Dr. Amazon Takes a Third Jab at Medical Care
Columnist Ed Tobias explores Amazon Clinic's virtual healthcare offerings
For the past few years, the company that brings us everything from books to basketballs has been experimenting with doing the same with medical care.
Of course, it’s Amazon. In 2018, the company launched a project called Haven in partnership with a pair of financial giants, with the goal of providing healthcare services to over a million employees. The idea behind the project was “to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable.” Haven lasted only about three years before its plug was pulled.
In 2019, Amazon launched another healthcare effort — a telemedicine service called Amazon Care. “Skip the waiting room and start a virtual primary or urgent care visit from the comfort of your home,” the website advertised.
The service was initially only available to Amazon employees in the Seattle area, but later expanded to employees in all 50 states as well as other employers. In-person services also were provided in several major metropolitan areas.
But in August, Amazon announced it will shut down Amazon Care at the end of this year. “Although our enrolled members have loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it is not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers we have been targeting, and wasn’t going to work long-term,” said Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, in an email to employees that was shared with The New York Times.
Enter Amazon Clinic
Amazon’s latest healthcare venture, announced earlier this month, is a virtual service called Amazon Clinic. Patients (Amazon calls them “customers”) go to the website and select from a list of about 20 basic health conditions — things such as acne, cold sores, acid reflux, and urinary tract infections (UTIs) — as well as medication refills for illnesses such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and hypothyroidism.
Patients then choose from a list of telehealth providers and complete a short questionnaire. Finally, they’re matched with a clinician and connect with them through messages on a secure portal. After the consultation, the clinician will send a personalized treatment plan via the portal and any necessary prescriptions to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. To start, Amazon Clinic will be available in 32 states.
Testing Amazon Clinic
Florida is one of the states where Amazon Clinic is available, so I was able to take the website for a small test drive, using a problem that’s common for people with multiple sclerosis: a UTI. I was offered a choice between two online clinics, each costing $35 and offering a response time of two hours or less. One clinic provided pictures and names of four board-certified physicians on its staff. The other showed pictures of six people in white coats without any other identification.
The next step required filling out the patient questionnaire, but I went no further because it also required having, or creating, an Amazon account. I think that could be a problem for some people.
What does it cost?
Amazon says the cost of a consultation will often be the same as or less than the average insurance co-pay, and I think $35 probably meets that goal. But Amazon Clinic doesn’t yet accept insurance for its consultations.
Is it worth 35 bucks out of your pocket to get a doctor to provide an online diagnosis and write a prescription? (Insurance, by the way, can be used to pay for that script.) And will the third time be the charm for Dr. Amazon?
Let me know what you think in the comments below. You’re also invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
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.