Amazon has registered Australian trademarks for the on-demand healthcare service it plans to launch across the US this year, as the retail behemoth looks to expand its reach to the booming telehealth sector.
The trillion-dollar retail giant has announced this week that it will launch Amazon Care, an employee-focused healthcare services, to companies across the United States from the middle of this year. The platform, which began as a pilot offer for Amazon employees, connects workers with doctors via phone or internet chat, as well as providing at-home care.
Amazon has spent the past year running pilots for its Amazon Care service, a telehealth and in-person health platform that started as an offer for Amazon employees. Credit:AP
“Amazon Care gives instant access to a range of urgent and primary care services, including COVID-19 and flu testing, vaccinations, treatment of illnesses and injuries, preventive care, sexual health, prescription requests, refills, and delivery, and much more,” the company explained in a blog post this week.
While the launch will be confined to the United States, IP Australia records show the e-commerce giant has also registered the trademark for the words and logo of ‘Amazon Care’ locally.
The protections were entered on the intellectual property register in August 2020 and apply for use of the phrase for a range of goods and services including “medical care, healthcare, telehealth, telemedicine, remote care, and virtual health care services”, according to the filing.
However, the company denies that owning the trademarks for the brand means it will launch the services locally.
A spokesperson for Amazon said the company regularly files trademark applications across the globe to reinforce its brand, but the registration “does not indicate an intent to expand Amazon Care to Australia”.
Amazon already owns a number of other health-related phrases in Australia, however, including the marks for ‘Amazon Pharmacy’ and ‘Amazon Basic Care’.
The retailer operates pharmacy and prescription delivery services in the US, having bought online pharmacy giant Pillpack for more than $1 billion in 2018.
Amazon has never publicly confirmed it is interested in expanding its health portfolio to Australia. Local healthcare operators have argued it would be difficult to launch US platforms locally because Australia’s universal healthcare system is very different to that of the US.
The company’s expansion of its healthcare services in the US have seen the company acknowledge the value of the global boom to telehealth services post-pandemic.
Amazon said the success of its pilot ‘Care’ programs came down to the company’s ability to move with patients needs, including setting up at-home paediatric vaccinations during COVID shutdowns and “delivering quality medical care within 60 seconds”.
The announcement hit US health stocks in the space, with $29 billion virtual health competitor Teledoc falling 4.5 per cent on Wednesday, while pharmacy operator CVS closed down 1.4 per cent and Rite Aid fell 1.5 per cent.
In Australia, the role of health software has been in the spotlight this week amid confusion over the processes for online bookings for COVID-19 vaccines.
GP groups have lobbied the government hard for a continuation of telehealth funding, with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) arguing in its pre-budget submission that the Medicare rebates must should remain at the same level as in-person consultations from now on.
The group also called on the federal government to “to invest in the future of telehealth, and support practices to meet these additional costs through the introduction of a time-limited grant program for telehealth infrastructure and IT requirements”.
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