Guessing What’s in the Health Care Disrupters’ Playbook

The fledgling plan from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to create an independent health care system for their American employees is just as bare-bones as it is bold.

The companies, all titans in their respective industries, gave few details Tuesday when they announced the joint effort. The group said its strategy will focus first on technology as a way to provide simplified, affordable access to medical services.

Beyond that, here are some ideas from health care and medical experts about how the world’s largest online retailer, the largest bank in the United States by assets and the billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett’s holding company might reshape an industry.


“Amazon could assume drug distribution. They could start to use voice platforms, like Alexa, to help discuss symptoms and get feedback, to coordinate hospital post-op care through voice-activated A.I., to do these and other rote things.” — Dr. Eric Topol, director, Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego


“Maybe they will develop some kind of algorithm that can be loaded onto any company software to help employers identify the low-hanging fruit, the patients that are using the most care or the highest-cost drugs. These guys have the data resources to really mine what’s going on, to get in the middle of that patient-doctor relationship. But employees are going to have to sign off on letting their employers really dig into that data.” — Erin Fox, senior director of drug information, University of Utah Health Hospitals and Clinics


“The companies have a wealthier work force, which tends to have a higher demand for broad networks. And these people are financially very sophisticated in how they do things, so they may be willing to have more complicated benefit design, and more willing to use I.T. tools to shop for care. I hope they work on building value-based insurance design plans, aligning incentives with the value of care.” — Michael E. Chernew, director, HealthCare Markets and Regulation Lab at Harvard Medical School