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High-Profile Healthcare Venture Haven Shuts Down; Could Signal Shift For JPMorgan, Amazon

January 05, 2021 at 12:01AM

In the end, there was no haven for HavenAs reported on Monday (Jan. 4), the healthcare startup – created in 2018 through joint efforts between Amazon, J.P. Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway – will be shuttered and dissolved next month.

The three firms said they would collaborate “informally” on healthcare efforts. Haven’s mission had been to leverage technology to help stakeholders – spanning insurance and pharmacy firms, as well as providers – steer individuals to affordable, high-quality healthcare, a topic obviously top of mind in the midst of a pandemic and with economic headwinds firmly in place.

It’s been common knowledge that all of the companies had been, and still are, pursuing their own healthcare-focused efforts, done organically and via acquisition – and where testing grounds have been tied to their own employees and operations. In other words, this was an effort by large-scale employers to make healthcare a bit less daunting for workforces – and, if it had been successful, it would be logical to expect that the findings and pilots would have been adopted by a broad swath of other companies.

As for the deal-making: J.P. Morgan, for example, bought payments firm InstaMed in 2019, in a half-billion-dollar deal to help tackle the inefficiencies inherent in a multi-trillion-dollar industry that still relies on paper checks, paper statements and no shortage of coding and middlemen in the mix. Separately, Amazon said last month that its own digital pharmacy “storefront” would give users significant discounts on prescriptions bought at tens of thousands of participating drugstores – an initiative that comes after the eCommerce juggernaut bought PillPack.

Thus far, details on just why Haven is disbanding, where pain points proved insurmountable, or where there might have been disagreements (if any) are scarce. In this case, at least, the takeaway may simply be that the whole was not more than the sum of its parts.

However, we note that when companies pour hundreds of millions of dollars into acquisitions – landing squarely on the “buy” side of the “build it or buy it” debate that surrounds tech innovation – they might want to get their proverbial money’s worth.

For Amazon, in particular, the bid to gain an expanding footprint in healthcare may be especially urgent, in light of recent steps rivals have been taking in the space. Walmart, for example, has been building retail-focused healthcare supercenters to offer walk-in medical care across primary care and urgent care settings, with relatively lower prices than would be seen in more traditional healthcare settings. Amazon, as reported last month via Healthcare IT News, is mulling an extension of its app-based healthcare offering, Amazon Care, to employees at companies other than Amazon.

In healthcare, then, there may be many paths in the drive toward better services and lower costs … but not through Haven.

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