Amazon Backs Off From Health Venture As ‘Aggressive Ambitions’ Reportedly Distract From Patient Care

Amazon Backs Off From Health Venture As ‘Aggressive Ambitions’ Reportedly Distract From Patient Care

Amazon revealed on Wednesday that it will close its health service Amazon Care, reflecting a reversal in trajectory from the e-commerce giant’s recent ventures into the healthcare sector.

Amazon Care, which was initially intended for employees and their families living near Seattle, Washington, began expanding round-the-clock telehealth services across the United States, including among corporate clients such as Hilton Hotels.

“This decision wasn’t made lightly and only became clear after many months of careful consideration,” Amazon Health Services Senior Vice President Neil Lindsay said in an email to staff reportedly obtained by GeekWire. “Although our enrolled members have loved many aspects of Amazon Care, it is not a complete enough offering for the large enterprise customers we have been targeting, and wasn’t going to work long-term.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported on internal conflict within Amazon Care, which allegedly occurred as the company’s “aggressive ambitions” distracted from establishing healthcare best practices. Two former nurses told the outlet that management asked whether employees could store medical supplies at home and stabilize blood supplies using centrifuges in their cars out of a desire to avoid the construction of new physical hubs.

The Post also detailed an incident in which a nurse found herself on the phone with a suicidal patient, upon whom she had to hang up because she had no way to transfer the call. “We didn’t even have an ability to locate where they were calling from. We didn’t know where they were,” the nurse explained. “That was a huge concern from the clinical side.”

“Many Care employees will have an opportunity to join other parts of the Health Services organization or other teams at Amazon — which we’ll be discussing with many of you shortly — and we’ll also support employees looking for roles outside of the company,” Lindsay reportedly continued in the memo.

The move comes weeks after Amazon announced a deal to acquire One Medical, which runs a membership-based primary care practice accessible through a $199 annual subscription, in a $3.9 billion all-cash transaction. The merger followed the $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 and the $8.45 billion purchase of MGM earlier this year to mark Amazon’s third largest acquisition.

In addition to One Medical, the e-commerce company acquired Health Navigator, a startup that provided technology to digital health companies, as a function of Amazon Care in 2019. One year earlier, Amazon bought online pharmacy company PillPack, which paid the Department of Justice nearly $6 million in penalties this year for fraudulently overbilling on insulin prescriptions.

Amazon said in May that it would cover as much as $4,000 in expenses for employees traveling across state lines to procure an abortion. Yet hundreds of employees recently signed an open letter demanding more action over the loss of their “basic human rights.”

“As part of Amazon’s wide-reaching efforts toward a more inclusive and diverse workforce, we believe that Amazon cannot let this recent decision go unanswered,” the letter said. “We ask Amazon, the world’s best employer, to actively defend against this assault on our liberty.”

Among other actions, the authors are requesting that Amazon “allow employees of all genders the space and time to grieve, express their frustrations, and protest against this assault on our rights.” They requested that the company “donate and match donations to bail funds” to help “women and pregnant people” seeking abortions in states with protections for pre-born babies.