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Amazon takes its telehealth offering nationwide

Amazon has made its Care telehealth service available nationwide with in-person healthcare services to follow later in the year. The company is tapping a growing healthcare market.

Amazon will make its Care telehealth and in-person healthcare services available nationwide by the end of the year, heating competition in a market expected to reach $225 billion by 2030.

The tech giant made Care telehealth visits available everywhere in the U.S. this week and planned to expand in-person health services from eight to more than 28 cities this year. The expansion significantly broadens Care's potential customer base in a telehealth market expected to grow 18% annually to $225 billion in eight years, according to Precedence Research.

Amazon Care provides virtual doctor visits and can send nurses to patients' homes for procedures like blood draws. Amazon launched the service in Seattle in 2019 for its employees. Since then, the company has offered Care to employers in Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va.

This year, Amazon plans to bring in-person care to San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and New York. The company did not provide a list of all the new cities.

Amazon said numerous companies use Care to provide services to their employees, including semiconductor manufacturer Silicon Labs, software firm TrueBlue and Amazon subsidiary Whole Foods Market.

Aaron Miri, chief digital and information officer, Baptist HealthAaron Miri

Amazon is pushing its hybrid telehealth and in-person care model as the federal government tightens policies that incentivize virtual doctor visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Aaron Miri, chief digital and information officer at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Fla. He added that he expects the government to lower reimbursements for telehealth visits, driving healthcare providers to expand in-person services.

Amazon's in-person offerings give it an advantage over telehealth-only vendors like Amwell, Teladoc and MDLive, said Gartner analyst Seth Feder. "[Amazon realizes] you can't deliver 100% of healthcare remotely."

Telehealth visits have fallen off from their pandemic peak but will likely account for about 20% of patient visits going forward, Feder said. That estimate is in line with a University of Michigan study that found Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan claims plummeted from 61% of outpatient visits at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to around 20% after May 2020.

Miri said he sees the Amazon Care expansion as a positive for patients. Modern healthcare needs multiple organizations working in concert to provide the best possible care.

"No one health system or health delivery organization can be all things to all people," he said.

However, Amazon might find it more challenging to get into healthcare than other industries because a doctor visit is not solely a transaction, said Hugo Manassei, healthcare group vice president at consulting firm Publicis Sapient.

"If you look at the digital success of banking, airlines and online retailers, it's because they are all about transactional engagement," he said. "But healthcare is about [personal] relationships."

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering unified communications and collaboration tools. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily NewsWalpole TimesSharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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