Amazon has launched app-based medical services for its employees in Seattle, as the technology company experiments with new ways to cut the costs and improve the experience of healthcare.
The new service — Amazon Care — combines an app for video calls and text chats with doctors or nurses with visits from so-called ‘mobile care nurses’ to employees’ homes and offices.
Amazon, which bought online pharmacy PillPack last year, will also deliver prescriptions to patients. It is working with Oasis Medical, a Washington state-based medical service, to provide the clinicians.
Amazon Care is being launched after the company established Haven, a joint venture in healthcare with bank JPMorgan Chase and Warren Buffett’s investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, last year — spooking investors in various sectors of the healthcare industry, which fear disruption by the tech giant.
Led by Atul Gawande, the surgeon and bestselling author, Haven aims to find new ways to lower high healthcare costs in the US, first for the three companies’ 1.2m employees and then for other potential customers.
Amazon Care is separate from both Haven and Pillpack. An Amazon spokesperson said it was piloting the healthcare benefit for employees to help them get fast access to healthcare without an appointment. The launch was first reported by CNBC.
For Amazon, the model could be cloud provider Amazon Web Services, which started as an internal product and has become a huge growth driver.
In June, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chief executive, said at the Bio International Convention of biotech companies, that Haven was started to “attack the problem with big talent and ideas and thoughts”.
“It will take years, but we’re hoping to come up with ideas that are going to help the American public get better health and reduce the costs,” he said.
Haven has said it is focused on “leveraging the power of data and technology to drive better incentives, a better patient experience, and a better system”. Dr Gawande is known to be interested in improving primary care to catch problems earlier and treat them before they become more expensive.
Other large technology companies are also eager to transform the healthcare industry, given rising costs, bureaucracy and an ageing population in many countries. Apple has launched its own clinics for employees — from a subsidiary called AC Wellness — which analysts have speculated could eventually be expanded into a “minute clinic” for basic healthcare services delivered inside Apple stores.
Other areas of Amazon’s business are also trying to transform healthcare. AWS sells services from early drug discovery programmes for pharmaceutical companies to predictive analytics for hospitals. Amazon Business, the part of the company’s retail business which sells to companies, is pushing deeper into hospital supplies. And Amazon’s Alexa has been launching partnerships to allow users to check their blood sugar, communicate with hospitals, and renew prescriptions by talking to the voice-activated device.