Amazon is redoubling its efforts to enter the healthcare industry, but some industry experts are concerned about the firm’s stealth moves.
Venture into Healthcare Space
As the popularity of telehealth services skyrocketed during the pandemic, this sector became an easy target, according to CNET.
Earlier this month, Amazon announced the release of its very own telehealth platform, called Amazon Clinic.
The program, which has been launched in 32 US states, puts patients in touch with doctors who can assist them with more than 20 common ailments.
Amazon will connect a patient with a doctor once they identify their problem and fill out a questionnaire.
The announcement stated, “At Amazon, we want to make it dramatically easier for people to get and stay healthy.”
It is another indication that the tech giant wants to know every aspect of your life, even down to your health conditions.
However, privacy experts are wary about trusting Amazon with sensitive health information because of the company’s spotty history of data security, as reported by CNET.
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Data Privacy Concerns
This latest venture follows quickly on the heels of Amazon’s buyout of One Medical, a US startup named the “Netflix for healthcare subscription,” boasting about 800,000 subscribers.
The deal was criticized by those concerned about the privacy of their patients’ information owing to the said acquisition. In July, when word of the $3.9 billion acquisition became public, demonstrators reportedly gathered outside One Medical’s San Francisco offices.
Amazon Clinic will be required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), guaranteeing the privacy of each patient’s medical history from the moment they begin treatment.
However, according to security expert Debbie Reynolds, all the information people supply beforehand, such as when looking for a doctor, is theoretically available for Amazon to collect, regardless of HIPAA.
She argues HIPAA does not apply until a patient sees a doctor.
Christina Smith, an Amazon spokesman, denied this in an email to WIRED. She explains that a customer’s location and choice of healthcare provider, in addition to their interactions with their doctor, will be considered highly confidential information.
Based on Smith’s comments to WIRED, Amazon complies with federal law and regulations and follows industry standards regarding protecting the privacy and security of patients’ data.
These data at Amazon Clinic will reportedly be encrypted in line with HIPAA.
Smith added that they are not in the business of selling or distributing patient information, emphasizing the importance the company places on protecting patient privacy.
The Bigger Question
Amazon’s recent expansion into the healthcare industry raises the bigger question: should Big Tech be permitted in this space at all?
Tamar Sharon is a professor at Radboud University in the Netherlands whose research examines the politics and ethics of Big Tech in health and medicine (or the “Googlization of health”).
She asserts that the intentions of a private company- efficiency, optimization, and profit – do not exactly square with serving the public good.
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