Amazon’s foray into the field of virtual primary care
Amazon is expanding its Amazon Care telemedicine platform to employers nationwide, marking the company’s first push into health care service. The tech giant recently revealed that it will immediately extend the service to Washington employers who want to buy it for their workers. Starting summer of 2021, Amazon Care will be available to Amazon employees in all 50 states, as well as private employers around the country.
Amazon Care will provide in-person facilities that are now confined to Seattle in the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia markets, where Amazon is constructing a second headquarters that will hold more than 25,000 employees.
Currently open to Amazon workers in Washington state, Amazon Care is an app that links users virtually with physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses that can offer services and treatment over the phone 24 hours a day. In the Seattle area, in-person services such as pharmacy distribution and house-call services from nurses who can take blood tests and provide similar services are supplemented.
How does Amazon care work?
Amazon Care began as a pilot program in Seattle two years ago to provide virtual urgent care visits for Amazon workers in Washington state, with free telehealth consultations and fee-based in-home visits from nurses for testing and vaccinations. Since then, the program has evolved into more of a primary care operation.
There are two aspects of Amazon Care:-
1) Virtual care, which connects patients to medical specialists via the Amazon Care app (available for Android and iOS) and enables patients to chat live with a nurse or doctor through in-app messaging or video
2) In-person care, in which Amazon Care will direct a medical professional to a patient’s home for extra care ranging from regular blood withdrawals to lung auscultations, as well as bringing prescriptions right to their door
What sets Amazon Care apart from its competitors
- One of the reasons for Amazon Care’s early success is that it is singularly focused on patients and their changing needs. Amazon Care provides immediate access to a variety of urgent and primary care facilities, such as COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, sickness and injury treatment, preventive care, sexual wellbeing, medication orders, refills, and distribution, and much more
- Amazon Care also assists patients in evaluating their work-from-home setups to improve joint and muscle health, and a separate program for people who have trouble sleeping has been developed
- Patients can also use the Amazon Care app to access engagement tools such as getting after-care summaries and arranging follow-up appointments and reminders
- Amazon Care formed a home-based partnership with Intermountain Healthcare and Ascension to promote healthcare policies to designate a home as a place of service
- On choosing in-person treatment, the app gives an updated ETA for when the physician or medical technician will arrive, which is remarkably close to how the company’s main app handles package delivery
- Neighborhood Health Centers are in-person treatment services that are open late during the week and on weekends to meet employees’ schedules.
Critical aspects of Amazon care worth noting
- Two big emerging developments in healthcare delivery are addressed in this offering-Telemedicine and in-home care: In early March 2021, Amazon confirmed its membership in a home healthcare advocacy group, including its filings to run Amazon Care in multiple states. Moving Health at Home seeks to foster home-based treatment, a pattern that is already evident in chronic care and post-acute care management models that use remote patient monitoring
- The offering is aimed at employers rather than health plans: Employers who have Amazon Care as a workplace advantage are investing in the health and well-being of their most valuable asset-their workers. Amazon will minimize operating administration expenses by contracting directly with employers, which will lower the cost of care and the cost passed on to both employers and workers
- It sets a higher bar for incumbent’s performance: Employers can provide workers with high-quality medical care in as little as 60 seconds with Amazon Care, which also includes options for care around the clock through messaging or video. Amazon has correctly identified a crucial void in today’s telehealth experiences: 60-second access to a medical professional. Amazon Care reduces long wait times and travel times to see a doctor by providing care in the comfort of the patient’s home, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
To date, Amazon’s healthcare initiatives haven’t exactly set the market on fire – except to cause a frenzy whenever it makes a healthcare announcement. Haven Healthcare, a much-hyped campaign, shut down earlier this year. The Pillpack purchase, which pioneered an innovative way to distribute prescription drugs to homes, hasn’t shaken up the pharma retailing or distribution industries, and it’s only a minor player in the big picture.
Amazon continues to test innovative and promising innovations, such as Alexa voice services. It has also released several other projects, including the Halo health and fitness wearable and the Amazon Health Lake data management platform.
Although Amazon’s potential to scale is in its DNA, Amazon Care deployments are actually on the smaller end of the spectrum, as the service is primarily targeted at Amazon employees. If Amazon Care is ready for prime time, and if the business model is successful, only time can tell. Though Amazon Care is currently focusing on employees, future collaborations with health insurance providers will be beneficial.