Less than a year after Amazon completed its acquisition of primary care company One Medical, the company announced Wednesday that it is giving Prime members access to some One Medical services for a discounted price. But will this meaningfully improve access to care? Experts are split.
Prime members can now get a One Medical membership for $9 a month or $99 a year, which is up to $100 off the usual One Medical membership fee. They can also add up to five people to the membership for $6 a month per person or $66 annually, which is up to $133 off the usual fee. The benefit provides access to 24/7 on-demand virtual care through One Medical’s app. This includes video chats with providers and a feature that helps with common conditions like colds and allergies.
Members can also book in-person appointments at One Medical locations, as well as remote visits, through the app. However, office and scheduled remote visits are not covered by the membership. Those who receive these services will have to go through insurance or pay out of pocket.
Nathan Ray, partner of healthcare and life sciences at West Monroe, said the move “signifies a focus on primary care, an expansion of access, and a novel utilization of technology that extends beyond Medicare Advantage. It’s especially compelling because it’s coming through a relationship that many of us are more inclined to explore and experiment with, as opposed to digital startups that have risen and fallen over the past few years.”
He added that the decision to link One Medical with the Prime membership shows Amazon’s strategy of “unifying its acquisitions and continuing to improve on their overall broader healthcare product with consumers.”
Another healthcare expert echoed Ray’s comments. Arielle Trzcinski, principal analyst at Forrester, stated that the move “enables Amazon to bring its healthcare options together to create a more seamless customer experience.” She added that there will be more pressure on the digital health space, particularly as companies struggle to get funding.
“These smaller players now must contend with a comprehensive option via Amazon that blends a membership-based primary care offering with access to affordable virtual care, as well as in-person support and pharmacy delivery if needed,” Trzcinski said in a statement. “Very few digital health players cover all these bases and are far from the scale and reach of Amazon’s Prime membership.”
Trzcinski added that she anticipates seeing other healthcare retailers “fight back.”
“I expect retailers to compete by lowering prices, experimenting with their own membership-based models, and working to create the best value for their customers — which is good for consumers,” she said. “At the end of the day, this is a win for consumers.”
Meanwhile, Christina Farr, health tech investor at OMERS Ventures, isn’t so convinced that this is a significant move by Amazon.
“What I’d love to see from Amazon that would really make this meaningful is a plan to significantly expand retail locations,” Farr said in an email. “Not everything can be covered via a virtual consult. And what seems to still be missing in my mind is a real understanding of how the pieces of Amazon’s health care strategy fit together. There’s a pharmacy delivery piece with RxPass and Prime Rx, for instance, but that seems to sit very separately from One Medical still (at least in how the user experiences it).”
While Farr believes there are shortcomings with Amazon’s announcement, one Amazon exec seems to think providing the One Medical benefit to Prime members will greatly improve access.
“When it is easier for people to get the care they need, they engage more in their health, and realize better health outcomes,” said Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services, in a statement. “That’s why we are bringing One Medical’s exceptional experience to Prime members — it’s health care that makes it dramatically easier to get and stay healthy.”
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