Initially rolled out as an in-house healthcare offering for employees of Amazon, AmazonCare is the second largest private employer in the country. Today, it’s available to employees of half a dozen corporate clients including Silicon Labs, Precor, Amazon-owned Whole Foods, and Hilton, its largest partner who only signed with Amazon Care in December.
One of them said that workers were told that the service would be closed because these customers did not see the value of the service. Dozens of employees will lose their jobs, and some will leave by October, parents said.
Amazon spokeswoman Christina Smith confirmed the decision and published a note announcing it.
“This decision was not taken lightly and only became clear after several months of careful consideration,” Neil Lindsey, Amazon’s senior vice president of health, said in an email to employees. “Although our registered members liked many aspects of Amazon Care, it is not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers we were targeting, and it won’t work in the long run.”
In his email, Lindsey said that Amazon Care employees could be assigned to other jobs within Amazon, and that the company would “support employees looking for jobs outside the company.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Amazon first submitted the letter announcing the closure of GeekWire and Fierce Healthcare.
The decision to close Amazon Care comes as a surprise given Amazon CEO Andy Jassy’s commitment to expanding healthcare investments in Amazon. It comes on the heels of Amazon’s $3.9 billion acquisition of healthcare start-up One Medical last month, a deal that could face antitrust scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission.
Amazon Care allows patients to virtually chat with health care providers, set up video visits, and, in some locations, have the health care provider visit their home for services including vaccinations and checkups for common health issues such as urinary tract infections. The comfort of the service was popular with the staff.
In his 2021 letter to shareholders, Jassy named Amazon Care as an example of the “type of iterative innovation” that is “pervasive across every team at Amazon.”
Amazon Care’s human resources team has learned that the service will be shutting down this week, according to people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, at other Amazon divisions, HR staff encouraged employees to sign up for Amazon Care as recently as Tuesday, according to an Amazon employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their jobs.
“Amazon’s decision to throw in the towel should come as an acquittal for those who think the healthcare business is too complex, even for a company like Amazon,” healthcare consultant Paddy Padmanaban said in a letter. “This raises the question of whether anyone can be successful as an independent primary care provider in healthcare or whether you need to be part of an integrated health system to make it work.”
Amazon Care grew out of a secret internal Amazon incubator program called the Grand Challenge. It’s actually available across the country and was supposed to expand to 20 cities for home care provided by mobile health nurses by the end of this year. To achieve this scale, the company has been increasingly relying on third-party recruitment agencies to provide its clinical workforce. Staffing is a challenge facing all healthcare organizations in the midst of an ongoing labor shortage following the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, Amazon posted 20 Amazon Care job openings.
One Medical is a cutting-edge health offering that blends virtual care with traditional clinics in cities including Boston, Chicago, DC and San Francisco, where the company is headquartered. Although the company has largely focused on a young and urban user base, which is 2021 Obsession Iora Health has expanded its reach to the growing and potentially highly profitable market for Medicare patients aged 65 and over.
With the acquisition of One Medical, Amazon will gain employees, a retail footprint and a wealth of consumer healthcare data. Some privacy advocates have concerns about how Amazon handles this information, and some One Medical customers have balked at the idea that their medical care is managed by the e-commerce giant.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the overlap between One Medical, which serves consumers directly, and Amazon Care, an employee benefit intended in part to help companies lower health care costs, led to Amazon’s decision to end the program.
Last week, The Post reported on tensions between Amazon Care and the medical staff the company had brought in to treat patients. These medical professionals work for an independent company called Care Medical that is also closed. Six former employees said the two sides clashed over Amazon’s quick and frugal approach to expanding AmazonCare, which some former employees felt prioritizes work on medical best practices.
A former AmazonCare executive said at the time that Amazon would try to do what it does in every other area of business: They would try to make it better than everyone else, make it less expensive and crazily adopt it for convenience. But healthcare is different. Difficult.”
In response, Amazon’s Smith said in an email that Amazon has prioritized patient and employee safety and that “AmazonCare has evolved and improved for both patients and clinicians since the days of our pilot program.”
Lindsay – Amazon Veteran took over The company’s health services division last December confirmed in its letter that Amazon remains committed to the healthcare business.
Our vision is to make it easier for people to access the healthcare products and services they need to get and stay healthy. We know achieving this won’t be easy or quick, but we think it’s important.”
This is the second major healthcare investment that Amazon has collapsed into. A health insurance venture called Haven, which I co-created with fund companies Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, closed last year.
The company continues to operate Amazon Pharmacy, the prescription-ordering and delivery service that grew out of its 2018 acquisition of Pillpack. The cloud computing division, Amazon Web Services, has a significant presence in the healthcare space, using machine learning to analyze healthcare data for large healthcare organizations, among others.
Earlier this month, Amazon Care announced that it It will be a partnership with Ginger, a virtual therapy startup, to provide virtual mental health services. Amazon also offers virtual healthcare services via Alexa through a partnership with Teladoc.
In the year since taking over as CEO, Jassy has tried to focus on Amazon’s business, shutting down some retail operations and slowing growth in the logistics division. This disruption isn’t exactly rare for Amazon, which emphasizes flexibility and moves quickly to kill off projects that aren’t working.
“Avid problem solver. Extreme social media junkie. Beer buff. Coffee guru. Internet geek. Travel ninja.”