The widespread offering of Amazon Clinic promises virtual care from licensed clinicians and medications for “everyday” type medical concerns has potentially elevated acceptance of telehealth.
Amazon Clinic is now available to customers in 50 states and Washington, D.C., through Amazon.com and the Amazon mobile app with message-based consultations in 34 states and video visits nationwide 24/7.
To get treatment, customers visit Amazon Clinic where they can compare response times and prices from multiple telehealth provider groups, complete an intake form, and connect with their chosen provider.
Depending on their location, customers can connect via messaging or video call—all without an appointment or insurance. Through Amazon Clinic’s secure message portal or video call, the clinician will provide a recommended treatment plan, which may include a prescription.
The prescription can be filled by Amazon Pharmacy with free shipping.
With Amazon entering the field, medical office building owners and tenants will surely take notice.
“One of the strongest tailwinds for the medical office sector is the continued outsourcing of services by hospitals,” Allan Swaringen, President and CEO of JLL Income Property Trust, tells GlobeSt.com.
“While telehealth services may supplement some of the services offered by hospitals or medical practices, there remains a definitive need for in-person care, especially with our aging population.
“We believe the long-term nature of medical office leases, the quality of the tenants occupying these properties, and the demographic trends that point to more demand for medical care make the medical office sector a winning property type for those looking for long-term, stable cash flow.”
Michelle Brennfleck, Shareholder and Healthcare Industry Group Co-Leader with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, tells GlobeSt.com that with the appropriate clinical partners and technology infrastructure, companies like Amazon are well-positioned to enter this space and expand access to care for low-acuity medical conditions.
“This is a positive development, particularly for individuals in rural and underserved areas who may historically have been challenged to access care,” Brennfleck said.
However, Brennfleck said these companies are entering a “potentially thorny” regulatory environment, particularly from a data privacy perspective and – if they receive reimbursement from third-party insurers – from a healthcare payment standpoint.
“They will need to stay up-to-speed on regulatory developments and ready to pivot, in the event of significant change,” she said.
“While I expect that services like Amazon Clinic will increase the public’s comfort with virtual care – particularly given Amazon Clinic’s expansive presence in all 50 states – it will not replace in-person care.
“Patients may use Amazon Clinic and similar services to access virtual care more readily and more quickly, but in-person care will remain in demand for higher acuity conditions, particularly with an aging patient population. Amazon itself seems to be betting on this – with its recent acquisition of One Medical and One Medical’s physical locations in select markets.”
“Perhaps it can have an effect on lowering some visits to Urgent Care facilities, but the patient will have to be comfortable with a medical practitioner diagnosing them for the conditions that Amazon Clinic can treat, over the phone, video or text,” Gambardella said. “Are patients comfortable with a medical practitioner diagnosing them with a UTI over the phone, with no testing, etc.?”
He said that historically, less than 10% of telehealth visits are from those who are uninsured, accounting for the lowest percentage of visits.
“Amazon Clinic does not take health insurance for their visits,” he said. “The highest percentage of telehealth visits, typically over 25% are folks that have Medicare/Medicaid.
It may save someone time for a prescription refill and have that prescription showing up at your door via Amazon the next day, “but I do not think it will have an effect on lowering site of care visits to a MOB,” Gambardella said.
Telehealth spiked to over 25% of healthcare visits during the pandemic but has since leveled off at only a few percentage points higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to Gambardella.
“Most medical practitioners would think it has taken a longer time than expected to gain market share than most have thought for a variety of reasons,” he said.
Jay Johnson, U.S. Practice Leader, Healthcare Markets, JLL, said that JLL surveyed more than 4,000 people who received some form of medical care in the preceding 12 months, and 42% of all respondents reported a telehealth encounter, only a slight drop from 45% in the 2022 Patient Consumer Survey.
Of these, 29% resulted in a subsequent in-person patient visit in the 2023 survey, similar to the 2022 results.
Interestingly, Johnson said, the number of respondents that preferred telehealth as an option dropped slightly from 76% to 71% from the 2022 to 2023 surveys.
“Taken together, these results indicate that telehealth is here to stay and will remain an important part of overall care delivery,” Johnson said. “The true impacts may be more access for patients to receive care and better adherence to treatment rather than significant shifts in healthcare real estate.”