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Amazon said yesterday that it is rolling out its Amazon Care telehealth service nationally this year, working with other employers to expand its footprint and growing an in-person care element from eight to 20 cities.

Amazon Care started as a pilot program for Seattle area Amazon employees.

CNBC writes that "Amazon said it’s capitalizing on the surge in demand for in-home care, both virtually and in person, generated by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hoping that Amazon Care’s blend of virtual care and 'a new approach to in-person care' will be able to attract employers away from other providers."

From the CNet story:

"Amazon Care provides immediate access to a wide range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, preventive care, sexual health and prescription requests and refills, the company said. The service combines virtual health attention with in-person services. If additional in-person care is needed, Amazon Care dispatches a nurse practitioner to the patient's home."

The CNBC story says that Amazon has "started providing services for Whole Foods, the upscale grocer it acquired in 2017, as well as chipmaker Silicon Labs and TrueBlue, a staffing and recruiting company … In addition, the e-commerce giant is expanding in-person care to more cities across the U.S. Later this year, it plans to launch that side of the business in 20 cities, including New York City, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago. Amazon Care’s in-person services are currently available in eight cities."

CNBC notes, however, that getting insurance company approbation will be key to breaking the healthcare logjam:

"One key to building a virtual primary care service is gaining health insurance-network coverage, particularly when it comes to employer plans which pay the bills for workers to access care.  Health insurers already work with established providers like Teladoc and Dr. on Demand to provide the telehealth platform, but when it comes to virtual primary care plans, they are increasingly launching their own programs.

"Anthem also announced Tuesday it will be offering new virtual primary care services in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Connecticut later this year. UnitedHealthcare, CVS Health’s Aetna division and Cigna, through its recently acquired telehealth unit MDLive, all now offer employers virtual primary care plans which they tout as a programs to help employees manage chronic conditions and save costs."

CNet also points out that "Amazon Care is not the technology giant's only foray into care services. Alexa Care Hub, which launched at the end of 2020, allows caretakers to monitor activity and receive alerts about their aging loved ones without having to constantly bother them with anxiety-driven 'check-ins'."

KC's View:

Yet another example of something that Tom Furphy and I discussed in this morning's Innovation Conversation (which we recorded before the Amazon Care announcement was made) - Amazon continuing to move beyond its retailing roots as it embraces a business model that endeavors to make Amazon and its various enterprises/tentacles inextricably intertwined in our lives.

The description of Amazon Care makes it sound, to my ears, like something that still has a lot of runway in front of it … though experience suggests that the company is likely to gather speed faster than any of us might expect.