Backers pull the plug on Haven Healthcare

When Haven launched in February 2018, the healthcare company made quite a splash both because of the collective power of its backers – Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan – and because of Amazon’s stunning success in commercialising services and revolutionising delivery models.

Still, questions loomed large at the beginning. Amazon and its partners offered minimal detail about the “independent” healthcare company it was creating beyond the notion that the triumvirate was pooling resources to focus on creating technology solutions to “provide US employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost”.

With healthcare making approximately 18% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at the time, lowering related costs was an admirable if vague goal. Now over two years later that lack of clear objective in combination with the outsized scope of the healthcare cost challenge seems to have sunk the venture.

There were other issues that also may have sealed Haven’s fate from the start. Even with 1.2 million combined employees, Amazon and its partners lacked the collective buying power to significantly change the healthcare cost calculus. The companies appointed Dr Atul Gawande, a noted surgeon, author and Harvard professor, who had never led such a major corporate effort. Gawande left Haven in May 2020.

Product development conflicts arose between Haven and Amazon, with both entities developing similar and thus potentially competing telehealth initiatives. Reports surfaced that Haven was in the dark about the telemedicine work Amazon was doing independently.

And with the global pandemic continuing to rage on, shifting healthcare investment priorities elsewhere may have been the final nail in Haven’s coffin. In the joint statement announcing the end of Haven’s operations, its founders said they will apply learnings from Haven and “continue to collaborate informally to design programs tailored to address the specific needs” of their individual employee populations.

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