last year.
  • But according to a new research note from Cowen, it’s sounding more unlikely that Amazon’s potential healthcare plan includes distributing prescription drugs.
  • Instead, Cowen researchers wrote, Amazon would have a better shot of getting into healthcare by using its voice assistant Alexa. “We think a natural fit for Amazon could be incorporating its Alexa voice assistant for some health care needs.”

Amazon’s potential entrance into healthcare has everyone speculating about what the ecommerce giant might do.

One place that people have been looking for clues has been in state regulatory filings for wholesale pharmacy licenses. In 2017, it was reported that Amazon had been approved for wholesale pharmacy licenses for at least 12 states.

The licenses don’t necessarily indicate that Amazon is going to start to sell prescription drugs. In many cases, wholesale pharmacy licenses are needed to sell things like medical supplies, something Amazon already sells to businesses. But there was some thought, especially given some of the states Amazon was pursuing licenses such as Maine, that distributing prescriptions could be on the horizon.

But on Friday, Wall Street bank Cowen said in a research note that some of the wholesale pharmacy licenses Amazon had obtained had expired, and no new licenses had been issued for 2018. That led Cowen to conclude that Amazon isn’t actively trying to get into the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Even so, there are other approaches Amazon could take to get into healthcare. Recent job postings for a new initiative, reported by CNBC, suggest that Amazon is interested in learning more about health privacy and policy. Instead of getting into the prescription drug industry, Cowen said in its note that it thinks Amazon should get into healthcare using Alexa, its voice assistant.

“We think a natural fit for Amazon could be incorporating its Alexa voice assistant for some health care needs,” the Cowen researchers wrote. For example, Alexa could be helpful in booking a telemedicine appointment. “We note, Teladoc is currently compatible with Alexa, and will allow you to schedule a televisit with Teladoc. The privacy of patient records are highly regulated, and Amazon may be seeking a professional that will help the company better understand its responsibility of patient information for data analytics.”