Amazon Care is dead, but the tech giant’s health-care ambitions live on

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Late last month, staffers at Amazon Care — the company’s in-person and virtual primary care service — were called into a meeting and given bad news: Amazon was shutting it down. Some employees were let go immediately. Others walked out. Everyone was promised paychecks through the end of December.

The news caught Amazon employees by surprise — including those who used the service as patients. The company’s human resources staff had been promoting Amazon Care as a health benefit the same week it shut down, an Amazon employee told The Washington Post.

“This is a huge shock to a lot of us,” said the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their job.

The demise of Amazon Care also came as a shock to industry observers. After launching publicly in 2019, it expanded quickly and was touted as one of the company’s most important innovations. But there were also signs of trouble. To understand where Amazon is headed next in health care, the industry is looking for clues from a different direction: Amazon’s acquisitions.

Amazon’s health-care ambitions sometimes clashed with medical best practices

Amazon is in the process of acquiring primary care start-up One Medical for $3.9 billion, although regulators said Friday they are taking a closer look at the deal. While the e-commerce giant’s exact path into health care is unclear, Amazon has shown sustained interest in the primary care market, including providing home health care for seniors (a burgeoning opportunity as the baby-boom generation ages) and selling telehealth and mental health services to employers.

Amazon has long experimented with different models for expansion and growth. Amazon Web Services, its dominant cloud division, stemmed from its own needs but became a huge revenue center when Amazon started selling it to other companies. For years, though, it failed to break through in groceries with Amazon Fresh, and in 2017 it acquired Whole Foods to boost that side of its business.

Health care may lend itself to the latter model. The Post previously reported that former Amazon Care employees had concerns about the tech giant’s fast and frugal approach to health care and that medical professionals hired to provide care sometimes clashed with the company over its approach. And in a note to staff announcing the closure, the current executive in charge admitted that Amazon Care was failing to please its corporate customers.

Amazon will see you now: Tech giant buys health-care chain for $3.9 billion

“It must mean something went wrong in the calculus,” said health-care consultant Paddy Padmanabhan of the Amazon Care closure.

Ali Parsa, CEO of digital health company Babylon Health, said when it comes to building a primary care service from scratch, “there are no shortcuts.”

“I’m not sure somebody can replicate this overnight,” he said. “I think the acquisition of One Medical is an admission that they need to learn that knowledge.”

Some industry experts and current and former Amazon employees said Amazon will likely have to narrow

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Olympics Live: US skaters lose appeal to get silver medals | Health and Fitness

BEIJING (AP) — The Latest on the Beijing Winter Olympics:

Arbitrators have rejected a last-ditch request by American figure skaters to have their silver medals awarded before the end of the Olympics.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said in Beijing that it dismissed the appeal by the nine skaters, who finished second in the team event that was marred by a doping positive by Russia’s 15-year-old Kamila Valieva.

In an earlier decision, CAS had allowed Valieva to compete in the women’s event after her doping positive went public. The International Olympic Committee responded by saying that no medals would be awarded in any event where she finished in the top three.

Slovakia has won its first Olympic hockey medal in the nation’s history.

Slovakia defeated Sweden 4-0 to win the bronze medal in men’s hockey at the Beijing Winter Games.

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Juraj Slafovsky scored two goals for Slovakia. Slafkovsky at 17 is the youngest player in the tournament and leads all scorers with seven goals.

Slovakia is coached by Canada-born Craig Ramsay. Ramsay played 14 NHL seasons and was an assistant in the league for two decades.

Finland plays the Russians for gold on Sunday.

Sweden defeated Switzerland 9-7 to win the bronze medal in women’s curling.

It was the fifth straight Olympic medal for the Swedes. They won gold in 2018, 2010 and 2006 and silver in 2014. Switzerland has not medaled since finishing second at the Turin Games in 2006.

Sweden’s bid for another gold ended with a loss to Britain in the semifinals. Britain faces Japan for the gold.

Laura Nolte and Mariama Jamanka added to Germany’s record haul of Olympic sliding medals.

And U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor extended her medal record.

The German sliding domination of the Beijing Games continued Saturday night. Nolte drove to gold and Jamanka won the silver in the women’s bobsled competition.

Germany is now up

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Live updates: Ecuador makes pandemic vaccination mandatory | Health & Fitness

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador is making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory.

The government said Thursday that only Ecuadorians with a medical condition that could be complicated by vaccination will be exempt. Those people must provide documentation.

Officials say the order comes because of an increase in coronavirus infections and the circulation of new variants such as omicron.

Ecuador says it has enough vaccine to immunize the entire population. As of Tuesday, about 77% of Ecuador’s 17.3 million people had been vaccinated. About 33,600 people in Ecuador have died from COVID-19.

Earlier this week, the body overseeing health policies to combat the pandemic decreed that vaccination certificates must be shown to enter restaurants, cinemas and other public areas.

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile plans to offer a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine to its citizens.

President Sebastián Piñera said Thursday that the fourth dose is expected to start in February.

Health Secretary Enrique París says the shot will be different than the one people got previously.

Chile has reported almost 86% of its population fully vaccinated. That makes it the country with the highest level of immunization against the coronavirus in Latin America, and puts it among the best ones in the world, according to online research website Our World in Data.

Piñera says 10,2 million out of Chile’s 19 million people have received a third dose as a booster.

Almost 39,000 people in Chile are confirmed to have died from COVID-19.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says that although its testing supply chain “remains tight,” the uptick in demand since Thanksgiving has not reached the levels the state saw in past peaks, such as the delta surge during the summer.

The agency said Thursday that it “is working with laboratory partners to continuously assess testing demand and supply throughout the state and at this time most laboratories have additional testing capacity available.”

Health officials in the state’s Wake County announced Wednesday night that they will double the number of appointments and expand rapid testing at five locations. They say results for 13,000 people each day will come back in less than 12 hours.

MADRID — Spain has set a new daily infection record as citizens seeking to determine whether they are contagious ahead of Christmas gatherings endured long queues amid a shortage of tests.

The nearly 73,000 new cases recorded Thursday were Spain’s third consecutive record high in three days.

The national 14-day contagion rate rose to its highest level this year: 911 new cases per 100,000 residents.

The Spanish government has ordered mandatory mask-wearing

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