Amazon has been building a sizable healthcare business over the last several years. Amazon Pharmacy launched in 2018. Then, the e-commerce giant purchased One Medical in the summer of 2022. And just a few months ago, Amazon launched a virtual messaging platform called Amazon Clinic. As a physician who spent years researching how to improve efficiency in healthcare, I am all for innovating medicine. Today’s patients have different needs than the patients of decades past. We must recognize this and cater to them. This is exactly why I left academic medicine to become an entrepreneur in 2015. So it’s no surprise that many people have asked me what I think about Amazon’s deep dive into healthcare. Should a company we use for quick household product and grocery deliveries be who we trust for our health needs? Here are my thoughts.
I believe that healthcare should be accessible and convenient. This is where Amazon can make an impact and drive change. Innovative Care has been offering virtual medical visits for eight years, and up until the pandemic, we were mostly alone. While other clinics scrambled to see patients via telemedicine, we simply turned the volume up on our existing platform to see more patients. Amazon Clinic will take this to another level with their messaging platform that allows patients to get medical advice and prescriptions without video conferencing. For example, say you are a 35 year old female that gets a urinary tract infection 1-2 times a year. You feel it coming on as burning on urination. You can go to the Amazon Clinic site, answer some simple questions on their website (no appointment, no video). Amazon makes sure you have not had a UTI in the last 3 months, you are not pregnant, and you do not have flank pain (indicative of a more severe kidney infection), asks about your allergies, and just like that, they charge you $35 because you qualify and within 3 hours of the survey you just took, your prescription is at your pharmacy. It is a simple process for routine and run of the mill medical needs, and I must say I appreciate their transparency and the way it will expand access to care. But many will ask, is it safe? Yes, absolutely. Traditional healthcare is notoriously opaque. There is complexity in billing, insurance and even making an appointment. These are the exact obstacles I strive to combat at Innovative Care. So the more we can innovate healthcare to make it more convenient, the better. Amazon is currently trying to disrupt telemedicine, and this is wonderful. We will have to catch up.
As tech leaders and retail giants infiltrate the healthcare space, more decisions will be made by entrepreneurs and business leaders. This will push healthcare leaders to think outside the box and get out of their comfort zone. Anyone who has worked in medicine can attest to the fact that change happens slowly at large medical institutions. As more entrepreneurial businesses enter healthcare, a shift in thinking will be necessary to compete.
I am a physician and an entrepreneur. This puts me in a unique position to see both sides of this matter. Above all, there are two things I never want to see sacrificed when it comes to healthcare. One, is patient privacy. Any time large companies have access to detailed customer or patient information, we must be assured it will be stored and used responsibly. Amazon already knows a lot about our buying behaviors and needs. Will our private health matters be safe and secure? Amazon has countless companies in addition to their main e-commerce site. These include companies in technology, advertising, cloud computing, publishing, grocery retail, gaming, books and more. At Innovative Care, our only business is practicing good medicine. We are physician owned and our singular focus is on your health.
The second thing we must never sacrifice is quality of care. There are numerous health matters that can be addressed via telemedicine, or in Amazon’s case, a messaging/survey platform. Simple prescriptions, straightforward symptoms, and short consults for minor health concerns all have a place here. But think of maintaining your health like you do maintaining a home. Some tasks are quick and easy, like replacing light bulbs. Other things require yearly check-ins, like maintaining your furnace, and occasionally, you need more specialized help, like for a plumbing issue. The Amazon model will only get you so far. That’s why it’s important that patients have a trusted primary care provider who can address more complex needs, and provide continuity of care, too.
At Innovative Care, our model allows patients to get both. You can walk-in or pop on telemedicine for an appointment with our urgent care team seven days a week. We also have a primary care team here for your ongoing preventative health needs. The best part is, our teams collaborate with one another. So even if the flexibility of walk-in visits is what you utilize most, your primary care provider will be kept in the loop. Together, we’ll ensure that you are getting high-quality, comprehensive care.
I am dedicating my career to improving healthcare by incorporating convenience, transparency and continually infusing the latest technology. It is the mission behind Innovative Care and the reason why we have grown from one single urgent care to a 11 clinic medical group across several specialties in just 8 years. I believe patients deserve quality care that is convenient and meets their needs. This includes putting the ability to message or speak with a physician at your fingertips.
New options in healthcare do not have to replace the old. They should supplement it. I do not intend to give up the personal face-to-face relationship I have with my doctor. Nor do I recommend someone use only convenience services like Amazon Clinic. I do however support giving patients choices. Options like Amazon Clinic may allow someone who doesn’t have an established provider relationship to get a necessary prescription or health matter addressed.
What’s most important is that patients take care of their health. Our world runs off of handheld devices and on-demand services, so anyone who is helping to innovate healthcare and meet patients where they are at is okay by me.
– Rahul Khare, MD, CEO & Founder of Innovative Care