Amazon is to expand its healthcare capabilities in the US after introducing the Amazon Clinic – a virtual health service.

The e-commerce giant in its announcement said the Amazon Clinic will deliver “convenient, affordable care for common conditions.” Common ailments includes issues such as allergies, skin conditions etc.

This is another move by Amazon into the healthcare sector. In July it should be remembered, Amazon announced it would acquire San Francisco healthcare provider One Medical for $3.9 billion (£3.24bn).

Amazon Clinic

That One Medical acquisition is still being closed, but it clear demonstrates Amazon’s healthcare intentions.

The One Medical acquisition could be a test for regulators and lawmakers however, many of whom want to rein in the market power of the biggest tech companies.

For example US senator Amy Klobuchar in the summer called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “thoroughly investigate” the deal, citing Amazon’s previous investments in healthcare and the implications of the company’s access to medical data.

Amazon was a major investor in Drugstore.com, a start-up that launched in 1999 and was acquired by US pharmacy chain Walgreens in 2011.

More recently Amazon bought prescription delivery firm PillPack in 2018, before launching its own Amazon Pharmacy subsidiary in 2020.

The Amazon Pharmacy currently allows customers to get their medication delivered to their door conveniently – in just two days for Prime Members.

Now Amazon said that its Amazon Clinic will operate in 32 states and will provide virtual care for more than 20 common health conditions.

“Amazon Pharmacy and One Medical (once the deal closes) are two key ways we’re working to make care more convenient and accessible,” said the firm.

But Amazon said it recognises that sometimes people just need a quick interaction with a clinician for a common health concern that can be easily addressed virtually, which is where Amazon Clinic comes in.

It said that Amazon Clinic will be a “message-based virtual care service that connects customers with affordable virtual care options when and how they need it – at home, after dinner, at the grocery store, or on the go – for more than 20 common health conditions, such as allergies, acne, and hair loss.”

Vetted professionals

Amazon also said that its new health care store lets customers choose from a network of leading telehealth providers based on their preferences.

It said that every telehealth provider on Amazon Clinic has gone through rigorous clinical quality and customer experience evaluations by Amazon’s clinical leadership team.

Amazon admitted that virtual care isn’t right for every problem – and it promised to tell customers if they think visiting a doctor in real life may be a better solution.

“For customers, the cost of consultations will vary by provider and includes ongoing follow-up messages with their clinician for up to two weeks after the initial consultation,” it said. “Amazon Clinic does not yet accept insurance. If a prescription is part of treatment, Amazon Clinic customers may select any pharmacy to fill it, including Amazon Pharmacy, Amazon’s full-service online pharmacy that offers 24/7 access to pharmacists and fast, free delivery of prescription medications.”

Amazon reportedly first piloted virtual care visits for its own staff in Seattle in 2019 before offering services to other employers under the Amazon Care brand, which it now plans to close down by the end of this year.

Health forays

Amazon it should be remembered has already made an increasing number of healthcare related moves of late.

For example in April 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic began raging around the world, Amazon built its own Coronavirus testing labs to monitor the health of its staff.

Amazon also introduced many protection measures for staff. This included making affordable face shields to protect healthcare professionals during the pandemic.

Those measures however did not prevent nearly 20,000 Amazon staff being infected by Covid-19 as of Q3 2020.

Amazon has also sought to tackle mental wellness.

In May 2021 Amazon installed “wellness” booths displaying videos about relaxation into its warehouses, as part of its response to criticism over staff working conditions.

The booths, which are about the size of a telephone booth, include a chair, a desk with a computer screen, potted plants and illumination designed to simulate outdoor light.

Workers entering the “AmaZen” booth, also called a “Mindfulness Practice Room”, are able to choose from a range of videos including “guided meditations, positive affirmations, calming scenes with sounds, and more”, the company said.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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