The ink isn’t dry on Amazon’s $4 billion acquisition of OneMedical, but in the meantime, the online services giant is taking another stride into telemedicine and medical services overall under its own steam. The company today unveiled the Amazon Clinic, which Amazon calls a virtual health “storefront” where users can search for, connect to, and pay for telemedicine care to treat a variety of conditions, some of the most popular for telemedicine consultations today.
Amazon Clinic will initially be launched in 32 states in the USA. It doesn’t work with health insurance and this point, and total prices vary by provider, conditions, and location. (For example, it costs about $40 to connect with an acne treatment clinic in Nevada, and you have a choice of two providers whose different offerings are listed in a comparison table. Another example of conjunctivitis (conjunctivitis) in New Jersey has a larger price difference between $30 and $48 between the two listed vendors.)
Amazon Clinic appeared to be leaked to users about a week ago sighted a video on YouTube, which was then quickly removed when it attracted media attention. Now it officially starts and at a critical moment.
It’s only been a few months since Amazon discontinued Amazon Care, a telehealth service the company created for its own employees before ramping up plans to roll it out nationwide and to third-party companies. And in general, like many others in the technology industry, the company is feeling the effects of the economic crisis. It is reportedly preparing to take a big round of layoffs, possibly 10,000 jobs and possibly as soon as this week; and in addition to this it has downsized and cut back a number of its operations.
At Amazon Clinic, the company is about taking another path in the healthcare market and positioning itself as a player in a perennial problem in the US: how to bridge the gap between people who need medical attention for illnesses more complicated than a trip to the drugstore, but may not justify expensive and time-consuming doctor visits.
(Other conditions covered in addition to acne and pink eye include asthma refills, birth control, cold sores, dandruff, eczema, erectile dysfunction, eyelash growth, genital herpes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hay fever, hyperlipidemia refills, high blood pressure refills , hypothyroid refills, male pattern baldness, migraines, sinusitis, smoking cessation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), yeast infections, and so on.)
The clinic is very strongly built in the Amazon shape. It’s a marketplace where third parties can use Amazon’s platform and reach to find customers, and Amazon can use third parties to quickly scale offerings to its consumers. And it’s helping Amazon expand the business funnel for other Amazon operations — in this case, Amazon Pharmacy, which can fulfill any prescription that comes out of clinical consultations and has reportedly not had as big a business boom as anticipated. (Users can also fill out Amazon Clinic scripts at other pharmacies.)
We asked Amazon if it plans to offer its own telehealth advice (private label, in e-commerce parlance) alongside third parties, and what plans it has for more states, if there are any international ambitions, and if there is a health insurance plan in the future accept for the clinic. It may well be that this lays the groundwork for Amazon to connect what it’s building here to OneMedical when that acquisition is complete.
The bigger picture for Amazon Clinic is that the service aligns with Amazon’s larger ambitions in the healthcare market. The company already has an online pharmacy, Amazon Pharmacy, that fulfills subscriptions and allows users to buy over-the-counter medications through Prime memberships, which ship items within two days.
Amazon also believes its new telehealth service fills a gap in the market to offer users health advice for minor ailments. Some situations require more direct medical involvement, which may be covered by One Medical or existing health insurance. Some situations can be remedied by visiting a pharmacy on your own.
“But we also know that sometimes all you need is a quick interaction with a doctor for a common health concern that can be easily addressed virtually,” the company noted in its blog post announcing the service.
Amazon has been making inroads into healthcare for a number of years and lays out its ambitions. Amazon Pharmacy was formed after acquiring PillPack. And it’s been exploring healthcare as a business opportunity, with the integration of Alexa into healthcare environments.
But Amazon Care isn’t the only step backwards it’s taken in its longer journey. In 2018, the company formed a joint venture with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to build an employee healthcare operation and appointed a high-profile physician to its stewardship. This service never seemed to take shape as expected and in 2021 to close up shop.
We’ll update this piece as we learn more.