Amazon launches messaging-based virtual healthcare service

Amazon launched its latest version of virtual medical care on Tuesday in 32 states. The service, called Amazon Clinic, does away with phone and video calls and instead works with secure messaging between patients and providers.

“Amazon Clinic is a convenient virtual care option that offers upfront pricing and treatment within hours, instead of days,” the company announced.

Aimed at common and usually simple health needs, the service offers a list of about 20 conditions, from sinus infections to seasonal allergies. Patients with certain medical conditions may also seek medication refills, such as for migraines and asthma.

“Sometimes you just need quick communication with a doctor for common health problems that can be easily addressed virtually,” Amazon’s announcement said.

The service does not accept insurance and works on a fee basis that includes follow-up messages with providers for up to 2 weeks. After paying Amazon directly, patients can submit receipts for reimbursement from their insurer if they have one.

Visit costs vary by state, condition type, and provider. Patients visit Amazon Clinic’s website, select the type of disease they are seeking treatment for, and enter their state. Then options and costs for the service provider appear, as well as a link to learn more about each service provider. Wait times to receive a first response from a service provider are also displayed.

For example, a heartburn consultation for a patient in Connecticut costs $47, and on a recent weekday morning, the first response from a provider can take up to 5 hours. Some conditions require earlier diagnosis, such as eczema. An eczema consultation in Colorado would cost either $30 or $31, depending on the provider chosen by the patient.

A list of the 32 states where the service is available has not been released, and it appears that prospective patients will have to enter their location on Amazon Clinic’s website to find out if the service is available in their area. (On its website, Amazon Clinic said the service is not available in some states because of virtual visit laws.)

Amazon’s foray into healthcare is evolving. It offers pharmacy services and recently signed an agreement to acquire One Medical’s telehealth services and clinics, Becker’s Hospital Review reported. Amazon is shutting down its telehealth service called Amazon Care by the end of the year, the company said.

Sources

Amazon: “Amazon Clinic will operate in 32 states and provide virtual services for more than 20 common health conditions, such as allergies, acne and hair loss.”

Becker’s Hospital Review: “Healthcare considered a safe bet in Amazon’s cost-cutting review.”

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