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Amazon launches text message-based Amazon Clinic in 32 states, including CT, MA and ME

Amazon Clinic, a text message-based service adds to Amazon's expansion into healthcare on top of Amazon Pharmacy and One Medical.
Julia Lazebnaya
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Amazon Clinic, a text message-based service, adds to Amazon's expansion into health care on top of Amazon Pharmacy and One Medical.

Seattle-headquartered Amazon Inc. launched the text message-based Amazon Clinic in 32 states, including three in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine, to treat more than 20 common conditions, including hair loss, acne and allergies.

“We developed Amazon Clinic because we believe that treating a migraine shouldn’t be a headache,” said Dr. Nworah Ayogu, chief medical officer at Amazon Pharmacy. “Health care should be as easy and convenient as any other part of your life.”

The clinic’s homepage shows a person on a garden bench, presumably texting symptoms to a provider. Amazon Clinic doesn’t provide direct service but connects people with virtual providers SteadyMD and HealthTap.

Patients select their condition from a list. They then choose a telehealth provider – price and wait times are listed. Next, they answer an intake questionnaire. The provider reviews the information and creates a treatment plan, which is texted to the patient, and includes any necessary prescriptions, sent to a pharmacy of the patient’s choosing.

“It’s just another evolution in this retail thinking that’s coming into health care, and trying to create products that can cater to patient needs and wants,” said Timothy Hoff, author of “Searching for the Family Doctor: Primary Care on the Brink.” “I do think it will fill a need in the marketplace,” Hoff said.

In a mock walk-through of the service, Connecticut Public Radio chose “sinusitis” from a list of conditions it was shown on a checklist. The suggested treatment was appropriate if the patient had fewer than three sinus infections in the past year, the infection was new and not ongoing, and did not require a previous, full dose of antibiotic. Also, symptoms should have begun no longer than a month ago. Next, came price-shopping.

A consultation with HealthTap for sinusitis was priced at $47 and had a response time of under five hours. SteadyMD was cheaper at $30 and had a response time of under four hours.

Amazon is betting that convenience will be the selling point. The retailer notes in its news release that people can interact with a doctor from home, after dinner, at the grocery store or on the go.

Hoff had a word of caution. In the absence of insurance, “there’s going to be price competition among the providers,” he said. “So the danger there is it could lead to sort of a lowballing of price, which could lead to poor quality of service delivery.”

The process has no video chat, just text. Patients pay a flat fee with a debit card or submit a receipt to their own insurer for reimbursement.

The latest offering adds to Amazon’s expansion into health care through Amazon Pharmacy and One Medical.

Amazon is on track to shut down operations at Amazon Care, the virtual and in-home health care service it launched for its employees, by year-end.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.
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