Amazon rolls out its telehealth service nationwide

Amazon is rolling out its telehealth service, known as Amazon Care, nationwide, the company announced Tuesday. Amazon Care launched in 2019 as a pilot program for employees in and around the company’s Seattle headquarters. The program provides virtual-care visits, as well as free telehealth consultations and in-home visits for a fee from nurses for testing and vaccinations. It has since expanded into more of a primary care service.

Shares of Teladoc, a provider of virtual doctor visits, fell as much as 6% on Amazon’s news. In addition, the e-commerce giant is expanding in-person care to more cities across the U.S. Later this year, it plans to launch that side of the business in 20 cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago. Amazon Care’s in-person services are currently available in eight cities. Amazon said it’s capitalizing on the surge in demand for in-home care, both virtually and in person, generated by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hoping that Amazon Care’s blend of virtual care and “a new approach to in-person care” will be able to attract employers away from other providers.

It faces a significant uphill battle, however, as virtual care is an increasingly crowded space, with insurers also getting in on the telehealth expansion. One key to building a virtual primary care service is gaining health insurance-network coverage, particularly when it comes to employer plans which pay the bills for workers to access care. Health insurers already work with established providers like Teladoc and Dr. on Demand to provide the telehealth platform, but when it comes to virtual primary care plans, they are increasingly launching their own programs.

Anthem also announced Tuesday it will be offering new virtual primary care services in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Connecticut later this year. UnitedHealthcare, CVS Health’s Aetna division and Cigna, through its recently acquired telehealth unit MDLive, all now offer employers virtual primary care plans which they tout as a programs to help employees manage chronic conditions and save costs. Still, Amazon appears to be signing up more employers. The company said Tuesday it started providing services for Whole Foods, the upscale grocer it acquired in 2017, as well as chipmaker Silicon Labs and TrueBlue, a staffing and recruiting company. Last June, Babak Parviz, a vice president working on Amazon Care, said the company had received interest from a range of companies interested in using its telehealth services.


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