See Amazon's new Prime delivery initiative

Amazon has announced a new program to create small businesses that can deliver its packages in branded vans and uniforms.

Posted: Jun 29, 2018 1:01 AM
Updated: Jun 29, 2018 1:30 AM

In the last 24 hours, Amazon announced a program that all but franchises its last-mile deliveries and bought the popular online pharmacy PillPack. At first glance, these may seem like utterly unrelated deals -- another case of Jeff Bezos digging into his very deep pockets to reach even further into your life.

Step back, though, and you can see these two developments coming together to make dealing with a pharmacy as easy as thumbing your phone: Place your order and an Amazon-branded truck delivers your amoxicillin, along with tissues, all-natural cough drops and organic chicken noodle soup from Whole Foods.

Right now, going to the pharmacy can be a tough pill to swallow. Get your prescription, schlep to the drug store, wait in line. It's even worse when you're fevered and sneezing and generally feeling lousy. Bezos is betting you'd rather have those meds delivered to your door, along with everything else Amazon sells, in almost no time at all.

"This is going to have serious implications for the brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies," said Arielle Trzcinski, a senior analyst at Forrester who covers health care and technology.

Related: Amazon buys online pharmacy PillPack

CVS recently took steps in this direction. Just last week, it announced the start of next-day home delivery of prescriptions -- for $4.99. "To me that's too little too late," Trzcinski said. "They're going to charge people per delivery."

Trzcinski can see Amazon including prescription deliveries in Prime memberships, which cost $119 annually. Amazon already offers same-day delivery in many cities, an advantage over CVS and others. "I could come home from the hospital or doctor's office and my prescription is already waiting for me," Trzcinski said.

Amazon paid about $1 billion for PillPack, according to the Wall Street Journal. PillPack already delivers prescriptions by mail, as do startups like Capsule. But Amazon brings its enormous scale, delivery and logistics expertise to the field, something that promises to make the entire experience faster and more efficient for consumers.

Alexa may play a role in this, too. Amazon's smart speaker could remind you to take your medicine or refill your prescription. Granted, that raises all kinds of privacy issues, such as how Amazon will protect sensitive health information and how it will use the data. And it would require Amazon to take the added step of making sure anything it's doing with your data complies with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Amazon declined to comment on the PillPack acquisition beyond its press release.

Related: Amazon wants you to start a business to deliver its packages

Meanwhile, Amazon's decision to essentially franchise so-called "last mile" deliveries gives it another advantage over competitors. The company is launching a program under which most anyone with $10,000 can launch a business delivering Amazon Prime packages in Amazon-branded vans. It's a clever way of gaining greater control over the last leg of a package's trip from an Amazon sorting center to your doorstep.

It also could give Amazon a means of getting that prescription into your hands as quickly as possible.

"When you think about health care and drugs, speed is of the utmost importance to the customer," said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights. "As Amazon gets into health care, the distribution and the time from the order to a customer door step becomes that much more crucial."

Amazon's enormous IT infrastructure, sprawling supply chain, deep understanding of logistics, and its ability to quickly scale up puts it in a unique position to fundamentally shake up health care, said Nicholas Finill, a senior retail analyst at ABI Research. "Amazon has already made plays to disrupt groceries, fashion and now it moving into health care is no surprise at all," he said.

Others aren't so sure. Health care is an enormous, complex industry -- one that "doesn't change that rapidly," said Lawton R. Burns, professor of health-care management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "It gives me pause thinking about what's going to drastically change here."

PillPack has been in the game since 2013, and Burns says its not yet clear what Amazon might do with it. And he said other large tech companies have stumbled when trying to enter the health care space. For example, Google discontinued Google Health in 2012 after it didn't have "the broad impact" it hoped for. The service allowed users to voluntarily upload their health records into one consolidated system.

"I would suggest going slowly and deliberately and learning more about the health care market," Burns said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 13731

Reported Deaths: 652
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89824
Lauderdale68056
Madison65321
Scott59210
Neshoba51431
Jones49215
Forrest48635
DeSoto4746
Leake38810
Holmes36923
Rankin3566
Jackson29613
Copiah2844
Attala27314
Monroe24624
Lincoln24520
Leflore24126
Harrison2376
Newton2273
Lamar2205
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Pike20011
Adams18815
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Warren1547
Washington1535
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Oktibbeha13910
Covington1311
Clarke13116
Smith13110
Kemper12710
Chickasaw12712
Wayne1250
Lafayette1243
Carroll11310
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Lee1085
Coahoma1063
Clay993
Winston981
Lawrence941
Hancock8811
Itawamba857
Simpson850
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Montgomery801
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Jefferson Davis712
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Panola622
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Perry492
Tunica483
Jefferson400
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Choctaw322
Stone300
Webster281
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George201
Benton150
Alcorn141
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 15650

Reported Deaths: 580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2033111
Jefferson163091
Montgomery127433
Marshall6509
Tuscaloosa55812
Lee51032
Franklin4676
Shelby44719
Tallapoosa40063
Butler35912
Chambers33724
Madison3024
Baldwin2749
Elmore2707
Walker2391
Etowah23811
DeKalb2263
Dallas2063
Coffee2061
Lowndes19310
Sumter1936
Morgan1761
Houston1724
Autauga1683
Calhoun1463
Pike1450
Choctaw1444
Colbert1422
Marengo1416
Russell1370
Lauderdale1352
Bullock1333
Hale1324
Randolph1247
Wilcox1187
Marion11410
Barbour1131
Clarke1092
St. Clair1041
Pickens934
Greene914
Talladega912
Chilton871
Dale850
Cullman780
Limestone770
Jackson712
Winston670
Covington671
Washington655
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Crenshaw602
Bibb591
Blount491
Lawrence430
Escambia433
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Geneva350
Coosa341
Monroe332
Cherokee332
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Clay272
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
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