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Amazon will close its telehealth offer


Amazon will shut down Amazon Care, the virtual and home health service it originally created for its employees, by the end of this year — a surprising move given the company’s recent investment in the care space. health.

People who work at Amazon Care learned the news during a meeting on Wednesday, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements.

Amazon Care was initially rolled out as an in-house healthcare offering for employees of Amazon, which is the nation’s second largest private employer. Today, it’s available to employees of half a dozen corporate clients, including Silicon Labs, Precor, Amazon-owned Whole Foods, and Hilton, its largest partner that has only signed with Amazon Care. only in December.

Workers were told the service was closed because those customers didn’t see the value in the service, one of the people said. Dozens of employees will lose their jobs, some will leave as early as October, the sources say.

Amazon spokeswoman Christina Smith confirmed the decision and shared a note announcing it.

“This decision was not taken lightly and only became clear after several months of careful consideration,” Amazon senior vice president of health Neil Lindsay said in an email. to staff. “While our registered members loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it’s not a comprehensive enough offering for the large enterprise customers we’re targeting and wasn’t going to work long term.”

In her email, Lindsay said Amazon Care employees could be placed in other jobs within Amazon and that the company would “support employees seeking positions outside the company.” .

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Amazon first provided the letter announcing the shutdown to GeekWire and Fierce Healthcare.

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The decision to shut down Amazon Care comes as a surprise given Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s commitment to expanding Amazon’s investment in healthcare. This follows Amazon’s $3.9 billion acquisition of concierge healthcare startup One Medical last month, a deal that could face antitrust scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.

Amazon Care allows patients to virtually chat with healthcare providers, arrange video visits and, in some locations, have a healthcare provider come to their home to provide services, including vaccinations and screenings for common health conditions such as urinary tract infections. The convenience of the service was appreciated by the employees.

In its 2021 shareholder letter, Jassy cited Amazon Care as an example of the “type of iterative innovation” that is “ubiquitous across all teams at Amazon.”

Amazon Care’s human resources team learned that the service was closing this week, according to people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, in other Amazon departments, HR staff encouraged employees to sign up for Amazon Care as recently as Tuesday, according to an Amazon employee who spoke on condition of anonymity. to protect his job.

“This decision by Amazon to throw in the towel should be a vindication to those who thought the healthcare industry was simply too complex, even for a company like Amazon,” healthcare consultant Paddy Padmanabhan said in a message. “It begs the question of whether someone can be successful as a stand-alone primary care provider in health care or whether you need to be part of an integrated health system to make it work.”

Amazon Care was born out of a secret Amazon internal incubator program called Grand Challenge. It is available virtually nationwide and was expected to expand to 20 cities for home care delivered by mobile nurses by the end of this year. To achieve this scale, the company increasingly relied on third-party recruitment agencies to supply its clinical workforce. Hiring is a challenge facing all healthcare organizations amid an ongoing labor shortage in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Wednesday, Amazon’s website posted 20 job openings at Amazon Care.

One Medical is a premium healthcare offering that combines virtual care with physical clinics in cities including Boston, Chicago, DC and San Francisco, where the company is headquartered. Although the company has largely focused on a young, urban user base, its acquisition of Iora Health in 2021 has broadened its reach to include the growing and potentially very lucrative market of Medicare patients aged 65 and over.

By acquiring One Medical, Amazon stands to gain staff, a retail footprint and a wealth of consumer healthcare data. Some privacy advocates are concerned about how Amazon will handle this information, and some One Medical customers have balked at having their medical care handled by the e-commerce giant.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the overlap between One Medical, which directly serves consumers, and Amazon Care, which is a social benefit designed in part to help businesses reduce healthcare costs, led to the decision. from Amazon to end the program.

Last week, The Post reported on tensions between Amazon Care and the clinical staff the company has hired to treat patients. These medical professionals work for an independent company called Care Medical, which is also being closed. Six former employees said the two sides clashed over Amazon’s fast-paced and frugal approach to building Amazon Care, which some former employees said prioritized the company over medical best practices. .

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A former Amazon Care executive said at the time that Amazon was “going to try to do what they do in every other business: they’re going to try to make it better than everyone else, make it less expensive and get a crazy adoption”. because of convenience. But health care is different. It’s hard.”

In response, Amazon’s Smith said in an email that Amazon puts patient and employee safety first and that “Amazon Care has evolved and improved for patients and clinicians since the days of our pilot program”.

Lindsay — an Amazon veteran who took over the company’s health services department last December — stressed in his letter that Amazon remains committed to its health care business.

“Our vision is to make it easier for people to access the healthcare products and services they need to get and stay healthy. We know it won’t be easy or quick, but we think it’s important,” he wrote.

This is Amazon’s second major healthcare investment. A health insurance company called Haven that she co-founded with financial firms Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase closed last year.

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The company continues to operate Amazon Pharmacy, a prescription ordering and delivery service spun off from its acquisition of Pillpack in 2018. Its cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, also has a strong presence in the healthcare industry, where it uses machine learning to analyze healthcare data for large healthcare organizations, among other companies.

Earlier this month, Amazon Care announced it would partner with Ginger, a virtual therapy startup, to offer virtual mental health services. Amazon also offers virtual healthcare services through Alexa through a partnership with Teladoc.

In the year since taking over as CEO, Jassy tried to consolidate Amazon’s business, closing some of its retail businesses and slowing growth in its logistics division. Disruption is not entirely uncommon for Amazon, which emphasizes flexibility and moves quickly to kill projects that don’t work.

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