Amazon and Walmart wade into U.S. telehealth and digital pharmacy
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The e–commerce giants’ evolving healthcare offerings could put pressure on drug makers, as well as PBMs and telehealth vendors
Amazon’s healthcare ambitionshave long been the subject of intense speculation – and not a little anxiety – for players throughout the sector. Amazon’s massive scale and world-beating digital capabilitiesgive it the power to disrupt nearly any business it enters. So you could almost hear healthcare company CEOstaking a sharp breath and sitting up a little straighter when, in March, Amazon announced that it would offer its in-house health plan, Amazon Care, to other employers in the United States.
Amazon’s pitch to self-insured employers is that they will providepatient-centered, digitally-enabled online-and-in-person care that delivers greater convenience and a better customer experience to their employees – along with cost savings over traditional plans. “What if there were no more waiting rooms,” a video promo directed at employers asks. “What if care was delivered on your time and your terms?”
Behind these questions is a comprehensive new offering including:
24-hour, on-demand access to clinicians through the Amazon Care app;
at-home visits by nurses in Amazon-branded polos for labs, tests and treatments;and
Amazon is still building out its clinical care network – a partnership with Crossover Healthgives enrollees access to 17 sites in six states, including bellwethers California, Texas and New York – but will offer virtual services nationwide.
“Amazon is in the initial stages of building out its virtual care offering,” said Indu Pillai, Principal Analyst for Market Access at Clarivate, “providing its employees virtual care with subsidized rates. It’s early to speculate, but with its innovative capabilities and focus on the consumer experience, Amazon could become a major contender in the telehealth space.”
Walmart, meanwhile, has been gradually building out its network of in-store clinics – a bricks-and-mortar presence that will be complemented by the retail behemoth’s May acquisition of MeMD, which offers virtual urgent care and mental health services for a flat fee per visit.
“It’s early to speculate, but with its innovative capabilities and focus on the consumer experience, Amazon could become a major contender in the telehealth space.”