3 things Amazon could do with One Medical to create a Healthcare Breakthrough

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

Admit their ignorance of healthcare delivery and build a truly collaborative workplace ... for starters.

Amazon is buying primary care company One Medical and the whole medical industry is holding its breath to see what a warehouse and delivery titan can do in the healthcare space.

They don't have a stellar reputation as an employer and physician burnout rates are topping 50%. I am not sure they bring anything new to the table. That level of ignorance can be an advantage if they go back to basics.

In this blog post, let's discuss the business vs. healing divide and let me show you three things Amazon could do as they acquire One Medical that would be a true breakthrough in quality care for both patients and the providers of care.

The 50% burnout rates in US physicians prove that big business does not understand the delivery of healthcare - taking care of sick, hurting, scared and dying patients.

Here is why.

The titans of industry think medical visits are like placing an order for a cheeseburger and fries in a fast food restaurant; a need we must satisfy as quickly and cheaply as possible with a single mass-produced and standardized treatment, in as much volume as possible, 24/7.

They are always looking for different metaphors to describe healthcare - an assembly line, a hotel, even Disneyland for heaven's sake.

They think each visit is discreet. Get 'em in, get 'em out, no messin' about. It is a volume game and there is money to be made for the fastest hamster wheel. Reminds me of Belushi and Ackroyd in their prime.

healthcare delivery is not a cheeseburger like on saturday night live

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.
No Coke ... Pepsi


As the physicians and staff in the front lines of healthcare, we know better. We know patient care is a collision between heart, soul and spirit on one side and the human condition on the other. We are helpers, healers, Lightworkers; not fry cooks. 

AND we understand two "C" Words the bean counters can't ...

Those words are COMPLEXITY and CONTINUITY. 


The Battle Between the Search for PROFIT and the HEALING ENCOUNTER

The business analysts sit in the Ivory Towers looking at spreadsheets.

As they sift the numbers they are laser focused on a single question:


The fastest path to cash for them is to take over the entire delivery and payment system  (the "value chain") and try to drive everyone's performance as close as possible to that of a care delivery robot on a care delivery assembly line. 

  • Increase the volume of services
  • Decrease the time per visit
  • Homogenize the delivery of care into a finite set of algorithms
  • Get everyone to just work harder - or find a way to dehumanize the workforce so you don't have to deal with messy things like meal and bathroom breaks, benefits and the human sleep/wake cycle

Notice Amazon's reputation as a warehouse and delivery company and you can see exactly what is coming to the healthcare side of their business.




In healthcare, the goal is a healing encounter between two human beings.

Sure, you can monetize that exchange of value and all businesses must be fiscally responsible. And money cannot be your only objective

The Practice of Medicine is DIFFERENT 

What we do with patients has a heart and a soul. Our practice and the care we provide has value and meaning that is beyond money - for both the patient and the physician.

The interaction is ALWAYS COMPLEX

There are genetic, psychosocial, metabolic and communication issues that go way beyond shouting "cheeseburger" to the cook in the back.

There is huge value in CONTINUITY. The more you see the same physician - especially if you have a chronic illness (or more than one) - the better the care and the deeper the bond between you and your doctor.

Primary Care is a String of Pearls - not a cheeseburger and chips

Each encounter is another pearl. The longer the string, the larger and more valuable the next pearl becomes - quality, safety and patient and physician satisfaction all go up over time.

If you reduce every encounter to slapping a Band-Aid on the most pressing issue as quickly as possible with the first available provider regardless of their level of training or experience, you will make money and the health and wellbeing of your patients and the  physicians and staff in your company will suffer. 


It does not have to be this way

Amazon could lead the way to a quality healthcare delivery system for patients and the  physicians and staff if they follow these three key principles. 

  • LISTEN TO THE DOCTORS AND STAFF about what they need to deliver quality care, using all the high tech tools and make money at the same time. True collaboration is the only honorable way forward.

  • Do not make the mistake of short staffing the front lines just to pad your profits. Learn from TeamCareMedicine and Corey Lyon's APEX Program about right staffing the care teams for both volume and quality. 

  • And understand there is a triple competitive advantage to the first system that gets physician wellness right. 




What advice do you have for Amazon, or any other big purchaser of a healthcare delivery company ... on how to do a better job than your current employer?


Here's my nightmare scenario of 2025!


Doctor, I have a sore throat.
Can you have a drone drop some
antibiotics for me this afternoon after three?

This is a virtual physician,
with a virtual degree from virtual Harvard.
I chose the McSteamy version
who speaks English with a Boston accent.
There are over a million additional combinations of
gender, ethnicity, language and accent available.

Parody Alert:
This does not actually exist. It is A Joke
- and also a not impossible version of
the future of healthcare in the USA.
Please do not ask me where
you can get one of these in the comments!



Tags: stop physician burnout