Amazon launches telehealth and homecare

When I graduated from nursing, I sold some of my nursing books to a new site I had heard about, which was basically a giant online bookstore. I was amazed when all I had to do was type in the book’s ISBN number and the site paid me to ship my books.

Well my friends, that little website was Amazon and as we all know that site changed the world forever. And now Amazon is also trying to change the face of healthcare, with the launch of Amazon Care, a new healthcare format that combines virtual visits for eligible members and home care in select locations. Will it take off as quickly as Amazon has gone beyond the bookstore stage? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Amazon Care?

Amazon Care is a hybrid healthcare system – it combines both virtual visits and home care services and it was largely born out of the changes in healthcare brought about by the pandemic. Far more people have turned to telehealth services than ever before – the CDC reports a huge increase in telehealth during the pandemic, thanks to a combination of factors including limited in-person services, caution by those avoiding in-person services and an expansion of telehealth services and offerings from health facilities. Even Medicare, which previously didn’t allow telehealth home visits, has seen a boom in virtual visits. In other words, more people were more willing to use telehealth and more medical practices were willing to offer it.

Amazon Care officially launched in September 2019 and offers virtual care nationwide, with in-person services in select areas including Seattle, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Arlington. The service will also expand to 20 more cities this year, including San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and New York.

Basically, Amazon Care’s virtual arm works like any other telehealth service, allowing patients to speak with a doctor or practitioner virtually from home via a mobile app for non-emergency health issues. The in-person part, however, actually takes health care back to its original model: home care. Patients in in-person care areas will have a nurse sent to their home for more complex health issues, allowing the nurse to do everything from lab swabs to physical assessments in the patient’s home.

What can Amazon Care be used for?

According to the Amazon Care page, patients can use virtual visits for non-emergency medical issues such as:

  • Advice and referrals for more specialized care
  • Symptoms of allergies, colds, flu or COVID-19
  • Chronic Disease Care Management
  • Minor injuries
  • Planning before pregnancy
  • Preventive care
  • Emergency Care Questions
  • Sexual health
  • Stress management
  • Sleeping troubles

Amazon Care uses third-party Care Medical teams, made up of clinicians with a background in family medicine, to provide primary and preventative care for children and adults and, according to Amazon, they can even help manage chronic and long-term illnesses. .

Here are some FAQs about the service:

  • You need a mobile phone with iOS 13 and above or Android 6 and above to download the Amazon Care app. You cannot use a tablet or a computer.
  • There are 3 services offered: a Care Chat, to speak with a nurse and/or help decide your next step; a video chat, which is an actual virtual visit, or mobile care, when a nurse is sent to your home for in-person care.
  • Once you are in the care of a care team, you can message your clinician anytime and receive a response within 24 hours. (I have to admit that’s a pretty cool feature and I’m not entirely sure if it’s a bot or not, but still heartwarming.)
  • You can use insurance for Amazon Care, and some employers also partner with the services.
  • All prescription drugs can be sent to your local pharmacy or filled through Amazon Pharmacy, which offers 2-day delivery for members or $5.99 shipping for non-members.

How will Amazon Care change healthcare?

Much like how Amazon, as a virtual storefront, has changed the way we shop – and how quickly we wait for our packages to arrive – some believe the “on-demand healthcare” model will change the way which consumers expect to instantly connect with clinicians. Their slogan on Twitter, for example, it’s: “See a doctor or a nurse in no time” and I think that pretty much sums it up. Amazon operates a nation that is tired of long wait times for even simple healthcare services.

“I expect clients will likely appreciate the immediacy of connecting with a healthcare professional because it’s something people experience in more and more aspects of their lives,” Tom Andriola , vice chancellor of computing and data at the University of California Irvine and UCI Health, told Becker’s Hospital Review. Andriola also pointed out that Amazon isn’t changing healthcare so much as it’s bringing back some “old” ways of doing things with home care.

“To truly serve healthcare patients/consumers, Amazon will need (and is developing) strong connections to the mainstream healthcare ecosystem for more complex patient conditions and illnesses,” he added. “It will be interesting to see how they choose to implement this aspect of their customer value chain and what elements they choose to directly control.”

Mark Hallman, director of innovation and transformation at JPS Health Network in Fort Worth, Texas, also told the outlet that Amazon has the potential to be a real disruptor in the healthcare industry and that hospitals will have to adapt and offer similar services in order to keep on top.

What does this mean for nurses?

As you may have already noticed, Amazon Care relies heavily on nurses: nurses are the first point of contact for patients using the service, providing virtual triage, educating patients, and referring them when necessary. The service will also hire many NPs as primary care providers and, of course, also use nurses for mobile care visits. It’s an interesting service model that will require a base of highly trained professional nurses in order to serve patients as well, so I’d like to see if Amazon Care will compensate said nurses accordingly.

From the perspective of a nurse using Amazon Care, I have to say, it looks promising. Honestly, as a nurse, mom (and therefore guardian of my family’s health), and someone who has recently had to navigate the medical system as a patient for the first time other than childbirth, I can only dream of a solution that will make healthcare more convenient, transparent and integrated. The patchwork of providers, the lack of communication, the fear and isolation of not being able to get a simple answer to a simple question without feeling like you’re bothering someone – these are all real issues with a real impact about health.

And the possibility of having a nurse come to your home for care? As someone who has been stuck at home with vomiting kids and no way to get to a doctor in person, I think this is a pretty cool service. Additionally, consider the possibilities for patients with disabilities, reduced mobility, and chronic illnesses that could make a visit to a busy clinic or office risky or downright impossible.

Others believe that Amazon Care will be no different from other telehealth services, and that Amazon simply won’t be where most people think they turn for reliable medical advice. Amazon has had failed healthcare projects in the past, but it also has huge potential, from integration with Alexa to resources to create an electronic medical record to endless comprehensive services to deliver care. monitoring, products, tests. supplies and home delivery of health products.

So far, there haven’t been many comments from nurses and leading nursing organizations on Amazon Care, but time will tell if this service is useful or yet another way for billionaires to exploiting patients and nurses for profit.

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