News: Amazon starts offering healthcare service to other employers.
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc is expanding its virtual health service to other employers in Washington state starting Wednesday and to its own employees across the country this summer, the company said in a press release.
With Amazon Care, which was tested for employees near Seattle headquarters in September 2019, employees can video chat with doctors about diagnoses and referrals. It also makes home visits and drug delivery easier in the greater Seattle area, a non-virtual benefit that Amazon says will be available in the greater Washington, DC and Baltimore area in the coming months.
The news shows how the U.S.’s second largest private employer continues to delve into healthcare, the newest industry it wanted to disrupt after retail, corporate technology, and Hollywood.
Amazon now ships prescription drugs through an online pharmacy that opened last year. Amazon previously worked with Berkshire Hathaway Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co to reduce maintenance costs at a now-defunct company called Haven.
The playbook for offering health services in-house and then for other employers is similar to how Amazon builds data centers to meet its own web needs before startups are provided with the same infrastructure in their cloud computing business.
Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care, said the service has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic and home time, but the possibility goes way beyond that.
“Virtual medicine is absolutely part of the future of health care,” she said in an interview.
Companies can sign contracts with Amazon Care, offer them as a workplace benefit, and subsidize health care costs for employees, Amazon said. No financial terms were disclosed, and Helton did not specify how big a company Amazon expects to be.
According to Helton, Amazon Care was an add-on for some patients to get help quickly after hours. But for others without a regular doctor, it becomes more.
“We have now evolved to offer more services,” she said. “We can provide more basic services.”
Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Arrangement by Christopher Cushing
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