GeekWire Health Tech
GeekWire Health Tech
What it's like to use Amazon Pharmacy
31 minutes Posted Jun 24, 2021 at 7:31 pm.
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Amazon's move into healthcare is multifaceted, including COVID-19 testing, its Halo health band and service, cloud services for healthcare and life sciences, and even primary care for its employees.

A major motivation for the company: the sheer size of the healthcare market, and the massive problems to be solved.

"Amazon is a big company now, still with big growth ambitions, and so they need to tackle big markets," said John Rossman, a former Amazon business leader and the author of The Amazon Way, speaking on a recent episode of GeekWire's Day 2 podcast. "Healthcare is going to become a bigger and bigger component of what their strategy is going to be, from every angle."

But one of the tech giant's healthcare initiatives seems especially well-positioned to benefit from Amazon's traditional e-commerce expertise: prescriptions by mail. The company launched its Amazon Pharmacy service in November 2020, building on its 2018 acquisition of prescription-by-mail company PillPack.

"Really, we wanted to make a pharmacy experience that was just as easy to use as Amazon generally," said TJ Parker, the PillPack CEO and vice president in charge of Amazon Pharmacy, and a former practicing pharmacist himself.

Amazon is competing against traditional pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and RiteAid, big retail rivals such as Walmart and Target, and healthcare technology companies such as GoodRx — whose chief financial officer, Karsten Voermann, sought to downplay the competitive threat from Amazon on a recent earnings call.

"Based on third-party data, they have not been successful," Voermann said of Amazon. "Mail order prescriptions only make up about 5% of fill count in the U.S. ... Third-party data indicates that Amazon Pharmacy is not gaining momentum and that their volume remains incredibly small."

But this is Amazon, a company with the resources and tenacity to pursue big challenges and opportunities for many years.

So what's it like to use Amazon Pharmacy?

To find out, GeekWire's Todd Bishop signed up to test the service on a routine prescription refill. Amazon Pharmacy impressed him with its convenience and privacy. But he also encountered obstacles, some due to kinks in the healthcare system outside of Amazon's control, that made the overall experience less than seamless.

On this episode of GeekWire's Health Tech Podcast, Todd talks with Amazon's TJ Parker to learn more about the Amazon Pharmacy, using his experience to inform the discussion.

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