– Amazon has announced the nationwide launch of its telehealth platform, with plans to expand the service from its own employees to other companies.
The Washington-based retail giant announced today that its Amazon Care service, until now limited to employees and their families in its home state, is now available for other Washington companies, and that the platform will be expanded to Amazon employees and other companies throughout the country beginning this summer.
Finally, the company announced that it would offer in-person care to Washington DC, Baltimore and other cities in the near future.
The long-rumored announcement puts Amazon securely in the middle of the retail telehealth sandbox, with a virtual care platform that could appeal to a wide range of businesses. It is expected to compete in a crowded connected health space with vendors like American Well and Teladoc, as well as with payers and health systems offering their own branded programs.
“By supplying Amazon Care as a workplace benefit, employers are investing in the health and well-being of arguably their most important asset: their employees,” the company said in a press release. “Amazon Care enables employers to provide access to high quality medical care within 60 seconds for employees, including options for care around the clock through messaging or video. Amazon Care gives instant access to a range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, preventive care, sexual health, prescription requests, refills, and delivery, and much more.”
Amazon unveiled the platform roughly 18 months ago, offering virtual care through an mHealth app and on-demand house calls for employees and their families in Washington. In doing so, the company helped to elevate the direct-to-consumer telehealth market, where retail companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple were beginning to compete with Walmart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and health systems to capture the attention of consumers who didn’t have primary care providers or who were looking for more convenient ways to access on-demand services.
The coronavirus pandemic has only added to the urgency, pushing more services online and away from hospitals, doctors’ offices and other healthcare sites.
“Amazon Care addresses a wide spectrum of patient needs through its primary care and urgent care offerings,” the company said in its press release. “Patients can access preventive care such as annual vaccinations, health screenings, and lifestyle advice. The service also supports patients’ wellness needs, including nutrition, pre-pregnancy planning, sexual health, help to quit smoking, and more. For immediate needs, patients can use Amazon Care to assess and treat illnesses and injuries on demand.”
The announcement could spur a new round of retail healthcare offerings or telehealth partnerships, such as the recently announced merger of Doctor On Demand and Grand Rounds.
“This is a very exciting chess move from Amazon Care,” Taqee Khaled, head of strategy and a healthcare consultant for the consulting firm Nerdery, said in an e-mail to mHealthIntelligence. “A lot of folks will look at this on the outside and not realize how extensively Amazon has been preparing for this moment by obsessively striving to serve their own people exquisitely well. In their iterative process, where fast failure is not just expected but encouraged, they have tried and failed as much – or more – than they’ve succeeded. Along the way, they probably learned a lot and tabled several things for future use toward external competitive advantage.”
“That they’re ready to go national with this is a fearsome prospect for other platforms – and commences what will likely be the digital healthcare equivalent of a Hundred Years War,” he added. “To date, many startups and maturing companies play in this space. … But Amazon perfecting the last mile, pharmaceutical management, virtual care, and – yes, expect it – brick and mortar, may truly mean ‘the end (of traditional health systems) is nigh.”