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Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

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News, Analysis, Trends, Management Innovations for
Clinical Laboratories and Pathology Groups

Hosted by Robert Michel
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Despite high-hopes and much fanfare, the collaboration failed to transform healthcare and lower healthcare costs for everyday Americans as many anticipated it would

Another anticipated “disruptor” to today’s healthcare market is closing its doors. Three years ago, in 2018, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) announced a joint venture to enter into the healthcare market and use their combined market leverage to secure lower-cost healthcare for their 1.2 million employees. At that time, healthcare business experts suggested Haven Healthcare (Haven), as the non-profit joint venture was named, might become a transformative healthcare model other companies could follow.

But that was not to be. In January, the companies announced Haven would close its doors in February. Why did it fail to accomplish its goals? And how will its demise affect the healthcare benefits provided to the thousands of people employed at these companies? The answers to these questions should be of interest to pathologists and medical laboratory managers who want to position their clinical labs as high-quality, added-value contributors to patient care.

One Expert’s Opinion on Demise of Haven Healthcare

In an article he penned for Harvard Business Review, titled, “Why Haven Healthcare Failed,” John S. Toussaint MD, an internist, former healthcare CEO, and founder and Executive Chairman of Catalysis, a non-profit healthcare educational institute, outlined three major reasons for Haven’s closing:

  • Insufficient Market Power: According to Toussaint, the three companies simply did not have the market power to dominate a large enough share of any local market. In addition, with a combined 1.2 million employees, the companies did not have enough employees to incentivize providers into lowering prices.
  • Perverse Incentives: In the current healthcare environment, US insurers and providers make huge profits from treating disease. This means there is little incentive to keep people out of hospitals or accept the risks associated with fixed-price capitation. 
  • Poor Timing: The COVID-19 pandemic forced providers to focus on and manage the crisis, which, in turn, caused them to postpone or even cancel elective and non-emergency medical procedures, resulting in financial hits and the unwillingness to take on the uncertainty associated with new, possibly dubious arrangements.

Why Is It Hard to Disrupt Healthcare?

Jeff Becker, Principal Analyst, Healthcare, CB Insights, told Quartz, “Haven is yet another cautionary tale to outsiders [who] hope to disrupt the industry that their ambition is likely unrealistic and that solving key industry problems proves to be far more difficult than most anticipate.”

Other experts point to a vague plan, an overly ambitious strategy, difficulty retaining top talent, a lack of visible progress, and the divergence of interests between the three companies as potential reasons for Haven’s demise, Quartz reported.

“Haven’s decision to cease operations proves just how hard it is to disrupt the healthcare system in America,” Robert Andrews, JD (above), a former US Congressman for the state of New Jersey, and CEO of Health Transformation Alliance, told Forbes. “Even three of the largest and most influential employers in the country found the challenge a very steep one. We share with Haven’s founders the conviction that employer sponsorship is key.” (Photo copyright: United States House of Representatives.)

Did Haven Healthcare Demonstrate Any Innovation?

It is unclear what the collaboration accomplished or what exactly led to its demise, but it does seem that some positive developments were created through the venture. 

According to Forbes, Haven Healthcare stated on its now-defunct website, “In the past three years, Haven explored a wide range of healthcare solutions, as well as piloted new ways to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable. Moving forward, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase and Co. will leverage these insights and continue to collaborate informally to design programs tailored to address the specific needs of their own employee populations.”

At least one of the three partners may have anticipated Haven’s closure and taken proactive steps. In January of 2020, Dark Daily reported that Amazon Care launched a pilot program which offers virtual primary care to its Seattle employees, and features both telehealth and in-home care services, including clinical laboratory testing.

At that time, we noted the similarities with Haven Healthcare.

And in “Amazon Building Labs to Do COVID-19 Testing,” Dark Daily’s sister publication The Dark Report covered how, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon built and now operates multiple clinical laboratories for testing its employees.

Amazon has a history of entering an industry and successfully disrupting it. Its willingness to build lab testing facilities to do its own COVID-19 testing may be the first step in a multi-year strategy to enter the clinical laboratory industry and disrupt it by offering better quality lab testing services at a cheaper price.  

Thus, it is likely these medical laboratories will continue to deliver clinical testing even after the pandemic has officially ended and will compete with local independent clinical laboratories.

—JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Why Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon Gave up on Their Venture to Disrupt US Healthcare

Amazon’s Haven Healthcare Venture to Shut Down

Why Haven Healthcare Failed

Haven Is Shutting Down, 3 Years After It Terrified Health-Care Investors

Amazon Care Pilot Program Offers Virtual Primary Care to Seattle Employees; Features Both Telehealth and In-home Care Services That Include Clinical Laboratory Testing