By Sy Mukherjee
April 5, 2018

The prospect of Amazon entering the medical arena may have, at least in part, helped set off a flurry of dealmaking among insurers, pharmacy benefits managers, and even retailers. The rumbles inched closer to reality when a joint health care venture between JPMorgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and the tech giant was announced at the beginning of this year.

This joint venture’s purpose is largely aspirational. In essence, the three firms want to pool their resources—which include about one million employees, their health care costs, and data—in a bid to reduce costs and improve actual health outcomes. Countless organizations have attempted to tackle this particular dragon. So the big question is: How exactly will this big-name trio succeed where so many have failed, in a system where care is still strikingly expensive while delivering mediocre outcomes?

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We got at least a few more details on how the venture wants to achieve those goals from JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon himself in his annual shareholder letter released Thursday. It’s by no means a comprehensive action plan; but Dimon’s statements pull back the curtain at least a little bit.

Here’s one major takeaway: Nothing is going to materialize anytime soon. “The effort will start very small, but there is much to do, and we are optimistic,” wrote Dimon. The overall ambitions remain pretty bold, though, according to Dimon. The consortium will tackle issues like: making payment incentives line up with health outcomes; reducing waste and fraud; examining the use of high-cost drugs (including whether they’re over-used or under-used); increasing employees’ easy access to personal health care data; boosting corporate wellness programs; and even taking a look at end-of-life care, which Dimon notes may involve unnecessary and burdensome medical services that patients may not actually want in the first place.

That’s a pretty big mix of controversial, difficult-to-solve issues. But Dimon’s letter does provide some specific criteria by which to judge the Amazon/JPMorgan/Berkshire experiment.

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