Amazon adds One Medical virtual care services to Prime
Amazon is making its big move on healthcare incumbents by expanding its telehealth offerings through its popular Prime membership program.
The online juggernaut is looking to maximize its $3.9 billion investment in One Medical by offering virtual care services to Prime members for just $9 per month for the first patient and an additional $6 per month for up to five family members, with discounts for yearly billing.
According to an accompanying blog, the subscription covers “unlimited, 24/7 access to on-demand virtual care, including video chats with licensed providers within minutes and an easy in-app ‘Treat Me Now’ feature that lets you get fast care for common concerns such as cold and flu, skin issues, allergies, urinary tract infections, and more.”
Users do not need to have insurance, or presumably use their insurance if they do have it, to take advantage of the deal.
In-person care at One Medical’s brick-and-mortar locations are not part of the subscription, nor are pre-scheduled virtual visits and any follow-up services that may be required at a traditional primary care or specialty care clinic.
The offering is Amazon’s latest push to create a more consumer-centered healthcare offering. Earlier this year, the company introduced its flat fee “RxPass,” which charges $5 a month for all eligible prescriptions and includes free home delivery.
It remains to be seen, however, if Amazon and One Medical can scale up to meet demand, assuming the service takes off. In 2022, there were more than 76 million Prime subscribers in the US. Adoption among even a fraction of those households would make Amazon into one of the biggest healthcare providers in the country.
There are also questions around fragmentation of the healthcare system. In addition to lower-level, one-off health concerns like sore throats and ear infections, Amazon says its virtual care services are suitable for managing chronic diseases like diabetes. But patients with chronic conditions, especially those with multiple comorbidities, typically need more care than on-demand virtual health providers have thus far been able to offer.
And if One Medical and Amazon Pharmacy do not require billing through insurance, even if the patient is insured, health plans and providers may not have the same level of visibility into claims and pharmacy data to perform risk stratification and population health management analytics for their members. This could create additional barriers in an already-siloed environment.
On the other hand, for patients who cannot afford traditional care or struggle with other socioeconomic issues, any services might be better than no services at all. Virtual care could allow some groups to engage with primary care and access maintenance medications more easily and at lower costs, which may improve adherence and lead to better overall outcomes.
The challenge for Amazon – and the growing number of other virtual care providers looking to capitalize on interest in the telehealth space – will be to find value in emerging care modalities without exacerbating existing gaps in care. Educating patients about the appropriate use of on-demand virtual care will be part of the process; preserving and expanding access to more robust in-person primary care services will be another.
As the hybrid virtual/in-person medical system evolves into an everyday reality, both new and established players in the field should consider how to best collaborate and share data appropriately to create a seamless and convenient ecosystem that still prioritizes coordinated, comprehensive care.
Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry. Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.