Amazon has now launched its Amazon Care app into major app stores as part of its strategy to help its Seattle-area employees get more convenient and affordable health care.
Amazon Care, which CNBC uncovered this fall, has been in the works for a few years. A website -- Amazon.care -- is live, and the company recently released apps that offer health advice, virtual medical visits and in-person support via a health professional that shows up at an employee's home or office.
Some giant companies like Amazon are moving into primary care to clamp down on rising health care costs, hoping it can help avoid costly emergency visits by catching health problems earlier. The program could also help Amazon recruit and retain talent, as many companies will offer telemedicine apps but few -- with the notable exception of Apple -- put their own spin on the service. In addition, Amazon has hired a mix of technical, product and analytics talent, not just clinicians, suggesting that that Amazon could use the service to collect and analyze health data about a large population, which could be useful as it pushes deeper into the $3.5 trillion health care space.
A company spokesperson did not have any further information to share about the Amazon Care apps, but an insider walked us through what it's like to use them.
To get started with Amazon Care, users need a Amazon corporate alias and must be based in the Seattle area. The program is not currently available to employees working in Amazon's fulfillment centers, but may expand over time.
Employees download the Care app and sign up with their Amazon login credentials. They're then asked to agree to allow Amazon's health and welfare plan "for the use and disclosure of protected health information." That might include their employee email, name, date of birth, and so on.
Amazon then indicates that it contracts with a third party medical group called Oasis Medical, which is a separate legal entity from the parent company. "Neither the plan nor Oasis will receive financial or in-kind compensation or remuneration in exchange for using or disclosing the PHI (personal health information) as described above," a disclosure form notes.
This is meant to reassure Amazon employees that their health information won't be sold.
Amazon then guides the user to indicate whether they are the primary insurance holder or a dependent with an invitation code, and informs them that anyone over the age of 18 must have an Amazon account, indicating that Amazon Care may be linked to Amazon's other services.
Next up, the app lets them know about all the ways they can use Amazon Care instead of an in-person clinic. Similarly to the website, Amazon Care bills its service as "healthcare built around you," with "no more waiting rooms." It is also marketed as a "first stop for healthcare" for employees, who can use it for services ranging from minor colds to sexual health services, like contraception.
According to screenshots shared with CNBC, Amazon employees trying the service out get a welcome kit including a mobile phone holder and digital thermometer.
From there, they're asked whether they would prefer a free chat with a nurse via messenger ("CareChat") or a video chat ("VideoCare") with a medical provider. An employee might share that they're feeling unwell, and a provider would follow up within minutes to ask a set of questions and figure out whether the patient needs to be seen in person.
If so, a practicioner will be dispatched, and a map in the app shows their location and estimated arrival time.
Amazon employees can also set up a profile with their payment methods, care history and their dependents. Their care summary will include a potential diagnosis, with notes from the doctor and the treatment plan.
So far, the company has received dozens of positive ratings and reviews, implying that employees are happy about the quality of care and the convenience. There are also some survey questions about the quality of the experience, suggesting that Amazon is actively collecting feedback.
Despite its focus on employees, Amazon Care is viewed by analysts and other health experts as a threat to established telemedicine companies that offer similar services to consumers. Many of these companies have struggled to market themselves and stand out in a hotly competitive space. If Amazon Care succeeds among employees, the company could someday sell it to millions of people who already rely on Amazon for their groceries, entertainment, and more.
One possible indication of greater plans: In October Amazon acquired a small company called Health Navigator, which is known for its expertise in triage — that is, directing patients to the optimal place to get treated, whether it's staying at home and waiting for a doctor or heading straight to the emergency room.
The Amazon Care team is also growing rapidly, according to employee profiles on LinkedIn. Some notable folks include Kristi Henderson, a clinical operations leader who previously was a professor of population health at Dell Medical School and a vice president of virtual care at Ascension; Bill Lead, a security leader who hails from AWS; Nicole Coddington, a principal designer for the apps; Christine Henningsgaard, a product and operations specialist formerly of One Medical; and Ram Bhakta, a machine learning expert who previously worked at Microsoft.