Health, Wellness & Biotech

Amazon Announces New Virtual Clinic As Telehealth Grows

Illustration of doctor/patient on virtual appointment.

Just a few months after Amazon acquired One Medical and shuttered its long-struggling telehealth arm Amazon Care, the company revealed a new telehealth offering on Tuesday: Amazon Clinic.

Amazon Clinic seems to be the health system’s answer to “a quick check in,, especially at a time when doctors are juggling far too many patients every single day and patients are finding it hard to get an appointment.

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Need your birth control refilled? Have an acne issue that requires a topical treatment? Through Amazon Clinic, patients can search for a particular ailment (there are around 20 that are applicable), scroll through a list of providers and how much they cost, and message with them virtually after filling out a quick intake form.

“Virtual care isn’t right for every problem,” Amazon admits, which makes sense for a messaging-only application.

The telehealth business model might be due for a change

Perhaps it’s smart that Amazon ventured back into telehealth after its flagship Amazon Care product disintegrated. Funding among telehealth startups hasn’t reverted back to pre-pandemic numbers, signaling telehealth adoption is a permanent change in the health care system. Per Crunchbase data, 2022 so far has seen over $1.3 billion in funding (compare that to 2019, when funding clocked in at less than $500,000).

Like most telehealth services we’re seeing right now, Amazon Clinic does not take insurance. But it’s unclear if the company plans on getting employers involved to offer the service as part of an employee benefits package, something that contributed to the demise of Amazon Care.

We’ve addressed this before with Maven, which announced $90 million in fresh funding on Monday. Specialized telehealth companies usually latch onto employers as part of a benefits package as opposed to partnering with insurance firms, which is a good way for doctors offices to circumvent tedious administrative requirements involved with being insurance-based. There’s a reason why so many therapists don’t take insurance.

But we’re starting to see a shift in teletherapy.

Venture firms are increasingly looking at startups that use health insurance as part of their business model as it’s usually an indication of long-term patient and provider engagement. This is generally true for any health care offering that requires long-term care: mental health, chronic conditions or fertility, to name a few. It’ll be interesting to see how this change of strategy in teletherapy will affect the rest of the telehealth space.

For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look like Amazon Clinic is meant to be that sort of platform.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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