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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.

Cases: 468498

Reported Deaths: 9100
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison31907468
Hinds30552569
DeSoto29532342
Jackson22868335
Rankin21016355
Lee14393214
Madison13961263
Jones13053215
Forrest12879231
Lauderdale11244292
Lowndes10148171
Lamar9972122
Pearl River8569208
Lafayette8008136
Hancock7110107
Oktibbeha6764117
Washington6756146
Neshoba6350200
Monroe6304156
Warren6267159
Panola6036122
Pontotoc599292
Bolivar5960143
Marshall5917115
Union558885
Pike5424133
Lincoln5192127
Alcorn509388
George454766
Scott447392
Leflore4377138
Tippah431780
Itawamba429192
Prentiss429074
Copiah423883
Simpson4238108
Wayne419663
Tate418999
Adams4174109
Yazoo411486
Sunflower4057104
Covington404891
Marion399699
Leake389784
Coahoma385996
Newton360273
Grenada3489100
Stone342657
Tishomingo320987
Attala318285
Jasper308261
Winston298191
Clay282672
Chickasaw277464
Clarke271784
Holmes257685
Calhoun256939
Smith241546
Yalobusha215447
Tallahatchie213849
Walthall203457
Lawrence202431
Greene202045
Perry195053
Amite191251
Webster191141
Noxubee173437
Montgomery168652
Jefferson Davis164041
Carroll158936
Tunica146533
Benton137531
Kemper136538
Claiborne124134
Choctaw123824
Humphreys122036
Franklin114127
Quitman100925
Wilkinson98335
Jefferson85832
Sharkey61620
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 757893

Reported Deaths: 12784
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1082301712
Mobile694251158
Madison47738562
Baldwin35347420
Shelby34758281
Tuscaloosa32576495
Montgomery32249645
Lee21576200
Calhoun19621363
Morgan19061307
Etowah18363413
Marshall17028252
Houston15881337
St. Clair14724270
Limestone13908178
Elmore13812239
Cullman13756228
Lauderdale12909263
Talladega12124200
DeKalb11705220
Walker10047303
Autauga9371119
Blount9272146
Jackson8970132
Coffee8550150
Colbert8229160
Dale8162142
Escambia632298
Tallapoosa6255165
Covington6214153
Chilton6152128
Russell586753
Franklin558292
Chambers5155127
Dallas4569173
Marion4490114
Clarke447070
Pike439188
Geneva415999
Lawrence4002101
Winston399982
Bibb388975
Barbour334667
Marengo317778
Monroe306844
Butler305878
Pickens296166
Henry288550
Randolph288255
Hale282981
Cherokee275649
Fayette268569
Washington241844
Crenshaw226962
Clay219260
Macon211154
Cleburne205746
Lamar184638
Conecuh173337
Lowndes167856
Coosa160031
Wilcox153033
Bullock145642
Perry132430
Sumter122635
Greene117941
Choctaw71925
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