Amazon Care has grown rapidly since it was first piloted to the company’s Seattle-based employees in 2019. Currently, the tech giant’s virtual care service is available to patients in all 50 states, offering both virtual doctors’ visits and house visits sourcing its clinical staff through the clinical provider Care Medical, as well as prescriptions. Its in-person services which follow-up blood draws and exams however have been limited to patients in Washington state, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
An estimated 40,000 people were enrolled in Amazon Care at the start of summer however according to Insider most of them consisted of Amazon employees. It is now being reported that Amazon will begin offering in-person options in Atlanta, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, San Jose and St. Louis by the end of 2022.
Speaking to Wall Street Journal about Amazon’s health ambitions Amazon’s Vice President Babak Parviz said, “We have to approach this with a sense of humility. We know that there is a lot we don’t know. But also with a sense of optimism. We do intend to do something good.”
Amazon has been expanding its reach in the healthcare space at an impressive rate, most notably with its acquisition of the New Hampshire-based mail order prescription service, PillPack in 2018. In November, the tech giant launched Amazon Pharmacy which offers both delivery and discounts in brick-and-mortar locations such as CVS.
The company is also in the process of developing its capabilities with its cloud computing arm Amazon Web Services, AWS, to create a new operating system representing just one slice of the tech giant’s plans to become just as ubiquitous in healthcare as it is in other markets. Last June Amazon also launched Amazon Dx, an at-home rapid Covid-19 testing service where customers can order a kit from Amazon.com and send it back for testing, getting results within 24 hours.
Additionally, the AWS healthcare incubator will unveil its 10 participating start-ups at the end of the month. The four-week accelerator programme is designed to get small independent health tech companies ready for listing on AWS. Texas-based company Pieces is rumoured to be one of the 10 enrolled offering a product that predicts a patient’s condition over time using AI technology. Gyant is also anticipated to debut a digital assistant that automates patient journeys for health systems from patient acquisition through care delivery and retention. With this product, the company hopes to alleviate the influx of calls for hospitals by directing patients to a chatbot instead. As well as Giblib, which is a platform designed to allow users to stream high-quality videos and virtual reality experiences from medical professionals.
The e-commerce sites latest developments come at an opportune time as the use of telehealth services in the US has stabilized at levels 38 times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic according to new data from McKinsey. The study also estimated in 2020 that up to $250 billion of the country’s annual healthcare spend could be digitized supporting Amazon’s growth mission.
In the past, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had described AWS as the “greatest piece of business luck in the history of business” since it lacked any true competition for around 7 years however the tide has since turned. The company’s rivals in Big Tech have already bitten the healthcare bullet with both Google and Microsoft securing more publicly disclosed healthcare clients. Familiar foe Walmart has also launched its own AI offerings as well as a number of clinics across the country providing “urgent care, labs, X-ray and diagnostics, counselling, dental, optical and hearing services”.
According to Jeff Becker, the principal analyst for healthcare at CB Insights, “It’s not that the pace of innovation at AWS is lagging but that they started late. AWS was the last to get some key healthcare-specific features that Microsoft and Google came out with first. One was high trust certification so that hospitals trusted their infrastructure truly was safe.”
As such, Amazon’s healthcare journey is anticipated to take longer and be a lot more competitive than anything else the tech giant has tried so far.
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