Tech

Amazon expands virtual health care for employees throughout Washington state

Key Points
  • Amazon Care, which launched in the fall of 2019 to employees in the Seattle area, is a pilot medical clinic for employees. 
  • Now it's expanding to Amazon facilities throughout the state of Washington.
  • "I think we have adapted well to increase the interest that Covid-19 has created," said Amazon Care director Kristen Helton. 
Amazon employees are told they can get health care on call

Amazon Care, the virtual health clinic for employees, is undergoing its first major expansion beyond the Seattle area. 

The service, which is available to Amazon employees and their dependents, is designed to make it easier to access primary care by letting employees exchange messages with a health-care provider or jump on a video visit. There are also at-home visits available in some ZIP codes, although these are not part of the expansion.

The clinic, which launched as a pilot in September of 2019, is described on its website as a new benefit for employees that offers "the best of both virtual and in-person care."

While most of Amazon's corporate employees in the state are located in Seattle and its suburbs, it also has fulfillment and other types of facilities in Spokane, Cheney, Vancouver and elsewhere. The company declined to say how many employees are being covered now. 

"This is the first big step," said Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care, in an interview. "We're expanding our virtual service across the state." 

Helton said that the patient satisfaction score is 4.7 out of 5, which is a big factor behind the rollout. But she noted that Amazon Care is also looking at other measures, like quality, cost of care and convenience. 

Helton did not share any further expansion plans to other states where Amazon has a lot of large employees, such as California, but did say that the company is "building the service and looking to expand as much as we are able to."

Amazon Care is just one of the projects that the company is working on in the health-care sector. It has a pharmacy division under PillPack, a company it acquired in 2018, and a research and development group known as Grand Challenge that has worked on health-related projects. It also recently released a wearable, dubbed Halo, which brings it into competition with companies like Apple and Fitbit. 

Telemedicine, which involves virtual visits between patients and clinicians, is an increasingly big opportunity. The technology has been around for decades, but it has accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic as an alternative to in-person care.

Amazon Care hasn't been immune from those changes, both as a tool to help employees who fear they might have Covid-19 or as a way to get routine care without risking exposure to the virus. 

"I think we have adapted well to increase the interest that Covid-19 has created," said Helton. "I would say that it has made services like Amazon Care more important."

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Amazon plans primary care clinics for workers: Sources