In a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission last week, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., urged regulators to take a closer look 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 giants,” Hawley wrote. “Nevertheless, I urge you to prioritize a thorough review of this particular transaction.”
The acquisition would “give Amazon access to vast amounts of patient data,” the senator said.
While acknowledging that HIPAA and other privacy laws “can thwart the worst potential abuses,” Hawley also noted that “loopholes exist in any legal framework.”
Some scenarios, “once written off as scary fiction, are now a very real possibility,” he said. “For example, if a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure by a One Medical doctor, will they later be advertised for over-the-counter blood pressure medication every time they shop at Whole Foods Market?”
There are currently no FDA-approved OTC medications for high blood pressure.
Hawley also said that the deal would further strengthen Amazon’s market dominance and potentially reshape power dynamics in the essential-care space.
“It doesn’t matter if the primary supply market as such is currently highly competitive: by having its hand in dozens of smaller markets, Amazon is positioning itself to eventually emerge as the dominant player in each of them, as cross-subsidization allows Amazon to offer services to one Loss and data-driven network effects allow Amazon to market at levels its competitors cannot match.”
He concluded his letter by asking the FTC to find answers to several questions, including:
What firewalls, if any, does Amazon intend to put in place between patient data and retail customer data?
What products does Amazon intend to develop as part of this acquisition?
“American privacy and security are now at stake in a whole new way,” Hawley wrote. “Amazon should not be allowed to buy into this industry.”
Mike Miliard is Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.