Amazon Healthcare Building a National Telehealth Business

Dr. Maheu, Telehealt.org

January 2021

Amazon Care recently announced that it will expand nationally to all Amazon workers and other interested companies across the country in the summer of 2021.

Amazon, the $1.6 trillion shipping giant, is launching a new service to provide essential medical services through Amazon Healthcare as a national telehealth business. Amazon Care uses an app that allows consumers to connect with doctors, nurse practitioners, and nurses virtually, 24 hours a day, via in-app chat or video. Initially launched and tested with Washington-based employees, Amazon Care recently announced that it will expand nationally to all Amazon workers and other interested companies across the country in the summer of 2021. “Making this available to other employers is a big step,” Amazon Care Director Kristen Helton said. “It’s an opportunity for other forward-thinking employers to offer a service that helps bring high-quality care, convenience and peace of mind.” Notice the last three descriptors: “high-quality care, convenience and peace of mind.” From the perspective of many healthcare providers, healthcare in the US has been lacking in each of these three areas.

For employers registering for the service, which has partnered with Care Medical, employees near their headquarters will get online and in-person doctor visits. Employees elsewhere will get just the virtual components. Through Care Medical, Amazon Care currently offers an app to connect employees to a medical professional for a video consultation. It also offers follow-up care in the home for patients. The goal is to lower healthcare costs internally for Amazon and externally for some of the world’s most influential companies, using telehealth to meet people on their terms, with good care, wherever they are.

Amazon’s Multi-Layered Business Strategy

Anyone watching Amazon over the last year will be well acquainted with its accelerating moves to provide the early inklings of healthcare. Early Amazon Healthcare efforts were announced by Telehealth.org’s Telehealth News on 6/4/2020. In that article, it was reported that Amazon Health announced a pilot program offering virtual medical services to employees and their families.

Amazon then expanded the presence of Alexa voice assistant, announcing that it was making it possible for voice assistant developers to offer HIPAA-compliant services for the Alexa platform. Amazon Pharmacy, a drug-delivering business in 48 states with steep discounts for Prime members was also released in November of 2020.

Most recently Amazon has launched another offering called Amazon HealthLake, a HIPAA-compliant service that allows healthcare providers, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies to store, transform, and analyze health data at a petabyte scale. As described on the Amazon HealthLake website:

Amazon HealthLake removes the heavy lifting of organizing, indexing, and structuring patient information to provide a complete view of the health of individual patients and entire patient populations in a secure, compliant, and auditable manner. Using the HealthLake APIs, healthcare organizations can easily copy health data in the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) industry standard format from on-premises systems to a secure data lake in the cloud. HealthLake transforms unstructured data using specialized machine learning models, like natural language processing, to automatically extract meaningful medical information from the data and provides powerful query and search capabilities.

Organizations can use advanced analytics and ML models, such as Amazon QuickSight and Amazon SageMaker to analyze and understand relationships, identify trends, and make predictions from the newly normalized and structured data. From early detection of disease to population health trends, organizations can use Amazon HealthLake to conduct clinical data analysis powered by machine learning to improve care and reduce costs.