Amazon Care's end surprised employees, patients — but not industry experts

Amazon Care, the company's in-person and virtual primary care services, abruptly closed, leaving employees of Amazon surprised as the human resource department promoted the service as an employee benefit the same week it shut down, The Washington Post reported Sept. 4. 

The Amazon employees, who spoke to the Post under anonymity, said, "This is a huge shock to a lot of us." 

In an email sent to Amazon Health Services employees Aug. 24, Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, said Amazon Care would cease operations after Dec. 31. 

The demise of the service came after CEO Andy Jassy touted Amazon Care among the company's most exciting examples of innovation, according to a letter sent to shareholders earlier this year. 

The effect of the closure on patients 

Another Amazon employee said after the closure, providers were scrambling to provide an explanation to patients who heard the news in the media. 

In an email sent to patients this week, Amazon said the inpatient and primary Amazon Care services will shut down by the end of September, while urgent care via video and chat will be available until the end of the year. 

The email that announced Amazon Care's closure to employees did not provide that information. 

"There was no guidance, and still isn't any guidance, on how to advise medical patients on their ongoing care," the current Amazon Care employee told the Post. "The company is continuing to make it difficult to give patients the fully rounded care experience they deserved."

Outside the company, the closure doesn't come as a surprise

"Not a shock at all," Randy Davis, senior vice president and CIO of Sterling, Ill.-based CGH Medical Center, told Becker's. "Medicine and the insurance industry have had over 50 years to figure out how to make entering this market as complicated as possible. The road is littered with the wrecks of those who have tried, and primary care services are a loss-leader outside an integrated system."

In the email on its closure, Mr. Lindsay said Amazon Care was "not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers we have been targeting, and wasn't going to work long-term."

Mr. Davis elaborated, saying that monetizing primary care outside of the hospital industry is harder for healthcare disruptors like Amazon.  

"[Venture capital] outfits and Amazon can offer their latest variations, but until they figure out how to monetize ancillaries, they'll struggle with profitability," said Mr. Davis. "Returns of less than 5 percent may be normal in the hospital world, but that's not a sustainable goal in nearly every other business venture. Frankly, I'm just looking for the next spin offered for less than robust results with One Medical, but let's all remember Amazon isn't in this to fix medicine, they're in it to make money."

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