Amazon will begin offering Amazon Care, a health care service it launched last year as a pilot program for its own Seattle-area employees, to other Washington state employers, the company announced Wednesday. By summer, Amazon Care will expand to Amazon workers and other private employers nationwide.
Amazon Care incorporates a telehealth app, prescription delivery and the option to schedule a visit with a physician at patients’ homes and offices. Users pay for consultations and medications via Amazon.com.
For months, Amazon Care has quietly been filing paperwork allowing it to do business outside of Washington. And last year, news surfaced that Amazon had pitched companies including Seattle-based Zillow on signing up for Amazon Care. (Zillow later said nothing came of the discussion.)
Amazon has long eyed the $3.8 trillion medical sector, in part to reduce health care costs for its own workforce, which numbers nearly 800,000 in the United States. But entering the lucrative sector, which some say is overdue for digital transformation, could also pay major dividends for Amazon, which has a history of upending established industries.
Meanwhile, consumer demand for telehealth options has strengthened since the start of the pandemic. The ballooning popularity of virtual consultations has ushered in a series of recent mergers, acquisitions and new product rollouts in the on-demand health care sector.
“Making this available to other employers is a big step,” Amazon Care director Kristen Helton told The Associated Press. “It’s an opportunity for other forward-thinking employers to offer a service that helps bring high-quality care, convenience and peace of mind.” Helton said the product is designed to be a supplement or an additional benefit to existing coverage provided by an employer.
For now, only the virtual care component will be available to Amazon employees outside of Washington state, the company said, but in-person services will expand to its workers in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore — the nexus of cities surrounding Amazon’s much-promoted “second headquarters” in Arlington, Virginia — in the coming months, with other cities to follow. All of Amazon’s Washington state employees have had access to Amazon Care since the pilot program expanded in September.
Amazon Care was developed in the company’s secretive ideas lab, Grand Challenge, which nurtures big-ticket projects championed by Amazon’s leadership team, according to Business Insider. Other Grand Challenge moonshots have included finding a cure for cancer and the common cold.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.