Amazon on Tuesday unveiled Amazon Clinic, a new healthcare offering for relatively modest medical issues.
It’s a smart move.
The U.S. healthcare system, inaccessible and unaffordable for millions of Americans, is frequently overwhelmed with patients dealing with serious problems.
Amazon Clinic aims to relieve some of that stress by providing a go-to alternative for people seeking answers or treatment for more mild concerns.
Using virtual visits, the service aims to provide answers to patient questions regarding conditions such as allergies, acne and hair loss.
“We believe that improving both the occasional and ongoing engagement experience is necessary to making care dramatically better,” the company says.
“We also believe that customers should have the agency to choose what works best for them.”
It’s early still. Amazon Clinic is being rolled out at first in 32 states (presumably the rest will follow). It also isn’t yet taking insurance for its telehealth consultations.
But it’s a step in the right direction.
The service improves healthcare access for patients with relatively simple needs, such as care for migraines, urinary tract infections or even just dandruff.
Any medications prescribed during the virtual consultations will be eligible for insurance coverage.
Visitors to the online portal first select the condition they want to discuss. Then they pick a preferred provider.
After answering some questions, patients will be connected with a clinician who can offer medical expertise.
Two weeks of followup messages are included with the consultation cost, which Amazon says in “many cases” will be the same or less than the typical insurance copay.
You can pay using a healthcare spending account or flexible spending account if you so choose.
Telehealth won’t solve all the problems of the wildly dysfunctional, $4-trillion U.S. healthcare system.
But it offers the enticing possibility of a friendlier front line for patients — a way for care to be provided without running the gauntlet of a visit to the hospital or doctor’s office.
There’s still much to be worked out, not least getting the insurance industry to play ball.
But if Amazon pulls this off, expect other such providers to flock to the space, boosting competition and lowering prices.
And that would be strong medicine indeed.