NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon is shutting down a hybrid virtual home care service it spent years developing. It’s a surprising move that underscores the challenges she faces moving into the healthcare field.
The service, called Amazon Care, will end by Dec. 31, according to an email sent to employee Neil Lindsay, senior vice president of Amazon Health Services.
Amazon Care was launched in 2019 for Amazon Washington employees based in Seattle as trial users before the company made it available last year to its workers in all 50 states.
The service virtually connects patients with doctors and nurses who can provide treatment 24 hours a day. It doesn’t have a physical location, but offers in-person services for things like vaccinations and flu testing in several cities, including Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Amazon’s decision to shut down Amazon Care is even more surprising given that the company said in February that it planned to expand the personal care service to 20 additional cities. Amazon also started offering this service last summer private employers across the country.
In an email sent to employees, Lindsay wrote that Amazon has listened to feedback from employers and is working to improve Amazon Care.
“However, despite these efforts, we have determined that Amazon Care is not the right long-term solution for our enterprise customers,” Lindsay wrote.
He added that Amazon Care “is not a comprehensive enough offering for the large enterprise customers that we are targeting and will not work in the long term.”
An Amazon spokesman declined to say how many people would lose their jobs as a result of Amazon Care closing.
Amazon Care isn’t the company’s first failed attempt at healthcare. The tech and retail giant was also a part short cooperation with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to increase health care spending. The three corporate giants formed an independent company called Haven to focus on improving care and managing costs, but it dissolved last year.
Despite the setbacks, Amazon is not giving up on its focus on healthcare. Last month it announced plans to spend $3.9 billion to buy primary care organization One Medical, a membership-based service that offers virtual care as well as in-person visits. As of March, One Medical had about 767,000 members and 188 medical offices in 25 markets.
Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said that given Amazon is now investing in other areas of healthcare, it is taking a more aggressive stance on exiting things that aren’t performing.
“The closure highlights how difficult it is to break into the healthcare market,” Saunders said. “It serves as a warning that even with an acquisition, Amazon’s attempt to shake up the sector will be incredibly difficult and possibly expensive.”
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