5:51 PM
Jun 22, 2018
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Gawande’s Cheesecake Factory

Why Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J. P. Morgan picked Atul Gawande to revamp healthcare

Details about the healthcare organization Atul Gawande will run for Amazon.com Inc., Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and J. P. Morgan Chase & Co. are scarce -- basic facts, starting with its name, have not been disclosed. Still, enough information has been released to make educated guesses about its focus and possible impacts.

Based on his experience and the cultures of the three companies, Gawande’s first steps are likely to include using technology to change the way employees access care, trying to identify unnecessary or low-value care and looking for ways to standardize common procedures and treatments.

On June 20, America’s largest online retailer, the holding company and the financial services company announced they had hired Gawande as CEO of a new, non-profit company that will “address U.S. employee healthcare.”

Few healthcare pundits are as well known or widely respected. Gawande is a physician, biomedical researcher and founder of Ariadne Labs, a collaboration between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health that designs and helps implement improvements in healthcare delivery.

He is a prominent author who, by his own description, devotes substantial time to writing for the New Yorker magazine as well as public speaking, and also is the chair of Lifebox Foundation Inc., a non-profit seeking to improve surgery safety globally.

“He’s appropriately identified the key problem, which is the spread of effective interventions.”

Don Berwick, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan announced in January that they would combine resources to create a new company to “address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs.” They said the company would “operate as an independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

The three companies, which employ more than 1.2 million people around the world, constitute a large laboratory for healthcare experimentation and bring substantial technological, business and financial sophistication to the new venture.

They provided few details, beyond a focus on “technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

The three companies have dribbled out a few more droplets of information in recent months about...

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