New Amazon-Led Healthcare Venture Taps Surgeon, Author Gawande as CEO

The new, independent, healthcare-focused company Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase plan to launch made a big splash when it was first announced in January, but few details have emerged since.

On Wednesday, the trio of American business heavyweights revealed a little more. They said Atul Gawande, a surgeon and author who is well known within the healthcare industry, will serve as CEO of the still unnamed joint venture. His first day is July 9, the businesses said. They also said the new company will be headquartered in Boston, where Gawande lives and works.

Gawande is something of a renaissance man. He’s a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School. In addition, Gawande is a journalist and the author of several books, including “The Checklist Manifesto.” He has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1998, and contributes articles to the magazine’s print edition and website about controlling costs in the U.S. healthcare system and other topics. He’s also the founding executive director of Ariadne Labs, a Boston-based organization that seeks to foster innovation in healthcare.

Earlier this year, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM) said their goals in forming the company were to improve their U.S. employees’ satisfaction with the healthcare they receive, and to reduce the cost of care for these workers. Together, the three businesses employ more than 1.1 million people.

“I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all,” Gawande said in a news release.

Amazon’s healthcare ambitions have been the subject of widespread speculation. The Seattle e-commerce giant reportedly sells over-the-counter medications under a partnership with Michigan-based Perrigo (NYSE: PRGO). Some industry observers believe that Amazon, with its 100 million-plus subscribers to its Prime two-day shipping service, could be well positioned to begin also shipping prescription drugs and other types of healthcare products to consumers.

But from what little information Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan have made public about their joint venture, it appears to be focused on their employees, not their customers.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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