Disruption or giveaway: Amazon Care signs on employers, but who? Amazon Pharmacy’s 6 months of meds for $6. (updated)

Is this disruption, a giveaway, or blue smoke requiring IFR? An Amazon Care VP, Babak Parviz, said at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Health virtual event that all is well with their rollout of virtual primary care (VPC). Washington state is first, with VPC now available nationally to all Amazon employees as well as companies. However, Mr. Parviz did not disclose the signed-up companies, nor a timetable for when in-person Amazon Care practices will be expanding to Washington, DC, Baltimore, and other cities in the coming months.

Mr. Parviz also provided some details of what Amazon Care would ultimately look like:

  • Clinician chat/video connected within 60 seconds
  • If an in-person visit is required, a mobile clinician arrives within 60 minutes, who can perform some diagnostic tests, such as for strep throat, provide vaccinations and draw blood for lab work. For other diagnoses, that clinician is equipped with a kit with devices to monitor vital signs which are live-streamed to remote clinicians.
  • Medication delivery within 120 minutes

FierceHealthcare

The timing of the Amazon Care rollout has not changed since our coverage of their announcement in March. This Editor noted in that article that Credit Suisse in their overview was underwhelmed by Amazon Care as well as other efforts in the complex and crowded healthcare space. Amazon Care also doesn’t integrate with payers. It’s payment upfront, then the patient files a claim with their insurer.

Existing players are already established in large chunks of what Amazon wants to own.

  • Both Amwell’s Ido Schoenberg [TTA 2 April] and Teladoc’s Jason Gorevic (FierceHealthcare 12 May) have opined that they are way ahead of Amazon both in corporate affiliations and comprehensive solutions. Examples: Amwell’s recently announced upgrade of their clinician platform and adding platforms for in-home hospital-grade care [TTA 29 Apr], Teladoc’s moves into mental health with myStrength [TTA 14 May].
  • Even Walmart is getting into telehealth with their purchase of a small player, MeMD [TTA 8 May].
  • CVS has their MinuteClinics affiliated with leading local health systems, and Walgreens is building out 500 free-standing VillageMD locations [TTA 4 Dec 20]. CVS and Walgreens are also fully integrated with payers and pharmacy benefit management plans (PBM).

Another loss leader is pharmacy. Amazon is also offering to Prime members a pharmacy prescription savings benefit: six-month supplies of select medications for $6. The conditions are that members must pay out-of-pocket (no insurance), they must have the six-month prescription from their provider, and the medication must be both available and eligible on Amazon Pharmacy. Medications included are for high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. The timing is interesting as Walmart also announced a few days earlier a similar program for Walmart+ members. Mobihealthnews.

crystal-ballThis Editor’s opinion is that Amazon’s business plans for both entities and in healthcare are really about accumulating data, not user revenue, and are certainly not altruistic no matter what they say. Amazon will accumulate and own national healthcare data on Amazon Care and Pharmacy users far more valuable than whatever is spent on providing care and services. Amazon will not only use it internally for cross-selling, but can monetize the data to pharmaceutical companies, payers, developers, and other commercial third parties in and ex-US. Shouldn’t privacy advocates be concerned, as this isn’t being disclosed? 

News roundup: Amazon Pharmacy–retail, GoodRx threat, 81% of healthcare workers have remote IT issues, Epicor installs in Australia care homes, GrandCare for developmentally disabled adults

Rounding up lots of dogies here!

Amazon, to no one’s surprise, has formally entered the US pharmacy business with Amazon Pharmacy which can fill prescriptions for most common medications. There is a whole process of course to sign up (at right), and a separate program for Amazon Prime customers with discounts on Amazon Pharmacy with two-day delivery, PillPack, and at 50,000 pharmacies in 45 states. The Prime program is administered by Inside Rx, a subsidiary of Evernorth/Cigna.

Mr. Market downgraded pharmacy retailers CVS and Walgreens Boots stocks, again unsurprisingly. It isn’t just brick ‘n’ mortars feeling the heat; heavily advertised drug price comparison platform (lumped into ‘digital health’) and recent IPO winner GoodRx took a 20 percent hit as Amazon Prime also discounts, comparable to GoodRx Gold. The GoodRx network is about 70,000 pharmacies, including the largest retailers. Fierce Healthcare. Big hat tip to Jailendra Singh at Credit Suisse Equity Research for these analyses on Amazon Pharmacy and GoodRx.

81 percent of healthcare workers experience issues with systems and technology used in external care, out visiting and caring for patients, according to a ‘State of Mobility in Healthcare’ multi-national study (email signup required) by business mobility development company SOTI. 64 percent of UK healthcare workers (63 percent overall) are ripping out what is left of their hair due to IT/technology glitches leading to system failures within a normal working week. Only a quarter of respondents said that their systems were able to cope with COVID-19. Based on the Healthcare IT News EMEA edition article, UK respondents apparently reported a higher level of IT problems affecting their work. The bright spot is that 68 percent of UK healthcare workers/55 percent overall agree that investment in new or better technology could help save lives. The study had respondents in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden, France, and Australia.

Speaking of software, Epicor, a US-based software company, is providing to two Australian care home groups their Community Care workflow and information platform: Finncare, which is associated with services to the Finnish and Scandinavian communities, and MannaCare in the Victoria area. Healthcare IT News Australia

One of the Ur-companies (2005!) in the senior health monitoring sector, GrandCare Systems, announced that they are working with LADD, a Cincinnati Ohio-based non-profit that supports adults with developmental disabilities. LADD’s project, the Heidt Smart Living Home, will incorporate GrandCare’s communication, cognitive assists, telehealth, and social engagement tools, as well as innovations in accessibility, lighting, and sensory control, for residents. Release Hat tip to CEO Laura Mitchell via LinkedIn.