Amazon Launches “Amazon Care,” National Virtual Health Care

Amazon is about to make health care as convenient as two-day shipping.

Providing convenience to American households is part of what makes Amazon so successful—it gets you your packages quickly (especially if you sign up for Amazon Prime benefits), offers TV and films to stream and books to download, and provides ways to save money on products you use every day. Now, Amazon plans on providing yet another benefit to Americans: health care.

Recently, Amazon launched a virtual health care service nationwide, known as Amazon Care, with the goal of making health care services more accessible to Americans. According to a Pew Research Study, “Eighteen percent of Americans live more than 10 miles away from their nearest hospital, and 24 percent live between five and 10 miles away.” Amazon plans to bridge that gap by connecting medical providers to patients quickly via an app.

Amazon Care LogoCourtesy Amazon

What is Amazon Care?

Amazon Care is Amazon’s answer to traditional health care. A pilot program was initially designed for Amazon employees and their families in Washington state in 2019. After a successful program, Amazon Care has recently expanded to all Amazon employees and their families in the 50 states, as well as individuals who work for companies that participate in Amazon Care as a health provider.

Virtual care is now available nationwide, and in-person services are anticipated to be expanded to at least 20 new cities in 2022, including Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco.

How does Amazon Care work?

Amazon Care partners with medical professionals, who connect via the Amazon Care app and usually respond within a minute via messaging or video call. Anyone who is insured via Amazon Care can log into the app to request virtual or in-person visits, 24 hours a day, year round. “We’ve brought our on-demand urgent and primary care services to patients nationwide,” says Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care, in a press release.

This model reduces unnecessary time spent calling to speak to a medical professional, making an appointment, and travel time. Patients can choose their medical professionals just like they would with traditional health care services. Prescriptions are also handled via the app and are delivered to the patient’s home, eliminating doctor visits and pharmacy pickup.

What services does Amazon Care offer?

Amazon health care offers telehealth consultations and virtual and emergency visits. According to Amazon Care’s website, “Amazon Care provides immediate access to a wide range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, preventive care, sexual health, and prescription requests and refills.” When issues can’t be addressed via video, a nurse will conduct a home visit, whether it’s to draw blood or administer a vaccine or flu shot. In-home visits do cost an additional fee, however.

What is the cost of Amazon Care?

Amazon’s health care is covered if you’re an employee of Amazon or a company that participates in Amazon Care. If you require additional services, such as at-home care, you may incur extra costs that are determined based on your health plan.

Amazon Care works directly with some health insurance plans, and they recommend connecting with your health care plan about options. Depending on your current health insurance, you may have to pay a copay or deductible, as you likely would with other coverage.

How does Amazon Care compare to Walmart Health?

Walmart Health purchased MeMD, an online health platform, in 2021. Walmart has a few advantages over Amazon Care, such as numerous store locations where people can receive in-person care and potential customers who already shop at their stores. Walmart plans to have 4,000 health clinics by 2029. Walmart’s employees are covered and pay only $4 per telehealth visit. Customers without health insurance can also have a doctor’s visit for a minimal fee. However, Amazon Care may have the upper hand when it comes to digital tools and strategy. Plus, Amazon already has their pharmacy prescription services developed, along with quick delivery through Amazon Prime.

How does Amazon Care compare to Walgreens Village MD?

Amazon has stiff competition from Walgreens, which is also stepping into the health care sector with their recent partnership with Village MD. Patients will be able to see doctors at many Walgreens care clinics as well as connect with telehealth medical professionals via the Walgreens Find Care app. Walgreens Village MD is also accepting different health insurance plans. Walgreens plans to have 600 clinics open by 2025, and by 2027, they plan on 1,000 clinics in more than 30 U.S. cities. Walgreens Village MD will also be serving areas where health care services are not as available.

Sources:

  • Pew Research Center: “How far Americans live from the closest hospital differs by community type”
  • Amazon: “Amazon Care now available nationwide as demand continues to grow”
  • Business Wire: “Walgreens and VillageMD to Open 500 to 700 Full-Service Doctor Offices within Next Five Years”
  • American Hospital Association: “Walgreens and Amazon Step Up Efforts to Disrupt Primary Care”

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Lauren David
Lauren David is a freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, who is now based in Basque Country, Spain. She writes about food, gardening, travel, and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Huffpost Personal, Greatist, Trivago Magazine and more. When she's not at her desk, you'll find her in the vegetable garden, improvising in the kitchen, making herbal infusions or planning her next outdoor project.