Amazon has started a secret skunkworks lab dedicated to opportunities in health care, including new areas such as electronic medical records and telemedicine. Amazon has dubbed this stealth team 1492, which appears to be a reference to the year Columbus first landed in the Americas.
The stealth team, which is headquartered in Seattle, is focused on both hardware and software projects, according to two people familiar. Amazon has become increasingly interested in exploring new business in healthcare. For example, Amazon has another unit exploring selling pharmaceuticals, CNBC reported in May.
The new team is currently looking at opportunities that involve pushing and pulling data from legacy electronic medical record systems. If successful, Amazon could make that information available to consumers and their doctors. It is also hoping to build a platform for telemedicine, which in turn could make it easier for people to have virtual consultations with doctors, one of the people said.
The group is also exploring health applications for existing Amazon hardware, including Echo and Dash Wand. Hospitals and doctor’s offices have already dabbled in developing skills for Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, which presents a big opportunity for the e-commerce company.
It’s not clear whether Amazon is building any new health devices, but sources didn’t rule it out.
The company currently has a slew of roles available for its “stealth” operation, which are searchable on the jobs site under the keyword “a1.492.” Some job posts describe the position as “The Amazon Grand Challenge a.k.a. ‘Special Projects’ team.” The unit is currently hiring for a UX Design Manager for its “new vertical,” as well as a machine learning director with experience in healthcare IT and analytics and a knowledge of electronic medical records.
Some members of the team list their affiliation with a1.492 on LinkedIn. Those involved include two machine learning experts; a UX designer; and two strategic initiative leads that are running projects inside the group, Kristen Helton and Cameron Charles.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
1492 isn’t the only team inside Amazon that is working in health and life sciences.
Its cloud operation, Amazon Web Services, has also hired a slew of health experts to beat out Microsoft and Google for contracts with large hospitals and pharmaceutical vendors. The company has also invested in a health startup called Grail as a very special kind of future customer for its cloud business.
Its Amazon business team is also grabbing opportunities in the $3 trillion sector. It has been selling medical supplies for several years, which poses a big threat to the U.S. distribution business, and is looking to build out a pharmacy business.
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