by John R. Fischer
, Senior Reporter | March 22, 2021
Amazon will soon offer its healthcare services to other private employers through the launch of its Amazon Care telemedicine program.
The company currently offers the app to its employees in Washington State to allow them to connect with doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners virtually over the phone, 24 hours a day. It plans, for the first time, to expand the program to employers in Washington interested in the service for their employees and by the summer to all Amazon workers and private employers across the country, reports the Associated Press.
“Making this available to other employers is a big step,” said Amazon Care director Kristen Helton in a phone interview with the AP. “It’s an opportunity for other forward-thinking employers to offer a service that helps bring high-quality care, convenience and peace of mind.”
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The program is designed to supplement existing coverage provided by private employers. Healthcare providers are supplied by Care Medical, a contractor that works with Amazon on an exclusive contract. Users log in to the app, answer questions to triage the call, and are then routed to an appropriate nurse, nurse practitioner or physician in about 60 seconds or less.
The company plans to include the in-person services limited currently to Seattle in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. markets, and in the northern Virginia market, where it is building a second headquarters that will employ more than 25,000 workers.
Demand for telemedicine exploded when the pandemic first emerged, with one institute experiencing a 633% hike in virtual urgent care visits
and a 4,345% hike in non-urgent virtual care visits two months in. The rise is fueled by wanting to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission and reducing overcrowding in emergency rooms as well as barriers to screening.
While Amazon has previously set up Amazon Pharmacy and Amazon Halo, Amazon Care is the company’s first offer of healthcare services beyond its own workforce. It is expected to help keep patients healthy and prevent illnesses from progressing and requiring expensive treatments, while giving employers more control over healthcare costs.