A reporter for Health Care News emailed me asking about Amazon’s health care initiative so I decided to take another look. Earlier this year I wrote about Amazon entering the health care space. One Medical is its membership-based medical service. One Medical features virtual clinical visits along with 125+ physical locations in 25 cities. It claims to break the mold for primary care providers. The following is what the website says:
This is no ordinary doctor’s office. Rather than do things the typical way, we’ve created a membership-based primary care practice truly designed around our patients’ needs.
We work with your insurance just like a regular doctor’s office would, but we offer so much more. A One Medical membership makes it faster, easier, and more enjoyable to look after your health. All for just $199 a year.
Connect to care 24/7
Connect to on-demand care over video. Message our care team. Renew prescriptions and book appointments with just a few taps.
Easily book appointments at 125+ offices
All of our providers have access to your complete One Medical health history — so you can get truly personalized care wherever you work, live, and travel.
Get help navigating the system
From billing questions to insurance issues to specialist referrals, our care team is here to help guide you through the healthcare maze.
Without signing up it is difficult to tell whether One Medical is truly innovative or just hype on a website devoid of specific examples. Since I’m not a member I decided to read the reviews on TrustPilot and found more unhappy customers than pleased ones. Some complained of unexpectedly large bills for short virtual visits. Other reviews suggested prices are high and transparency is poor. Granted, lack of transparency is common in health care and could apply to most clinics. One reviewer suggested it’s better for people with insurance than cash payers. That is the opposite of what I hoped to find. Clinics catering to cash tend to be more innovative. Some of the negative reviews predate Amazon’s ownership, but many don’t.
Besides its chain of primary care clinics, Amazon also has an online-only presence called Amazon Clinic. It’s more like the Amazon most of us have come to love. Amazon Clinic does not accept insurance and prices are transparent. However, services are currently limited to about 34 categories. Here is how it works:
Once you choose your condition, we’ll ask you to fill out an intake form about your current symptoms and basic health history. This should only take a few minutes.
Often, you might not know the cost of a doctor visit until you get the bill. Not here. With Amazon Clinic, you pay an upfront, flat fee for your visit.
Once you’ve completed the intake form, you can go ahead with your day. A clinician will review your information and follow up by secure message with any questions.
Amazon Clinic works with healthcare provider groups that employ or contract with U.S.-licensed clinicians like doctors (MDs) and nurse practitioners (NPs), selected based on their standard of care.
Your clinician will provide you with a treatment plan. If that includes prescriptions, we can have those sent to your chosen pharmacy for you.
The Amazon Clinic website goes on to explain:
After you get your treatment plan, you can message your clinician with follow-up questions at no additional cost for up to 14 days.
Each online clinic sets its own prices, and prices vary for each treatment. To compare prices, visit the condition page for the treatment you’re interested in. The cost of medication isn’t included in your visit. If a clinician writes you a prescription, you can buy your medication from the pharmacy of your choice.
Amazon Clinic doesn’t accept health insurance at this time. Instead, you pay a flat fee for the care you receive. You can pay with your FSA or HSA debit card.
I clicked on Birth Control under Women’s Health as an example. Amazon gave me a choice of three clinics whose (transparent) prices ranged from $30 to $35. The vendors (I mean providers) on Amazon Clinic are independent of Amazon but work through Amazon. That is similar to how Amazon merchandize works. Roughly half of what Amazon sells is not their own products. Many third parties even store inventory at Amazon warehouses, having Amazon package sales and deliver.
If you have one of the 34 conditions currently treated online through Amazon Clinic the website is easy to use and cash prices are low. If you have a condition not mentioned you are invited to submit a new one you would like to see. For many minor health problems Amazon Clinic sounds like a winner!