Amazon Clinic - business model

I just got an e-mail from, introducing their Amazon Clinic.

The business model:

  1. No insurance accepted. Low up-front fee. Starting at $29.

  2. Immediate consultation for many easily-treated conditions, no appointment needed. Everything is online, accessible by mobile phone or computer.

  3. The doctor/ NP will write a prescription that can be filled at the Amazon or any other pharmacy. The Amazon pharmacy will ship the prescription so there’s no need to leave the house for either the consult or prescription.

I think this will be a game-changer for many people, especially people without health insurance and people who live in rural areas far away from medical professionals.

This clinic covers many common family-practice issues, including high blood pressure (which affects many low-income people) and emergency contraception. But not complex chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer.

I think this is socially beneficial as well as a potentially business segment for Amazon. There could be a Macro impact if enough people use it for medical care that otherwise they couldn’t access or afford.



Or it could be just another way for Private Equity to ding people for an office visit fee, provide no treatment, and then refer them to a high dollar, ER billing opportunity.

ever-skeptical of for-profit, Private Equity “solutions” in health care.


I’m skeptical too, but I don’t think that’s the case here. Because I prefer to devote my time to things that do not involve monetary gain, I’m covered by my wife’s very good health insurance, which includes telehealth services.

We’ve used it a few times and it works great. For most minor stuff you as the patient already know exactly what is wrong and what the treatment is.

If you peruse the list of ailments the telehealth doctors treat, it includes things like male pattern baldness. So you call up, talk to a doctor who is sitting in her bedroom in her jammies. The doctor confirms you are going bald, writes a prescription for Dimoxinil and you’re done four minutes later. It is still a screw job but much less of a screw job than going into the office for the same thing. If you have a real problem you simply go into the office and see your primary.

Not seeing a doctor has other benefits as well. I had a doctor (for free online) write a letter of medical necessity stating I needed an outdoor sauna for health reasons, which means I can use my HSA to pay for it.


I am skeptical from the standpoint of being taught “always lay hands and eyes on the patient”. So many things can be missed with the absence of non-verbal cues just from how the patient walks into the room. Or “simple” things being more complex and missed because you didn’t listen with a stethoscope or check other things.

Personal example, played a football game on astroturf. Several cuts and scraps became infected afterwards (the school didn’t do proper maintenance). If an online visit, get an antibiotic. In real life, listen to heart to make sure I didnt’ have a murmur that was new (could be heart valve infection on top of skin infection). Temperature, capillary refill, how was I breathing, etc, all checking for signs of a systemic infection/sepsis which is an entirely different ballgame.

I can see where this is a good thing with established relationships and controlled diseases or for people in remote locations. But for new patients and new diseases, too many pit falls that people want to brush aside.