We cover a lot of telehealth stories here because they typically involve connected wearable and mobile devices. Such services are popular with patients as they make it easier to access a healthcare professional without having to travel to a doctor’s office or other clinical setting.
I believe that in order for telemedicine services to be successful, however, they must be integrated into a complete healthcare system and not just be a stand-alone service or something “bolted onto” a standard practice. For example, we recently covered the hybrid Heal system that combines telehealth with house calls by doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Recent news points further in this hybrid service direction. Amazon has launched Amazon Care, a health system for the company’s employees in the Seattle area. Those workers and their families who are covered by an Amazon health insurance plan (other than with Kaiser Permanente) are eligible for this new program.
The programs serves participants through three different levels. A smartphone app includes a text chat that connects you with a nurse to get advice and answers about health questions. The next level is a video chat feature to consult with a doctor or nurse practitioner. If needed, a Mobile Care nurse can visit you at your home or place of work to conduct tests or provide treatment. The system also delivers any prescribed medications to your home or office, saving a trip to the pharmacy.
Amazon is not providing its own doctors and other clinical staff for the program, but instead has contracted with Oasis Medical, which is an independent medical practice serving the Seattle area. The service is currently available 8 AM to 9 PM weekdays and 8 AM to 6 PM weekends.
This approach means that minor problems can be handled quickly, efficiently, and conveniently. If additional attention is required, the level of contact is escalated. And the system is designed from the ground up to provide an excellent customer experience for the participants. While this is just a limited pilot program for Amazon at this point, it could serve as a model for a much larger system that could redefine how routine healthcare is delivered in this country.