After shutting down Amazon Care, Amazon is reentering telehealth with Amazon Clinic, a marketplace for third-party virtual consultants

The ink is not yet dry Amazon’s $4 billion acquisition of OneMedical, but in the meantime, the online services giant is making another move into telehealth, and medical services in general, under its own steam. The company is taking the wraps off today Amazon Clinicwhich Amazon describes as a virtual health “storefront”: users can search, connect with and pay for telehealth care targeting a variety of conditions that are some of the most popular telehealth consultations today.

Amazon Clinic initially launched in 32 US states. Does not work with health insurance and this point and the overall price will vary depending on providers, conditions and location. (One example, connecting to a clinic for acne treatment in nevada it will cost around $40 and you get a choice of two suppliers whose different offers are provided in a comparison table. Another example, for pink eye (conjunctivitis) in New Jerseythere is a larger price difference between $30 and $48 between the two providers listed.)

Amazon Clinic seems to have expired about a week ago when users noticed video on YouTube, which was then quickly removed as the media drew attention. Now it’s officially launched, and at a critical time.

It’s only been a few months since Amazon turn off Amazon Care, which was a telehealth service previously created for its own employees strengthening plans to launch it nationwide and for third-party companies. And more generally, the company is, like many others in the technology space, feeling the economic crisis. It is reportedly preparing to make a major round of layoffs, potentially 10,000 jobs and possibly this week; and in addition to that it was downsizing and downsizing a number of its operations.

Amazon Clinic is about the company making another foray into the healthcare market and positioning itself as a player in what is a perennial problem in the US: how to bridge the gap between people needing medical care for diseases that are more complicated by a trip to the pharmacy, but may not justify expensive and time-consuming trips to the doctor.

(Other conditions it will cover in addition to acne and pink eye include asthma supplements, birth control, herpes, dandruff, eczema, erectile dysfunction, eyelash growth, genital herpes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hay fever, supplements for hyperlipidemia, hypertension supplements, hypothyroidism supplements, male pattern baldness, migraines, sinusitis, smoking cessation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), yeast infections, etc.)

The clinic is largely modeled after Amazon. It’s a marketplace where third parties can take advantage of Amazon’s platform and find customers, and Amazon can use third parties to quickly scale what it offers to its users. And it’s helping Amazon expand the business funnel for other Amazon operations — in this case, Amazon Pharmacy, which can fill all prescriptions stemming from clinic consultations and reportedly hasn’t had as much of a boom in business as expected. (Users can fill scripts on Amazon Clinic and at other pharmacies.)

We asked Amazon if it plans to provide its own internal (private label, in the language of e-commerce) telehealth consultation together with third parties and what are the plans for other countries, if it has international ambitions and if it will accept health insurance for the clinic in the future. It’s possible that this lays the groundwork for Amazon to connect what it’s building here with OneMedical when that acquisition closes.

The bigger picture for Amazon Clinic is that the service will fit Amazon’s larger ambitions in the healthcare market. The company already has an online pharmacy, Amazon Pharmacy, that fulfills subscriptions and allows users to buy additional over-the-counter drugs through a Prime membership, which delivers the items within two days.

Amazon also believes that its new telehealth service fills a gap in the market for providing health advice to consumers for minor ailments. Some situations require more direct physician involvement, which may be covered by One Medical or existing health coverage; some situations can be solved by visiting a pharmacy on your own.

“But we also know that sometimes you just need a quick interaction with a clinician for a common health concern that can easily be resolved virtually,” the company noted in its blog post announcing the service.

Amazon has been making its way and laying out its ambitions in healthcare for several years now. Amazon Pharmacy was launched after the acquisition of PillPack. And explores healthcare as a business opportunity, with Alexa integrations in healthcare settings.

But Amazon Care isn’t the only step back it’s taken in its longer journey. In 2018 it forms a joint venture with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway to build an employee healthcare operation, appointing a high-ranking physician to lead it. This service never seems to pan out as expected and close up shop in 2021.

We’ll update this part as we learn more.

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