In a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission this past week, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asked the regulatory agency to look more closely at the proposed $3.9 billion merger between Amazon and One Medical.
“I realize that the FTC is currently engaged in numerous efforts to combat America’s accelerating economic concentration and the power of tech behemoths,” Hawley wrote. “Nevertheless, I urge you to prioritize a searching review of this particular transaction.”
The acquisition would “provide Amazon with access to enormous tranches of patient data,” said the senator.
While he acknowledged that HIPAA and other privacy laws might “thwart the worst potential abuses,” Hawley also pointed out that “loopholes exist in every legal framework.”
Some scenarios, “once written off as scaremongering fictions, are now a very real possibility,” he said. “For instance, if an individual is diagnosed with high blood pressure by a One Medical doctor, will he later be advertised over-the-counter blood pressure medications whenever he shops at Whole Foods Market?”
There are currently no FDA-approved OTC medications for hypertension.
Hawley also said the deal would further reinforce Amazon’s market dominance, potentially reshaping the power dynamic of the primary care space.
“It doesn’t matter if the primary care market as such is presently competitive: by having its hand in dozens of smaller markets, Amazon positions itself to eventually emerge as the dominant player in each, as cross-subsidization allows Amazon to offer services at a loss and data-driven network effects allow Amazon to market at a level its competitors cannot match.”
He closed his letter by asking the FTC to find answers to several questions, including:
What, if any, firewalls does Amazon intend to establish between patient data and retail customer data?
What products does Amazon intend to develop in the wake of this acquisition?
“Americans’ privacy and safety are now on the line in a wholly new way,” Hawley wrote. “Amazon shouldn’t be allowed to buy its way into this industry.”
Mike Miliard is executive editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.