Amazon Care, a healthcare service for Amazon employees, offers virtual and in-person medical care. And it may predict how healthcare is delivered in the future.
Amazon is a giant in the world of e-commerce, entertainment, and technology. The company has ventured into creating and marketing its own product lines, including devices incorporating artificial intelligence (AI), like Amazon’s wildly popular virtual assistant, Alexa. And now Amazon is working to use the company’s innovative and high-tech expertise to change the field of healthcare.
The results of Amazon’s pilot healthcare venture, Amazon Care, could potentially influence how medical service is delivered in the future on a broad scale. In fact, if Amazon Care proves successful, it may demonstrate how telemedicine and other technologies, interfaced with any needed in-person care, could make disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment quicker and less expensive.
Understanding Amazon Care
Amazon Care developed out of an initiative called Haven, created in early 2018 by Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway. Leaders from these corporate giants announced they wanted to find ways to solve the problem of escalating healthcare costs by concentrating, in large part, on how technology can improve employees’ access to care that’s “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”
To that end, in fall of 2019, Amazon launched, Amazon Care, an innovative healthcare program limited, for now, to Amazon employees in the Seattle area. Enrolling in Amazon Care doesn’t affect employees’ relationship with their current doctors or impact their health insurance eligibility or enrollment. Instead, Amazon describes Amazon Care as a new benefit for employees offering “the best of both virtual and in-person care.”
It relies heavily on telemedicine, via a virtual primary care clinic. However, depending on a person’s specific needs, in-person care is also available.
How Amazon Care delivers access for healthcare
Amazon Care’s website emphasizes the healthcare services provided are individualized — “built around you” — and a virtual clinic is promoted as a “first stop” for a host of medical needs. Instead of making an appointment for weeks in the future to consult with an internist or a family practitioner about health concerns, the telemedicine component of Amazon Care uses text and video to quickly answer questions and provide information about colds and other infections, rashes, minor injuries, vaccinations, contraceptives, preventative health measures, and STD testing.
When needed, Amazon Care participants will be recommended to receive in-person treatment (including a home visit from a nurse, if appropriate) or sent to a specialist. What’s more, a summary of a treatment plan, diagnosis, and invoice for services are all provided online immediately for patients to review.
Amazon Care offers quick answers
Amazon Care does not employ doctors and nurses but has contracted with a Seattle area clinic, Oasis Medical Group, to provide the medical expertise for the program.
Amazon Care services include:
- Video consults. Amazon employees participating in Amazon Care download an in-app for video visits with a clinician (a doctor, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse) for advice, answers, diagnoses, treatment, or referrals.
- Care chat. For immediate health advice, in-app text chats connect participants to a clinician in moments.
- Mobile care. During a video care visit, if a clinician thinks a patient needs in-person assessment or treatment, a registered nurse (if the patient agrees) is sent to the patient’s home or other location within the service area. The nurse may perform certain tests, such as a swab test for strep throat, or take blood samples for lab analysis. The nurse may also perform certain physical exams and give common vaccinations, too.
- Prescription medications. If a clinician prescribes prescription medications, a courier from Amazon Care can deliver most prescriptions to the patient within two hours.
Although not available 24/7, Amazon Care has extended hours, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. It doesn’t offer emergency care, and patients with an urgent, serious health problem are told to head to their nearest emergency department.
Bottom line: Amazon Care and the future of healthcare
Financial analysts note healthcare is clearly an area Amazon is actively pursuing in multiple ways. The company is involved in everything from medical record technology to developing high-tech fitness wearables. Amazon has also teamed up with a new research effort, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to deliver and retrieve tests for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Seattle’s King County, an area region of Washington severely impacted by the novel coronavirus.
When it comes to Amazon Care, although it’s now limited to Seattle employees, there is speculation Amazon may eventually expand the concept as a direct-to-consumer healthcare service in its own right.
What’s more, if Amazon Care proves popular with patients and appears to benefit both health and cut medical costs, it could well influence the way healthcare is delivered by other companies and medical centers in the not too distant future.
May 18, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN