Trends to Watch: Amazon’s Role in Healthcare
Amazon isn’t a stranger to healthcare, but this year, the company took a significant leap forward by purchasing a company with a nationwide network of primary care offices, extending its reach beyond prescriptions and virtual clinics.
The deal between Amazon and One Medical signals Amazon’s continued goal to revamp healthcare delivery to make it more convenient and accessible for patients.
Healthcare analysts believe with Amazon’s expansive supply chain, 80 million loyal Amazon Prime users and deep database, the company that first started as a bookstore can disrupt the healthcare market by providing solutions to pitfalls that vex patients. For example, One Medical strives to offer longer appointments, less wait time in the office and fewer days (or months) to get an appointment with a provider.
This patient-centric model could spur other primary care practices to take note and make significant changes to meet patients’ expectations.
“Amazon is looking to redefine consumer expectations of care,” according to an American Hospital Association blog. “If Amazon’s bet pays off, it could require providers to invest significantly and redesign their delivery models to keep up with higher consumer expectations created by the One Medical-Amazon model.”
Not Amazon’s First Healthcare Rodeo
Amazon has been dabbling in healthcare for several years, gradually expanding its reach and services.
- PillPack (2018) – Patients receive easy-to-open pill packs by mail. Each is filled with over-the-counter medications, vitamins and prescriptions packaged together by day and time.
- Amazon Care (2019) – Virtual urgent care and primary care services began in Seattle with Amazon employees and their families. It expanded with telehealth services available in all 50 states and in-person services in at least seven cities. Amazon Care also partnered with other employers to serve their employees but was shut down at the end of 2022, citing a lack of sustainable and long-term solutions for customers.
- Amazon Pharmacy (2020) – The pharmacy fills prescriptions as a mail-order pharmacy, offering Amazon Prime members two-day delivery. PillPack is part of the service.
- Amazon Clinic (2022) – Patients can be treated 24/7 for common health concerns at their convenience without appointments or video calls. Instead patients and providers communicate via messaging. Patients pay an upfront, flat fee determined by condition. Amazon Clinic doesn’t submit insurance claims.
One Medical Basics
Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical begins its entry into brick-and-mortar primary care. One Medical operates about 200 offices in more than 20 markets. It also offers on-site labs, mental health care and 24/7 virtual appointments. One Medical patients pay a yearly fee ($144 for the first year and $199 each year after that) to access care, and it accepts insurance.
Like Amazon, One Medical has invested heavily in technology. With the mobile app, patients can schedule appointments, renew prescriptions and message providers.
Less Waiting Time, More Face Time
One Medical and Amazon’s partnership hope to reduce the pitfalls that erode patient satisfaction and care. Waiting for appointments to see a primary care provider, let alone a specialist, leaves people frustrated and dissatisfied with today’s healthcare model.
On top of that, minutes spent in the waiting room and then the exam room to see a provider add fuel to the fire. Often, when providers and patients meet face to face, both the patient and provider feel rushed, leaving the patient dissatisfied and the provider to perhaps not uncover vital information.
Here’s how One Medical and Amazon hope to improve patient care:
Only 11 percent of patients and 14 percent of physicians report that they have all the time they need together, according to a sample of 1,747 U.S. adults between the ages of 27 and 75 who had two visits with the same doctor in the past year.
To remedy these frustrations, One Medical ensures that all appointments are 10 to 25 percent longer than the industry average by alleviating overbooked schedules and heavy workloads. To accomplish this, One Medical, providers see 50 percent fewer patients each day than the industry average — allowing for more personalized care. Additionally, One Medical’s technology capabilities reduce providers’ time on paperwork and record collecting during visits.
A new patient waits an average of 26 days to get an appointment with a provider, an 8 percent increase from 2017 and 24 percent since 2004, according to the data from Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruitment firm.
One Medical built its business around being able to book same and next-day in-office or remote visits. They also offer lab work on-site.
Across specialties, the average wait time for a doctor in America currently stands at 18 minutes and 13 seconds, according to the Vitals’ 9th Annual Physician Wait Time Report. As a result,
- 1 in 5 patients says they have switched doctors because of long wait times.
- 30 percent of patients have left a doctor’s appointment because of a long wait.
Efficiencies built into One Medical’s model create an environment where appointments start when they are scheduled to start, according to the site. In addition, health questionnaires sent to patients before visits also speed up the process.
Amazon has a massive captive audience that it can sway toward One Medical’s services. With more than 300 million active users shopping on Amazon is an integral part of many people’s shopping habits. More than 42 million unique desktop users in the U.S. visit Amazon stores each month, and more than 126 million unique mobile visitors in the U.S. visit Amazon stores each month, according to Amazon.
Experts note that Amazon could use its personal assistant Alexa and smart speaker, Echo, to enhance healthcare. Users talk to Amazon through these devices – asking for information, setting alarms, listening to music and sending messages. In the health world, they could be used to send medication reminders and monitor patients virtually, suggests consulting firm Huron.
Using Amazon’s robust database of personal info, Amazon could suggest food, vitamins, over-the-counter medication and other related products to help consumers manage their health, Huron says. This could lead to better preventative care overall.
Finally, Amazon’s unmatched supply chain and existing pharmacy could simplify ordering prescriptions for physicians and patients, potentially denting the pharmacy industry.
While the partnership between Amazon and One Medical is just beginning, the companies believe they can be the catalyst for better service in primary care. CEO Andy Jassy envisions a radically changed new care landscape.
“If you fast forward 10 years from now, people are not going to believe how primary care was administered,” Jassy says. “For decades, you called your doctor, made an appointment three or four weeks out, drove 15-20 minutes to the doctor, parked your car, signed in and waited several minutes in reception, eventually were placed in an exam room, where you waited another 10-15 minutes before the doctor came in, saw you for five to ten minutes and prescribed medicine.”