Amazon and Teladoc Health on Monday launched voice-activated telehealth services through Alexa-supported Echo devices to give users "an easy, hands-free way to connect with a doctor."
Amazon's previous foray into health care
Amazon's previous foray into health care, Amazon Care, was first offered exclusively to Amazon employees in Seattle in 2019. In September 2020, the company expanded access to all Amazon employees in Washington state and then expanded telehealth services to its employees and other employers in all 50 states.
Amazon Care offers both virtual and in-person care. People can access virtual care through the Amazon Care app, which allows them to communicate with providers through videos and messages. For its in-person service, a medical professional is dispatched to a patient's home or office to perform exams, tests, or vaccinations.
Last month, Amazon launched its telehealth services nationwide in response to the "increased demand to bring care to patients' homes—whether that be virtually or through in-home care" brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eventually, the company plans to expand in-person services to all 50 states, Amazon Care executive Babak Parviz said in June 2021.
"Patients are tired of a health care system that doesn't put them first. Our patient-centric service is changing that, one visit at a time," said Kristen Helton, director of Amazon Care. "We've brought our on-demand urgent and primary care services to patients nationwide. As we grow the service, we'll continue to work with our customers to address their needs."
'Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor.'
Amazon's partnership with New York-based Teladoc, marks the company's latest addition of health services to its Alexa voice assistant—a platform through which patients can request information about their medications, refill prescriptions, and schedule visits with certain hospitals, Modern Healthcare reports.
With the initial launch, Alexa-supported Echo devices will provide 24/7 audio medical services—and video visits will be "coming soon."
To use the voice-activated platform, users will tell their Echo: "Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor." Then, Echo will connect patients with the Teladoc call center, which will then dispatch a Teladoc doctor to call users on their Echo for virtual visits for non-emergency care.
For each visit, costs will range anywhere from $0 with insurance to $75 without insurance.
"Teladoc Health's collaboration with Amazon is yet another step in breaking down barriers to healthcare access," said Donna Boyer, chief product officer at Teladoc.
"By introducing and integrating our virtual first care experience with Echo devices, we are providing an innovative and convenient way for users to connect with a doctor," Boyer added. "We are meeting consumers where they are, to continue to deliver value and high-quality care to members."
Separately, Debra Chrapaty, VP and COO at Amazon Alexa, said, "We're excited to work with Teladoc Health to offer our customers an easy, hands-free way to connect with a doctor."
"Whether they're taking care of their sick child in the middle of the night or wanting to ask a doctor about allergy symptoms in between meetings during the day, we hope this experience will help customers find the convenient help they want from the comfort of their own home," Chrapaty added. (Jercich, Healthcare IT News, 2/28; Commins, HealthLeaders Media, 2/28; Teladoc Health press release, 2/28; Cohen, Modern Healthcare, 2/28)