Amazon is delaying the launch of a major expansion of its Amazon Clinic telemedicine service due to lawmakers’ concerns about its privacy practices that POLITICO detailed last week.
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According to an email from a person with direct knowledge subsequently obtained by POLITICO, Amazon will hold off on a promotional campaign for three weeks, till July 19.
Currently, Amazon Clinic is available in 33 states and leans on asynchronous care, meaning patients fill out a form to get treated for conditions like urinary tract infections, acid reflux and pink eye as well as to receive emergency contraception and birth control.
Amazon had planned to announce a 50-state launch of synchronous care — treatment provided via live video — on Tuesday.
An Amazon spokesperson denied that there was any “delay as a result of an external inquiry.”
“Amazon Clinic has stringent customer privacy policies, and complies with HIPAA and all other applicable laws and regulations. We’re focused on building products and services that our customers love, and we look forward to continuing to bring Amazon Clinic to even more customers to help address their everyday health care needs,” the spokesperson said.
But the email says Amazon is delaying promotional activity because of POLITICO reporting on a letter from Sens. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that raised concerns that the company is “harvesting” health data from patients. In the letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the lawmakers pointed to recent reporting that Amazon Clinic requires patients to sign a release giving the company “complete” access to their health information.
By signing, customers authorize Amazon to share their data, and acknowledge that it’s not protected by HIPAA, the federal health privacy law.
Amazon says that portion of the form allows patients to not have to offer duplicate information if the third-party provider Amazon Clinic connects them with no longer works with Amazon, enhancing patients’ experience.
Sharing data among trusted providers is routine — and a goal of the health industry to promote better care — but lawmakers are concerned about protecting patient information as more of it goes online, data brokers sell it, and hackers try to steal it.
Warren and Welch asked Jassy to explain whether Amazon is using customer data to promote or sell other Amazon products and services, and to be more transparent with consumers about the company’s data practices.
The senators also want Amazon to provide a sample-contract with third-party providers that give care to Amazon Clinic enrollees, and to explain if it shares data with law enforcement.
“Amazon is asking patients to turn over a ton of personal data to use their services,” Welch told POLITICO by email. “It can’t be that Big Tech companies can ask for a treasure trove of personal information to let you use their services but face no accountability for what they’ll do with it.”
In a joint statement, the two senators said Friday they hoped the delay “is a sign that Amazon has taken our concerns about data collection and use practices seriously.”
The planned expansion of virtual care services is Amazon’s latest go at telemedicine. Amazon shut down its Amazon Care business at the end of 2022 after a brief run offering telemedicine and in-home care.
take from: https://www.politico.com/