Amazon confirms nationwide expansion of telehealth services

After months of rumor, Amazon confirmed Wednesday that it would be expanding its Amazon Care app-based services to its employees and to other companies across the United States this summer.  

The announcement also said that Amazon Care would be available this week to serve other companies based in Washington.  

Finally, Amazon Care’s in-person service will expand to Washington, Baltimore and other cities in the coming months, according to the company. 

“By supplying Amazon Care as a workplace benefit, employers are investing in the health and well-being of arguably their most important asset: their employees,” reads a press release.  

WHY IT MATTERS

Up until this point, Amazon Care’s app-based primary and urgent care services have only been available to the tech giant’s employees in Washington state, with those in the Seattle area also having access to in-home care for follow-up needs such as blood draws.  

But whispers of potential expansion have been swirling for months, amplified by recent reports of the app’s medical provider filing to do business in several more states.  

Wednesday’s announcement appears to confirm many of those reports, with Amazon saying that Washington-based companies can potentially use the service for their own employees.  

Starting this summer, Amazon Care will also expand its virtual care to other companies and Amazon employees in all 50 states.  

“Amazon Care gives instant access to a range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, preventive care, sexual health, prescription requests, refills, and delivery, and much more,” the release says.  

It is not yet clear how Amazon Care will work in conjunction with health insurance if it is provided by other companies. Currently, the services are not billed to health insurance or count toward a user’s deductible.   

At this stage, the costs of video care, care chat and mobile care services are subsidized by Amazon for employees and their dependents, and there is no cost to enroll in Amazon Care. In-home visits incur a fee.  

THE LARGER TREND  

With the announcement, Amazon will join the many other telehealth apps jockeying for position on the national stage. Most recently, the digital retail pharmacy NowRX announced that it would be expanding into telehealth, starting with pre-exposure prophylaxis.   

But those offering telehealth services in multiple states will likely have to contend with changing virtual care regulations as the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic (hopefully) loosens.  

“Even if you don’t have a physical location, you need to be thinking about where you’re providing services,” said Heather Alleva, leading health systems and hospitals attorney at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, earlier this week.  

ON THE RECORD  

“Amazon Care addresses a wide spectrum of patient needs through its primary care and urgent care offerings. Patients can access preventive care such as annual vaccinations, health screenings, and lifestyle advice. The service also supports patients’ wellness needs, including nutrition, pre-pregnancy planning, sexual health, help to quit smoking, and more. For immediate needs, patients can use Amazon Care to assess and treat illnesses and injuries on demand,” reads the release.

 

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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