Dr. Amazon Takes a Third Jab at Medical Care

Columnist Ed Tobias explores Amazon Clinic's virtual healthcare offerings

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner image for Ed Tobias' column

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.

Recommended Reading
banner for

Dr. Amazon Will See You Now: Online Retail Giant to Acquire Healthcare Services Company

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.

Comments

Paula mieczkowski avatar

Paula mieczkowski

I’m thinking this is way outta Amazons reach and will fail. They are losing ground financially. Bleeding money. Probably last ditch effort for them. I sure wouldn’t want my medical advice or drugs from them. Right now, this country is going through a medical crisis that needs to be addressed asap. Caregivers, nurses aids. Even private pay agencies aren’t able to entice people to work in this field. There are a lot of baby boomers left in crisis. Kids out of town and no one to care for us. I was able to snag an aid every 7 days to lift my leg in the damn shower. I hate only getting a shower once a damn week. Of cou, I’m clean and take care of myself but I need help with a ton of other things. Most MSrs do. Don’t need nursing home, just 4 hrs a week cna. Saw my governor last week, Jim Justice. Nice enough man. Told him about this crisis. He agreed but offered no solutions. I mentioned free training, sign on bonuses. Received no response and he moved on to other guests. Now he’s decided to run for Senator. As good as a Republican that I am….well, talk is cheap. If I could get to Charleston and meet with him, I would. Monday, I’ll start my paper trail to him as well as any and all elected officials as I can.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Good for you, Paula. We all have to keep on the people we elect and to elect only those who, at lest appear to, have answers to our healthcare issues.

Ed

Reply
Donna Maier avatar

Donna Maier

I am very interested in what your program has to offer. I am looking forward to seeing things in a different way. I have been living with MS for 30 years now and I am open to all different views.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks for the comment, Donna. Different views are important for us all. I wish more people were receptive to them.

Ed

Reply

Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here