Amazon Care has inked deals with multiple companies for telehealth services, executive says

Amazon has signed on multiple employers to its healthcare service, called Amazon Care, as part of the national expansion of its virtual health service benefit, a company executive said Wednesday.

"We have signed multiple companies. We’ve had lots of interest from other companies to use this across the U.S.," Babak Parviz, vice president at Amazon who works on Amazon Care, said at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Health virtual event.

In March, the tech giant announced plans to expand its virtual health service benefit to all its U.S. employees this summer while also making it available to other companies. The move comes after Amazon launched a pilot of Amazon Care in 2019 for its employees and their families in the Seattle region.

The service offers virtual visits, in-person primary care visits at patients' homes or offices and prescription delivery. The on-demand healthcare service enables employees to connect with medical professionals via chat or video conference, typically in less than 60 seconds, and eliminates lengthy wait and travel times to get medical attention, according to Amazon executives.

In March, Amazon Care became available to serve other Washington-based companies. Beginning this summer, Amazon Care will expand its virtual care to companies and Amazon employees in all 50 states. Amazon Care’s in-person service will expand to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and other cities in the coming months, the company said.

Parviz said Amazon was committed to eventually expanding the full Amazon Care service, including in-person services, to all 50 states.

Some health tech players have downplayed Amazon's move into telehealth as it only announced signing up one enterprise client, Precor, a Washington-based fitness equipment company that was acquired by Peloton. Last month, Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic called Amazon Care "overrated" during CNBC's Healthy Returns virtual event.

Parviz said Wednesday that Amazon Care is "very different" from both brick-and-mortar healthcare and telehealth.

"This is something totally new. Some companies have realized, over the course of the pandemic, that going forward the way their workforce is going to be structured and the way the workforce will be working is very different from 2019 or before. Their workforce is going to be more distributed and hybrid and they need a healthcare system that can respond to that quickly. They want to provide healthcare that comes to the person, and instead of asking the person to come to a centralized location," he said. "That has resonated with a lot of companies."

The digital component of Amazon Care connects users with a clinician via chat or video conference in less than 60 seconds. If the user requires an in-person visit with a provider, Amazon Care deploys a mobile clinician who shows up at the user's door typically in 60 minutes, Parviz said.

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"The clinician comes with a kit, such as digital tools and connected device, to listen to heart and lungs and it's live-streamed to remote clinicians," he said, noting that the on-site clinician can perform some diagnostic tests, such as for strep throat,  provide vaccinations and draw blood for lab work. 

The service also can deliver medications to users within 120 minutes, he said.

"If you look at the average time to schedule and see a primary care doctor, it's about 21 days. We've lowered that to 60 seconds. This is quite different from anything we’ve had in the past," he said.

Expanding the digital and on-site healthcare service to all 50 states will be a "heavy lift" for Amazon as it entails medical logistics for lab work and hiring healthcare staff such as medical technicians, nurses and phlebotomists, Parviz acknowledged.

Parviz also said Amazon would need to beef up its healthcare team to expand these services across the country.

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The company is seeing positive feedback from employees using the service, with Amazon Care garnering a star rating of 4.8 out of 5, he said.

"People love this healthcare," he said.

Amazon is currently focused on denser metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for its Amazon Care service but would like to expand to more rural areas.

"Right now, if someone needs instant access, we try to get someone to that GPS location in 60 minutes. To get to that level of fast access, we need a denser area to deploy that logistics infrastructure. In rural areas that would be more difficult. But 100% we’re interested in serving more sparsely populated areas. We hope to develop this to have nationwide, full coverage," he said.

Amazon's success with Amazon Care is not guaranteed. Its highly publicized partnership with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway—a healthcare venture called Haven—shut down in January 2021 after having been formed in 2018.

"We’re not particularly afraid of failure. We're willing to try new things. Our attempt is to do things at scale and reach a lot of people," Parviz said.

Amazon Care's expansion also comes as the tech giant also moves into at-home testing as it got the green light from the FDA to begin hawking its own COVID-19 test directly to consumers.