Amazon is buying US primary health care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion, the companies announced Thursday, in a big step for the online retail giant's move into the medical sector.
The massive firm has steadily gone far beyond e-commerce, and earlier this year said its telemedicine service was expanding nationwide in the United States.
"We think health care is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention," said Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services.
"We see lots of opportunity to both improve the quality of the experience and give people back valuable time in their days," he added.
One Medical, which has a network of primary care practices across the United States as well as telemedicine services, has grown to 767,000 members, according to its latest results.
"There is an immense opportunity to make the health care experience more accessible, affordable, and even enjoyable for patients," said One Medical CEO Amir Dan Rubin.
The acquisition further grows Amazon's broader ambitions, which expanded from its origins in e-commerce to streaming media, cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and groceries.
Like other big tech firms, its ubiquity and size have drawn scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers concerned about things like privacy and fair competition.
- Amazon's deepening health push -
Tech world observers were quick to reflect some of the discomfort over Amazon's broad involvement in people's lives.
"I think it will be really helpful if my doctor can look at my package order history and the food I get at Whole Foods before making any diagnoses," tweeted Josh Elman, a Silicon Valley investor and product builder.
In the health field, Amazon has already launched an online pharmacy for US consumers, who will be able to order prescription medications directly from its website or mobile app.
That came after Amazon acquired PillPack, an internet pharmacy offering pre-sorted dose packaging and home delivery.
Buying One Medical will also build on Amazon's announcement in February that it was expanding Amazon Care, which was first launched in 2019 to provide its employees with access to doctors.
The service combines virtual doctor or nurse visits using an Amazon Care mobile app with in-person care by medical personnel dispatched to patients' homes, the tech company said.
Like its telemedicine service, Amazon says it wants to develop a more modern health care offering that is increasingly responsive to today's lifestyles, more personalized and less time-consuming.
The telemedicine industry soared amid coronavirus restrictions and Americans' use has since held steady at about 38 times over pre-pandemic levels, according to a McKinsey & Company report from July.
At the same time, Americans typically get their health insurance through their jobs, so the current US hiring crunch has pushed employers to offer increasingly attractive benefits.