Some Amazon employees and their families in Seattle now have access to a new app called Amazon Care, a program that provides users with access to health professionals over video chat and text. The move comes as Amazon has sought to cut internal health costs even as it’s continued to muscle into the growing health care market.
Amazon is partnering with a Washington state-based company called Oasis Medical Group to provide the telemedicine service to its employees in Seattle, but there are plans to expand coverage to other employees. A message sent to Amazon employees about the new program said: “we’re looking forward to helping build and scale the benefit to meet the needs of more employees in the months and years ahead.” The news was first reported by CNBC.
The pilot project comes as the retail giant increasingly moves into the health care space. Last year the company acquired PillPack, an online pharmacy. And earlier this year it partnered with six health care organizations interested in developing Alexa skills capable of handling patient information.
The company has also been focused on the health of its internal health insurance program. Last year, it teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan to create a new health care company for the three organizations’ employees, a move that was explicitly designed to combat rising health care costs. That decision was cheered by telemedicine companies soon after the announcement, who anticipated a shift toward virtual services, like Amazon Care.
The app is only available to Amazon employees (and their eligible dependents) who are on an approved Amazon health plan and live and work in the Seattle area. If you meet all of those requirements, you can “request an invitation to join” the program, according to the program’s FAQ. People who want to use the app will also have to have a phone with iOS 12.0 or later, or Android 6.0 or later.
Once an employee signs up, they can either chat with a clinician over text or a video call, getting anything from advice to a diagnosis on the fly. If the nurse or doctor you’re chatting with thinks you need a closer assessment they can recommend something called Mobile Care, which will literally send a nurse to your home, office, or other spot in Seattle. According to the website, “the Mobile Care nurse may collect lab samples, perform some onsite testing (such as strep tests), administer common vaccines, or perform physical examinations.”
The app does not provide emergency care, and its services — which are mostly geared toward preventative or urgent care needs — are only available on weekdays from 8AM to 9PM, and weekends from 8AM to 6PM.
Unsurprisingly for a company that acquired an online pharmacy, if your doctor or nurse prescribes medication through the app, they’ve got that covered, too: “Many prescriptions can be delivered to you within two hours. Others can be sent to your preferred pharmacy for pick up.”