Yes, Virginia, there is an Amazon Clinic, after all; stripped down, non-face-to-face consults for common conditions

On the move while Care is shutting down and OneMedical is not yet onboard as awaiting Federal approvals, Amazon Clinic’s premature leak generated press for the service’s formal debut on Tuesday. The leak was remarkably accurate [TTA 11 Nov] in describing it for the New York Minute it was up. According to their introductory blog, Amazon Clinic will operate in 32 US states (not specified, but a quick check indicates it’s not available in Alaska and New Hampshire). It provides message-based virtual care for more than 20 common health conditions, such as allergies, acne, eczema, UTIs, and hair loss. (The website lists conditions covered and prescription renewals for previously diagnosed conditions such as asthma, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, and migraine.)

What it is: a stripped-down, questionnaire-driven provider referral platform, enabling a non-face-to-face telehealth consult or prescription renewal. It’s not clear from available information whether the messaging is synchronous, asynchronous (delayed), or a combination of both. This certainly sounds less ambitious than the home-based delivery/enterprise membership model of Amazon Care. How Clinic works:

  • Select your condition
  • Pick your preferred provider from a list of licensed and qualified telehealth providers. Costs and if available in your state are disclosed in the selection process.
  • Complete intake questionnaire
  • Connect with clinician through a secure message-based portal
  • After the message-based consultation, the clinician sends a personalized treatment plan via the portal, including any necessary prescriptions to the customer’s preferred pharmacy including Amazon Pharmacy. Here, costs may be covered by insurance.

As Care was, payment is upfront as Amazon doesn’t accept insurance. The cost of consultations will vary by provider and condition but tend to be in the $40 – 50 range. This includes ongoing follow-up messages with the clinician for up to two weeks after the initial consultation. Some conditions, such as rosacea, require a prior diagnosis.

In addition, the services provided are available only to those aged 18-64, which strikes this Editor as discriminatory for those 65 and over who can well pay cash and might prefer a ‘visit lite’.

No mention of whether those laid off at Amazon Care or through the rest of Amazon (10,000 announced) can apply for jobs with this new service; it sounds largely referral, highly automated, manageable, and not requiring heavy oversight. The last can be a problem all its own. TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews, CNBC

Short takes: Will there be an Amazon Clinic?, Transcarent and Teladoc, perfect together?, Get Well partners with Palomar Health, expands with Veterans Health Administration

Did Amazon prematurely leak an initiative? Or was it an error? The Verge reports that a video was uploaded to Amazon’s YouTube page on Tuesday–then taken down–describing a new service that would offer assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of common conditions such as allergies. The Amazon Clinic video depicts a user taking an online questionnaire about their symptoms, After paying a fee, a clinician reviews it, diagnoses, and prescribes as needed, sending to the patient’s pharmacy. The disclaimer: “Telehealth services are offered by third-party healthcare provider groups.” The video directs to amazon.com/clinic which is not live. Another Amazon Mystery. Amazon Care is shuttering and the company is jumping through Federal hoops to get approval to close their buy on OneMedical. Hat tip to HISTalk today.

HISTalk also pointed to a Forbes article on health navigator companies such as Castlight and Firefly Health, with a bit of a ‘sting’ at the end. Transcarent, a health navigator that takes on risk integrating its services into employee benefits, is the latest enterprise founded by Glen Tullman, a serial entrepreneur who founded Livongo, investor group 7Wire Ventures, and built up Allscripts as CEO. The writer speculates that Tullman should buy Teladoc to give Transcarent a distribution system–a built-in network of physicians and health system relationships. Yes, this is the same Teladoc that Tullman sold Livongo to for a tidy $18.5 billion, then earlier this year wrote off $6.6 billion as an impairment. This one drips with irony. With its stock down nearly 90% from its January 2021 high, it’s never been cheaper!

Get Well, an RPM, patient care management, and workflow automation company, announced new and expanding partnerships. The new one is with Palomar Health, a health system in Escondido, California. This will implement Get Well services in four phases in five areas to improve patient experience: digital care management (GetWellLoop), inpatient experience (Get Well Navigator and a workflow automation for hospital staff), emergency department experience, care gap closure, and health equity through additional features. Becker’s  The second is an expansion with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) into 70 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC) and a fifth Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) with nine facilities. They also now have a FedRAMP “In Process” designation for cloud services which is enabling expansion of GetWellLoop care plans with a VAMC. Release (Business Wire)

VillageMD considering $5-$10B merger with Summit Health provider group: reports

Two large provider groups, VillageMD and Summit Health, reportedly are considering a merger. VillageMD, which now is majority owned (62%) by Walgreens Boots Alliance, has 342 total primary care clinics in 22 southern and northeastern markets covering 15 states, with 152 co-located with Walgreens eventually increasing to 200. Summit Health has 370 locations in five states, including specialty practices and CityMD urgent care locations. Summit Health is majority owned by Walburg Pincus.

This reinforces a trend of cross-healthcare sector buys, consolidations, and control. VillageMD’s move from a co-location deal with Walgreens to majority ownership (but controlled by an independent board) was one step starting during the pandemic in July 2020 [TTA article series here].

  • Amazon agreed to acquire OneMedical (1Life) for $3.9 billion at the end of July, and abandon Amazon Care, though now running into FTC/DOJ review headwinds with a second request for information [TTA 15 Sep].
  • CVS Health has made no secret of its desire to acquire primary care, provider enablement, and home health companies (Signify Health, also under DOJ scrutiny), but apparently has abandoned or put on hold a deal with Cano Health [TTA 21 Oct].
  • Walmart continues to go direct by opening full-service clinics, announcing the expansion of 16 based in the Tampa, Jacksonville, and Orlando areas in 2023 (Healthcare Dive, Healthcare Finance News).

Valued at $12.9 billion and with Walgreens’ backing, VillageMD has the ‘go big or go home’ resources to execute Walgreens’ version of this strategy.

Why this very well may happen. The two do not overlap (except in NJ) on markets. VillageMD is primarily owned and affiliated primary care practices; Summit Health specialty practices (neurology, chiropractic, cardiology, orthopedics, dermatology) and CityMD urgent care. VillageMD has successfully mastered value-based care models in Medicare and entered advanced Medicare ACO models early and vigorously (Editor’s information); Summit Health primarily is fee-for-service with some participation in value-based programs. More to come. Bloomberg, Becker’s, and a very big hat tip to research from Jailendra Singh of Truist Securities  (paper here)