On the one hand, Amazon is no different from other large employers, wrestling with the healthcare benefits cost demon that squeezes both its bottom line and employees’ take-home pay. On the other, no company beyond Walmart has proven better at squeezing costs out of flabby legacy business models.
Amazon’s new virtual health clinic, Amazon Care, allows the company’s Seattle employees to consult with physicians online, schedule follow-up appointments and even set up prescription drug delivery. Once the kinks are worked out of this system, you can bet the farm that Amazon will be figuring out a way to offer similar services to the company’s 300 million active customers.
For this effort to succeed, however, there are three things Amazon – and other employers, for that matter – must keep in mind:
1. The success of telehealth depends on the underlying care model.
Without a doubt, telehealth can do great things. It gives people the ability to get a timely response to a minor medical concern, and it encourages those who might forgo or delay care because they lack transportation to get medical advice from the comfort of home.
However, the healthcare services delivered via telehealth must be woven into strong, value-based primary care versus creating yet another silo of care. The value-based primary care model gives physicians the freedom to practice medicine in the way they were trained – with a strong emphasis on time-with-patient and addressing underlying health issues, not just treating symptoms – via a very modern online platform. There’s no well-functioning healthcare system in the world not built on this kind of primary care.