Just when we thought Amazon had already conquered all the industry spaces, they have recently come out with a new health offering. According to their site’s tagline, they can “quickly treat common conditions with 24/7 video visits and messaging with a clinician. Upfront pricing. No appointments, and no insurance needed.” Sounds a lot like Direct Primary Care, doesn’t it? Or does it!?
First of all let’s break this down. The way they have it structured you have to select your condition first. Well that is great as long as you already have your diagnosis figured out! As physicians, our 8+ years of training are focused on understanding what symptoms could be related to what diagnoses and helping patients navigate the many possibilities and narrow it down with appropriate testing and treatment to better understand what their final diagnosis may be. So, if you, for example, have already gone through that and know your cough is from “GERD” then you could select the GERD button on Amazon’s landing page and get medications prescribed for you. In the fine print, you will notice that you may be redirected after your paid visit to see your own physician to discuss this further. The cost for this visit is $77 (not including prescriptions). You will be logged into a video visit with a “clinician” - so you may not always see a doctor. You also may get a different clinician each time you go on for your single issue. If you want to discuss anything else, you would sign back on for an additional problem-related visit at that same cost. There is no offer for any long term follow-up (which is what most medical conditions require to be safely managed!).
Meanwhile, if you were a member of a Direct Primary Care practice, like Direct Doctors, your visit would be free with your monthly membership fee (which averages $85 for adults). You would not be isolated to one single problem type and you wouldn’t be required to arrive with your diagnosis already in hand. If you needed preventative care (ie. you’re due for a mammogram or colonoscopy, you require a tetanus booster, or you need labs done soon) you would receive all of that care during your visit. With Amazon, you can reach back out regarding your single issue for the next 14 days. With Direct Doctors, as long as you are a patient member (which we hope is for your lifetime!), you can access your doctor (not a “clinician” of their choosing) in an unlimited fashion!
While Amazon’s new offering might be great for very focused, well-defined, previously diagnosed, or simple acute issues that don’t require any in-person care or followup, it is not a solution for the primary care needs that 90%+ of your healthcare tends to be. If you need a refill in a pinch and don’t have a PCP, this might be helpful for you. But, nothing will replace the long term relationship with a doctor who knows you well and is available when you need him or her!
To find out how we practice primary care differently, check us out at www.directdoctors.org.
Lauren Hedde, DO; James Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Co- Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.