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Amazon’s health venture with Berkshire and JPMorgan is the ‘epitome of entrepreneurial spirit,’ says Accolade’s Raj Singh

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Accolade CEO Raj Singh speaking at the 2018 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Healthcare in the United States has more than a few problems. Costs are skyrocketing, chronic conditions are becoming more common and health outcomes aren’t getting any better. It’s easy to see why major employers wouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo.

“Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase were saying, ‘I’m so fed up that I’m going to just solve the problem myself,’ ” said Raj Singh, the CEO of healthcare technology company Accolade.

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Speaking on-stage at the 2018 GeekWire Summit, Singh said Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan’s new health venture is a good example for those trying to innovate in the healthcare system.

“They’re really setting an example, which I think is massively important, that says: ‘It’s not good enough anymore. And if public policy’s not going to fix it and the existing ecosystem [isn’t] going to fix it, we’re doing it.’ I love that,” Singh said. “That is the epitome of entrepreneurial spirit, embodied by three massive companies.”

Singh said he doesn’t have any special insight into the venture and what they’re working on, but from what he does know, he’s impressed by the approach.

“Their vision is massive, which is why I love it,” he said. “They’re looking at every component of it and saying: How do we line up incentives the right way?”

The joint venture has an interesting take on the U.S. healthcare problem because it stems from the needs of employers. The venture, which will operate as an independent company, will start by innovating solutions for the U.S. employees of Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan before it expands beyond that group.

Employers sit in an interesting place in the healthcare system. They pay for insurance for more than half of the country, meaning increasing costs hit employers hard.

But they have little direct influence over the system itself. “And those employers are fed up,” Singh said. “That is the first major mega-trend that absolutely has an opportunity to change the way things work.”

Singh said employers want costs to come down but they also want their employees to be happy and healthy.

“The combination of those two things is the first time we’ve gotten close to aligning incentives. If we can align incentives and reach employees… we have an opportunity to move the needle,” Singh said.

But what about Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan? If they’re doing such a bang-up job, isn’t Singh worried about them entering the space?

“I’d put it another way,” he said. “We have to go so fast, so hard that they’re going to chase after us and say, ‘We want to do a deal with you guys.’ That’s got to be our mission. And if we don’t do that, shame on us.”

Watch the full video of GeekWire co-founder John Cook’s interview with Raj Singh at the GeekWire Summit above.

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