Amazon is secretly testing a direct-to-consumer health bet

  • Amazon is testing a new health bet dubbed “Katara”, Insider has learned.
  • It aims to treat common ailments online without going through employers and health plans.
  • It’s the opposite approach of Amazon Care, a closed bet on primary care that failed to take off.

Amazon is testing another healthcare company, showing the tech giant continues to experiment with ways to disrupt the industry.

The latest project, named Katara, is a virtual care effort that is being tested on Amazon’s own workers, two current employees said. It is designed to offer people online care for common conditions such as acne or hair loss, according to one employee.

Amazon is testing Katara even as it acquires One Medical and shutters Amazon Care, showing how the tech giant is refining its efforts to find ways to tap into the $4.1 trillion U.S. healthcare market. In recent years, Amazon has accelerated its healthcare ambitions by acquiring an online pharmacy and building laboratory testing infrastructure.

Katara’s approach could create a powerful challenge for direct-to-consumer healthcare companies like Hims and Ro, similarly selling treatment plans for health conditions like erectile dysfunction on the internet.

Amazon said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

Companies like Hims, Ro, and Thirty Madison got their start in less serious health conditions, but are all expanding into broader services around anxiety and depression, migraines, fertility care, and more.

Ro, who recently raised $500 million in a round that valued him at $5 billion, according to Bloomberg, says he’s building a “patient-centric healthcare system.” Many of its plans require monthly cash payments and mail prescriptions.

Amazon’s Different Approaches to Healthcare

Amazon’s intentions with Katara contrast with how she built Amazon Care, a primary and emergency care business she decided to shut down in August.

Amazon Care had care teams that saw patients through an app and, sometimes, in person during home visits. His clients were other employers, who paid him a monthly fee. Although Amazon Care had ambitions to network with health plans and sell services directly to consumers, the effort has not gained enough traction and will end operations in December, said Amazon.

Katara is overseen by Aaron Martin, said the two employees, who sits under Neil Lindsay, the boss of Amazon Health Services. Amazon Health is a growing health betting umbrella, including One Medical, the primary care startup that Amazon is buying for $3.9 billion.

A former Amazon Kindle executive, Martin joined the tech giant in March from Providence, the Washington-based healthcare system, where he led digital health efforts.

In a statement to Insider about Amazon Care’s shutdown, a spokesperson said the company will continue to reinvent the future of healthcare.

Its long-term vision is to make it easier for people to access the health products and services they need, the spokesperson said.

“We are proud of the work we have done and we will continue to invent, learn from our customers and industry partners, and hold ourselves to the highest standards as we help reinvent the future. health care and the role Amazon can play,” the spokesperson said.


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