Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has never been shy about its ambitions. But while the company seeks to dominate every area it enters, it does not always state its intentions before making a big play in a new area. For example, the company first launched its cloud service, Amazon Web Services (AWS), as an internal product.
It's doing the same thing with a new approach to healthcare. Amazon this month launched Amazon.care, a healthcare option for is Seattle-area employees. The program offers online doctor visits, as well as in-home nurse visits. The program will also deliver prescriptions to member's homes, and offers members the opportunity to chat with a nurse through its app.
What is Amazon doing?
The online retail giant is trying to remove pain points from healthcare. This new program allows members to video chat with a doctor for minor healthcare needs, or have a nurse visit their home or office for basic testing.
This new system is an attempt to make healthcare more customer-friendly. That's a major change to an industry which has generally put the needs of the healthcare providers ahead of those of the customer.
Amazon is only offering this service to some of its employees at the moment. It's possible, however, that the company is using its employees to test a service that it may someday offer to its customers.
"Healthcare is the next frontier for the Seattle e-commerce giant," Alvarez & Marsal Director Brandon Rael commented on Retailwire. "We would be mistaken to believe that Amazon is only a disruptive force in the retail space. Bezos and the Amazon leadership team have been focusing on a diversification strategy that includes a combination of services, such as AWS, hardware with their Alexa capabilities, and now the next wave of disruption in the health services sector."
Basically, this seems like a small move aimed at simplifying healthcare for employees, but it may be something much bigger. Amazon.care could be a quiet pilot program for the retail giant to eventually offer healthcare to its customer base.
A disruption effort
Amazon has not been quiet about its long-term interest in disrupting healthcare. The company partnered with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase to form Haven, a company that describes its mission as follows:
We believe it is possible to deliver simplified, high-quality, and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost. We are focused on leveraging the power of data and technology to drive better incentives, a better patient experience, and a better system. Our work may take many forms, and solutions may take time to develop, but Haven is invested in making healthcare much better for all of us.
Amazon.care is not formally part of Haven, but it clearly delivers on that mission statement. This is Amazon testing a disruptive healthcare model that puts control into the hands of consumers. It's a major change to a system that has previously not used a customer-friendly model.
Fixing a broken healthcare system won't be easy for Amazon (or anyone else), but this is a strong start. The retail giant can use its employees to test options before rolling out a product to its massive customer base.