Breaking Down Amazon’s (Massive) Health Care Opportunity
‘The main thing is you just never underestimate Amazon’
Last week, Amazon announced it would expand Amazon Care — its employee-only health care service — to the public. The service lets you chat with nurses, move to video, arrange home visits, and get medication prescribed. Amazon delivers the medicine.
The company began piloting Care internally in September 2019, and it’s now opening it up to employers in Washington state, who can offer it to their workers as a benefit. Some already seem eager to jump in. “We’re in discussions with a number of companies,” an Amazon spokesperson told me.
Though Amazon is starting small, and trying to enter a field that’s notoriously averse to change, industry experts say it has a real shot at breaking through. Its obsession with efficiency and customer service is an advantage in a system known for neither. And a new push for regulatory opening, particularly in telehealth, gives it a chance to press incumbents faster than many imagined. Health care is a $4 trillion per year business making up nearly 20% of the U.S. GDP. So the opportunity is massive.
“The main thing is you just never underestimate Amazon,” one doctor who works in digital health told me. “They have more patience than most other businesses do — which is what it takes in health care.”
From the outset, Amazon is selling Care against the pain of using today’s health system. The current system makes it difficult to get a doctors’ appointment, is inconvenient to travel to, floods you with paperwork, has you wait for long stretches, and isn’t great at follow-up. Amazon, in its post announcing the expansion, positioned Care as the solution. “Using Amazon Care,” one spouse of an Amazon employee said, “we were able to connect with a clinician in under a minute who provided medical advice that helped us get through the night. She also prescribed a medication that was delivered to our doorstep by 9 a.m. the next day.”
The statement comes from someone dependent on an Amazon paycheck, but it would be unwise to discount the strategy: Amazon is declaring that it plans to win in health care by focusing on basic care and the patient…