Based on https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/24/amazon-launches-employee-health-clinic-amazon-care.html news, Amazon recently launched Amazon Care, a virtual health clinic for its employees and their families. Currently open to its employees in Seattle, the program offers a virtual primary care clinic with an option of in-person services. The company had previously been working on an employee health clinic and came up with a mix of virtual and personal health services as a solution.
The Amazon Care program allows the employees to consult a doctor, nurse practitioner or a registered nurse online for diagnosis, advice or referrals. Employees can either text a nurse or see a health provider through the website or the app. They can also have a nurse visit them home for a follow-up. Amazon Care also prescribes medication and offers a way for the employees to pick it up at their preferred pharmacy.
The company also partnered with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway for a venture. This was called Haven and was formed to lower the healthcare expenses among organizations without compromising the quality. Currently, they have a pharmacy group called PillPack and have a research and development group as well.
Have Other Companies Followed the Suit Too?
Apart from Amazon, major companies like Apple, Uber, and Alphabet are also venturing into healthcare. Apple updated its health app a year ago so it could display medical records from 39 hospitals. The company has now set up a clinic near its headquarters for its employees. It provides the employees and their families primary healthcare. Intel too opened an on-site primary clinic for its employees in Oregon, New Mexico and Arizona a decade ago that offered annual health checks.
Companies like Uber and Alphabet have ventured in a slightly different direction but are in the space of healthcare nonetheless. Uber has offered a service for health providers to book rides for patients or caregivers. The service works as an emergency transport option and is a lot cheaper as compared to an ambulance. On the other hand, Alphabet is working on several research-based programs to make lives of health providers easier. Elinext, a healthcare software development company, reports investments into healthcare sector are very strong in 2019 and we should see more solutions in the upcoming year from both well-established brands and mid-sized companies. Some of these programs include AI-powered speech recognition to take notes in clinics, algorithms to predict heart disease more easily, etc.
Will Amazon Care be a Boon or Bane?
Companies’ self-driven healthcare initiatives are always deemed as an attempt to better the access and convenience of healthcare facilities for the employees. However, these programs are also put in place to deal with the rising costs of third-party employee health insurance. In the past few years, the family premiums and workers’ contribution towards them have increased exponentially compared to their income. Amazon’s initiative, therefore, is a move in the direction of cutting down the healthcare costs for its employees.
However, virtual healthcare and telemedicine are certainly revolutionary, but not as new of concepts. The shortage of primary care physicians and nurses makes virtual visits a feasible option and resolves the obstacle of visiting a clinic and waiting there. The virtual technology isn’t only helpful for the patients but the physicians as well. Medical tourism has certainly achieved a new level of excellence where doctors perform surgeries on their patients in other countries virtually. Hence, telemedicine has been lauded by several organizations, saying that it has the potential to improve the accessibility of healthcare while maintaining quality.
But Amazon Care can’t just be lauded for its telemedicine efforts. The initiative can both be an added benefit for the employees or a way to cut costs. Experts have also said that in earlier days, manufacturers had worksite clinics to help the injured workers so they would get back to their job faster. Many healthcare giants have also said that the corporates’ efforts to build an internal healthcare system for their employees can diminish the value of the external healthcare system in the USA. If Amazon decides to build a more comprehensive telehealth platform, the other self-insured companies might want to partner with them as well. Amazon can also decide to open its platform to the world, later on, giving everyone access to virtual healthcare. The convenience of it could help the employees and the people but can severely hurt the sentiments of current medical organizations.