- Amazon announced plans for a major expansion of its almost two-year-old virtual care program.
- Along with virtual health services now being available for employers nationwide, Amazon Care is expanding its in-person benefit to 20 more cities this year, the e-commerce company said Tuesday.
- Amazon said the expansion is in response to growing demand for its hybrid care offering. Shares in publicly traded virtual care vendors slipped after the expansion was announced, with market leaders Teladoc and Amwell both dropping more than 6% in Tuesday trading.
The pandemic has driven an unprecedented shift to care being delivered outside of traditional healthcare settings. Perhaps no modality has benefited like telehealth, as meteoric patient demand for virtual care coupled with relaxed federal regulations spurred record growth for vendors like Teladoc, Amwell and Included Health.
COVID-19 has also spurred industry interest in digitally enabled primary care, as comprehensive health benefits become more important as a way to attract and retain key talent amid widespread workforce upheaval.
Amazon is looking to address the intersection of these trends with its flagship care delivery product Amazon Care. The product is essentially a virtual-first primary care option, delivering care through groups of providers matched with each patient based on their needs.
Amazon Care launched initially in September 2019 as a pilot program in Washington state, offering free telehealth consults and in-home visits for a fee for its employees and their families, before Amazon expanded the program to employees and outside companies nationwide in the summer of 2021.
The program has two main elements: urgent and primary care telehealth with a nurse or doctor via an app, and in-person care, along with prescription delivery, to the home. Amazon Care provides a wide range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, injury treatment, annual vaccinations and services like family planning.
If a patient's medical needs can't be resolved over video, Amazon Care dispatches a nurse practitioner (part of its nascent "Care Medical" network) to their home for additional care.
Amazon has been steadily ratcheting up the locations where that in-person element is available, pointing to it as Amazon Care's key differentiator in a market cluttered with virtual options.
Currently, in-person care locations are available in Seattle, Boston, Dallas, Austin, Washington, D.C., Arlington, Baltimore and Los Angeles. The more than 20 additional cities Amazon plans to expand in-person care to this year include major metropolitan areas like New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami, the company said Tuesday.
Along with expanding to more cities, Amazon has also been striking deals with some large clients to provide virtual primary care to their employee population. In November, Amazon announced Virginia-based hotel chain Hilton was a client, while new customers unveiled in Tuesday's release include devicemaker Silicon Labs, Washington-based staffing and recruiting firm TrueBlue and Whole Foods, the supermarket chain Amazon acquired in 2017.
The potential of Amazon's heft, technological know-how, logistics infrastructure and consumer reach leveraged in the medical delivery space is a threat to both existing telehealth providers — most of which rely predominantly on revenue brought in through deals with employer and payer clients — and retail chains like CVS Health and Walgreens, which operate their own nationwide networks of medical clinics.
However, the program is more likely to edge out employer-facing point solutions in the near-term, rather than entrenched vendors like Teladoc with a long list of virtual care services, experts told Healthcare Dive last year.
Amazon Care is Big Tech's latest bid to break into the $4.1 trillion healthcare industry. With the product, Amazon is entering an extremely competitive market, sizing up against both traditional telehealth vendors and other new entrants. That includes health insurers, which are increasingly building their own virtual-first primary care programs to try and lower costs.
For example, UnitedHealth, CVS Health's Aetna and Cigna all offer employers virtual primary care plans, while Teladoc made its own virtual primary care pilot broadly available to commercial health plans, employers and other benefit sponsors nationwide late last year.