Amazon is quietly expanding into the $3.8 trillion medical sector by growing its telehealth branch, initially developed and available as a pilot service for Seattle-area employees and their families. The tech giant has filed paperwork to operate in 21 additional states, showing its ambition to roll out its telehealth arm.
Launched a year ago, Amazon Care was first developed as an app offering on-demand chat and video consultations with health care professionals for Amazon’s roughly 54,000 employees in Puget Sound. It is now available to a wider audience on Amazon.com. Through the app, users can also book in-person visits at their homes or offices with clinicians. However, Amazon did not respond to questions about whether access to this newly expanded service will continue to be limited to Amazon employees.
According to state agency filings, Amazon Care has already been incorporated in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming.
In addition to its rapid geographic expansion, there are a number of other factors that indicate Amazon may start offering telehealth services to the general public. According to Business Insider, Amazon has already approached other companies, including Seattle-based Zillow, with its healthcare app. The tech giant has also been actively recruiting healthcare professionals, researchers and product managers for the app across the country, including in California, Georgia and Texas.
Having structured a strong team of home health care providers across the country, Amazon Care announced last week that it would begin lobbying lawmakers to loosen regulations on the type of health care services that can be provided outside of a doctor’s office – a possible indication that the company plans to further expand the services Amazon Care can offer.
Amazon has not yet received the professional licenses that would allow it to operate facilities such as medical testing labs in the 21 states where it has applied for approval. However, it is known from its business registration in Georgia that Amazon plans to begin operating in that state as early as July.
Amazon has been planning its entry into the healthtech market since 2017, when it made several key hires in the sector, such as former One Medical vice president Christine Henningsgaard and Missy Krasner of digital health records management company Box.
Henningsgaard has since left Amazon to pursue the development of maternity-oriented healthcare company Quilted Health, but has stated that she was part of the “founding team” of Amazon Care, which she describes as a comprehensive consumer-focused telehealth solution offering advanced technology “and last mile logistics to healthcare.”
In 2019, Amazon had also attempted the development of a healthcare consortium, partnering with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase on the project. Called Haven, the organisation was created to offer better service and rates with healthcare providers to the nearly 1.2 million employees of the three giants. However, the company was dissolved last month.
The tech giant had also bought online pharmacy Pillpack for $753 million in mid-2018, while it won a landmark approval allowing its voice-activated artificial intelligence, Alexa, to transmit private patient information just a year later.
Last summer, as hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers began to be infected with the coronavirus, the company built hundreds of its own on-site labs to test employees. While in November, it launched an online pharmaceutical delivery service. A move that led to a significant drop in the pharmaceutical companies stock price. A few weeks later, Amazon’s cloud computing division unveiled a health data management service for doctors and hospitals that adheres to patient privacy rules.
In 2018, Dr. Martin Levine, a geriatrician in Seattle, joined Amazon in a hire that indicates Amazon Care has been in the works since at least early 2018. All of Amazon Care’s clinicians are employed by Care Medical, formerly Oasis Medical, a company Levine founded shortly after joining Amazon, according to business records.
In this rapid evolution, Levine was replaced by Dr. Sunita Mishra, a former Providence St. Joseph executive early last year. Mishra previously led the development of the health system’s mobile app for on-demand medical care. Levine is now chief medical officer for The Polyclinic health system, which operates 14 sites in the Puget Sound region. Mishra’s arrival came just weeks before Amazon expanded access to Amazon Care to all of its 80,000 employees in Washington state.