John Doerr made a fortune for his venture firm through an early investment in Amazon, when it was just an online bookseller. More than two decades later, he’s betting the company is preparing for a big move into health care.
Speaking at the Forbes Healthcare conference this week, Doerr said Amazon is among the best-positioned companies to take information its learned from customers and use it to their benefit. He’s expecting CEO Jeff Bezos to roll out an offering for medical and health products that resembles Amazon Prime, which has over 100 million users.
“Imagine what it’s going to be like when he rolls out Prime Health, which I’m convinced he will,” said Doerr, chairman of Kleiner Perkins, the firm he joined in 1980. Doerr, who also backed companies including Google and Intuit, led Kleiner’s investment in Amazon in 1995 and sat on the e-retailer’s board until 2010.
Doerr didn’t say whether he’d spoken with Bezos about his plans in health care, but the two remain close. As CNBC reported in March, Doerr was involved in helping to find someone to lead the joint health initiative between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase.
Amazon isn’t the only company that Doerr expects to play a role in pushing health care forward.
Despite Google’s failed efforts with an earlier electronic medical records product called Google Health, Doerr still sees Alphabet as player in the market, and he should know since he’s on the board. Doerr praised Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences unit, as a more promising project, as well as the various artificial intelligence research groups like Google Brain.
He also wouldn’t rule out Microsoft as an enterprise-focused health player, given the software giant’s efforts to get doctors using cloud technology.
Doerr is ultimately hoping that entrepreneurs and tech companies will start to build on top of traditional electronic medical records companies, like Epic and Cerner, rather than replace them altogether.
“This is a theme of mine,” he said.
“I met Larry and Sergey in 1999 and they transformed advertising,” Doerr said
TV ads historically were bought and sold over martini lunches on Madison Avenue in New York, and advertisers made their decision based on personal connections. Google’s Ad Words replaced that method by introducing ways to target users and measure and track performance in real time.
“It propelled Google and the online industry to where today, where it’s bigger than online television advertising,” Doerr said.
He cited U.S. online advertising as a $75 billion industry, while health-care spending is $3.5 trillion, or “50 times bigger,” he said.
To tap into health care, technology companies have to get access to data, which remains locked up and stored in formats that computers can’t access or can’t read. Big tech is aggressively working to address that problem.Amazon just released a service to help mine medical records, Alphabet is working with big hospitals to analyze health data to predict serious illness and Apple is looking to bring patient health information to the iPhone.
“My dream is to bring the efficiency of the ad words market to value-based care, to the health care markets,” Doerr said. “It’ll be harder because the data is literally incarcerated.”