Originally published by Healthcare Dive on March 1, 2022
- Virtual care company Teladoc has partnered with Amazon to launch its telehealth service on the ecommerce behemoth's Alexa technology, in what represents a major expansion of Teladoc's consumer reach.
- Beginning Monday, the command, "Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor" on supported Echo devices will take customers to a Teladoc call center. The service will be as low as $0 for consumers with insurance, and cost $75 a visit for the uninsured.
- The voice-activated service is for general medical care, and will initially be available via audio on supported Echo devices, including the Echo Dot and Echo Show. Teladoc and Amazon expect to add functionality for video visits soon, though a spokesperson declined to provide an exact timeline.
The partnership announced on Monday integrating Teladoc's virtual-first care with Amazon's Echo devices is part of Teladoc's ongoing strategy to meet consumers where they are.
A spokesperson said Teladoc isn't providing any detail on expected customers, visits or revenue affiliated with this launch. But partnering with Amazon — one of the biggest household names in the U.S., with a chokehold on the smart speaker industry (and a new rival in virtual care delivery) — will likely help Teladoc reach a significant number of new customers.
Amazon's Echo devices are the most prevalent smart speaker in U.S. households, and Amazon's share of the market is growing. In 2020, Amazon made up more than half of the U.S. smart speaker market share by brand, and that proportion grew to almost 70% in 2021, according to one market research firm.
"Teladoc Health's collaboration with Amazon is yet another step in breaking down barriers to healthcare access," said Donna Boyer, Teladoc's chief product officer, in a statement on the partnership.
Under the new voice functionality, consumers can ask Alexa to speak with a doctor and will be connected to a Teladoc call center for a screening call. A Teladoc representative will verify the customer's recent medical history and insurance information. The representative will inform the caller whether their insurance is covering the appointment and, if yes, they will be provided the cost of any copay.
Users will then get a call back on their Echo devices from a Teladoc doctor. The service is for non-emergency needs, like talking through symptoms of a cold, the companies said.
Teladoc and Amazon make interesting bedfellows for the partnership, given the two are direct competitors in virtual-first primary care delivery.
Earlier this month, Amazon announced it was expanding its virtual care program Amazon Care to employers nationwide in response to growing demand, sending stock in publicly traded telehealth vendors like Teladoc and Amwell slipping. The three-year-old program, which includes in-person care delivery in some U.S. cities, vies directly with Teladoc for employer clients to provide virtual care to their employee population, though Teladoc also brings in a large slice of its revenue through deals with health insurers.
Analysts have also noted the program is not likely to be a near-term threat to major vendors with a large suite of services like Teladoc, Amwell or Included Health just yet, though Amazon's deep pockets, logistics infrastructure and consumer reach could make it eventually competitive with existing telehealth players and retail chains like CVS Health and Walgreens, which operate their own medical clinics, alike.
Despite consistent revenue gains, Teladoc's stock has struggled recently amid fears of a COVID-19 digital health bubble, and under pressure from big tech giants in virtual care. The New York-based vendor has focused on building out its services in lucrative areas, such as mental health, that brings consumers in the door and introduce them to Teladoc's other offerings — something this new partnership is likely to help with.
Teladoc's stock spiked following the news, and was up more than 7% as of Monday's close.