Amazon Care to Expand Company’s Reach Into Healthcare Services

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by Ed Tobias |

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Would you sign up for healthcare from the place where you buy books, bluejeans, and bagels? Amazon thinks you might, and the company is moving closer to becoming the doctor in your house, according to a report last month by Insider.

Amazon has been dabbling in the healthcare business for a few years. In January 2018, it joined JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway in launching a program called Haven, which aimed to make healthcare easier to obtain, prescription drugs more affordable, and insurance benefits easier to understand. Amazon tried out the idea on its own employees for a few years, but the experiment was unsuccessful and the initiative fizzled earlier this year. 

A couple months before giving up on Haven, though, Amazon made a smaller healthcare move by offering pharmacy services with discounted medications via retail pharmacy partners.

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Skip the waiting room

According to Insider, Amazon is looking to expand its healthcare offerings this year to include virtual doctor appointments via an app, as well as in-home nursing appointments for things like examinations, vaccines, and some testing. 

“Skip the waiting room and start a virtual primary or urgent care visit from the comfort of your home,” Amazon Care‘s website advertises. As Amazon notes, there’s an app for that.

Healthcare customers can use the app to pay for these services via their Amazon account. The cost is billed to the credit card on file for that account or to a health savings account or a flexible spending account. It’s the customer’s responsibility to submit any receipts to an insurance plan for reimbursement. According to Amazon, the out-of-pocket costs depend on a client’s healthcare plan.

Early this year, Amazon Care announced plans to begin operating in the summer in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. It had already been operating in Washington state. By mid-year, about 40,000 people had been enrolled, according to Insider, but a large number are Amazon employees. Sources told the news site that Amazon plans to expand these services to Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, and Boston later this year, and to 16 additional cities next year, although that number could change.

The move by Amazon into hands-on healthcare services follows its continued development of wearable devices that monitor everything from a person’s daily steps to their temperature and pulse, and even the stress level of their voice.

Is healthcare by Amazon for you?

I buy a lot of things from Amazon, but I’m undecided about whether I’d want it to provide my healthcare services. Multiple sclerosis is a unique illness, and I feel strongly that the best MS care requires a specialist. I’m not sure that a service like Amazon Care would provide me with the caliber of healthcare provider I need. I feel the same about health insurance plans that limit my choice of doctors.

On the other hand, Amazon has certainly made my shopping easier, at a reasonable cost. For many, the apparent ease of access to Amazon Care may be appealing.

Would you use telehealth and other healthcare services offered by Amazon? Please share in the comments below. 

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

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