April 2024 AI Newsletter Banner

Dr. Amazon Will See You Now

Amazon building

Success in one area doesn’t necessarily translate into success within another.

Even basketball legend Michael Jordan put up average-at-best numbers when he gave baseball a shot – and that was in the minor leagues. The Chicago Bulls superstar never made it to the major leagues. 

Still, that hasn’t stopped eCommerce and tech giant Amazon from attempting to bolt on healthcare services as a fourth pillar to complement the Amazon Prime membership services platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform, and core online shopping business that make up nearly 90% of its sales.

Several early healthcare-centric pushes by Amazon resulted in missteps. A joint-venture with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, called Haven, was launched in early 2018, but closed down in January 2021; while the company’s telehealth Amazon Care unit, which was launched in 2019, has also since folded.

“The current U.S. health care experience is often hard to navigate, frustrating, and dissatisfying,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. Jassy has focused on healthcare as an emerging engine of Amazon’s future growth strategy.

The Amazon CEO isn’t alone in attempting to steer his business toward the roughly $4 trillion healthcare sector. Other retail giants — from Kroger to CVSWalmart and Walgreens are also increasingly locked into an arms race to win a slice of the healthcare pie. 

But as the healthcare industry’s tangled web of providers, patients and platforms goes increasingly digital, the infamously complex sector may be playing right into Amazon’s hands.

Read moreJ.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Spotlights Digital Transformation

Scaling Access to Healthcare 

On Monday (Jan. 8), Amazon launched a new program called Health Conditions to help individuals discover and enroll in virtual care benefits that are available to them through their employer or health plan at no extra cost. 

The launch is happening as Amazon continues what has been described by PYMNTS as a “a multi-year journey toward bringing healthcare more fully online.”

Earlier, Amazon debuted AWS HealthScribe, an artificial intelligence (AI) that leverages speech recognition and generative AI to generate clinical documentation, saving clinicians time summarizing patient visits and improving care delivery. 

But one of the tech giant’s biggest moves into the healthcare market was its 2022 acquisition of One Medical for $3.9 billion, which was completed at the start of 2023.

And, as announced in November, Amazon is looking to leverage a flywheel effect between its Prime member base and healthcare services by offering Prime members healthcare services from One Medical for a discounted rate. 

The $99-per-year — or $9 per month — program, compared to a standard cost of $199 annually, or $16.59 a month, gives Prime members access to things like virtual and primary care services through One Medical, while also letting Prime members who take part in the program and live near a One Medical location schedule same-day and next-day remote or in-person appointments at the company’s primary care offices around the U.S.

Amazon said earlier this past summer it had doubled its active pharmacy customers, and has even been experimenting with drone delivery of prescription medication.

See also: Healthcare Looks to AI for Potential Home Run Hit

The Payment-Driven Future of Healthcare

One Medical partners with Prime members’ insurance, allowing for convenient care with just a click.

Amazon’s health initiatives accept HSA and FSA cards, and customers using Amazon Pay can pay in installments by leveraging their integration with buy now, pay later provider Affirm.

All in all, the tech behemoth appears to be banking on driving differentiation with its healthcare approach by making the whole process as streamlined and easy as, well, buying pretty much else on Amazon.

This approach, which sits nicely at the intersection of consumer behavior and technical capability, could pay off for Amazon.

As PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster wrote, the companies in 2024 that monetize certainty will thrive as businesses and consumers prize predictability.

PYMNTS Intelligence has also found an increasing willingness among consumers to use digital tools and platforms to manage health needs, connect with providers and get access to their medications. For example, nearly two-thirds of Generation Z report using digital health portals.

Still, as separate PYMNTS Intelligence found, there exists a growing urban-rural divide in access to and participation in digital healthcare services. This gap between access to care and the ability of care to be delivered will need to be addressed — and ideally closed.