pill bottles with Amazon Pharmacy labels
(Photo: Amazon)

Amazon has rolled out several innovative health services in recent years, but its direct-to-consumer offerings have raised concerns about the fragmentation of healthcare and the difficulty some people could experience navigating both telehealth and in-person care options.

To that end, Amazon is hoping to get its various services streamlined so that it complements, rather than clashes with, other health services. 

The company touted broad plans to “reimagine the customer healthcare journey under the same roof” during a panel session at last week’s virtual STAT Futures Summit. 

The panel included Sunita Mishra, MD, and Vin Gupta, MD, chief medical officers for Amazon Health Services and Amazon Pharmacy, respectively. 

Mishra described “three pillars” that would guide Amazon’s model going forward: Amazon Clinic, which expanded to all 50 states last month; Amazon Pharmacy; and One Medical, a primary care provider that Amazon purchased last year.

The last will allow customers access to both primary and virtual care options 24/7, Mishra said.

“People are frustrated by the fragmentation in healthcare,” he observed, “but we have clinical expertise. It’s nice for us to come together and think strategically about this, how we will shape it in the future.

Both representatives lamented the end of Amazon Care, which was discontinued at the end of last year. The service was a primary care business offering in-home and telehealth for customers.

The company also discontinued Amazon Halo services last month, which was a device and app that served as a sleep tracker.

“We had an opportunity to learn a lot from that endeavor,” Mishra said of Amazon Care. “It was the first time we delivered clinical care with Amazon’s name. Patients were able to trust us, getting care through Amazon.” 

Overall, despite whatever troubleshooting needs to take place, Amazon has effectively lowered medication costs for diabetes treatment and has automated the ability to implement coupons or other cost-saving measures, Gupta asserted. 

The company is still reliant on partnerships with other healthcare organizations, such as Medicare, and would continue to explore programs and partnerships with other stakeholders, Gupta said.

The discussion also included expectations of how AI could be incorporated into Amazon or even healthcare more broadly. Gupta and Mishra echoed sentiments from other experts that they expected AI would help assist with administrative tasks, lightening the load on both clinicians and healthcare workers.