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Amazon Dives Deeper into Healthcare, Offering Prime Members Affordable One Medical Access



In a bold move that underscores its ambitions in the healthcare realm, Inc., renowned for its dominance in e-commerce and cloud services, has now turned its attention to its massive Amazon Prime member base with an innovative healthcare offering.

The company made headlines on Wednesday when it announced its plan to introduce an economically priced annual membership for One Medical, a primary care entity Amazon acquired earlier in the year for a striking $3.9 billion. This development is a strategic step for Amazon, showcasing its long-term commitment to carving out a significant niche in the healthcare industry.

Under this new initiative, Amazon Prime members are presented with the opportunity to sign up for One Medical membership at a cost-effective rate of $9 per month or $99 annually. This is a marked reduction from the standard $199 yearly charge. Neil Lindsay, the Senior Vice President of Amazon’s health services division, indicated that this offering is a part of Amazon’s larger strategy to provide varied routes for customers to obtain primary healthcare services.

One Medical is distinguished for its hybrid approach, offering both virtual and physical healthcare services across the United States. The entity extends various medical services, including diagnostic tests. With the annual fee, members gain certain virtual care services, while additional fees may apply for in-person consultations and other services, which may be covered by insurance or paid out-of-pocket.

Amazon’s increased involvement in healthcare ventures signals a more profound interest in this sector, a focal point for the company for some time now. Its endeavors have spanned from launching pharmacy services to trialing medical-drone deliveries. Yet, it has confronted obstacles in securing a robust position within this complex market. Amazon’s CEO, Andy Jassy, has identified healthcare as a potential growth pillar, complementing its foundational retail and cloud computing enterprises.

Notwithstanding, experts in the field cast attention on the hurdles Amazon may face as it works to establish credibility in the healthcare industry. Lyndean Brick, CEO of the healthcare consultancy Advis, underscored the necessity for Amazon to broaden its provider network and capacity to make a meaningful dent. “They are unproven, and it’s a really hard system to break into,” Brick commented.

The introduction of the One Medical membership at a discounted rate coincides with a period of decelerating growth in Amazon Prime memberships. With a global base of over 200 million Prime users, Amazon has been consistently enriching the Prime service offering while also incrementally adjusting the membership cost upwards.

Despite recent cutbacks in its pharmacy division and the discontinuation of certain health projects, such as the telehealth service Amazon Care, the company maintains a positive outlook on its healthcare endeavors. It has reported significant strides in its pharmacy operations and is in the nascent phases of crafting its healthcare strategy.

Expanding beyond One Medical, Amazon has also widened the scope of Amazon Clinic, its virtual care marketplace, nationwide. In a display of innovation in healthcare logistics, the company has initiated drone delivery of prescriptions in select locales.

As Amazon forges ahead with integrating One Medical’s services and cultivating consumer confidence, the outcome of this initiative may be crucial in determining its position in the healthcare sector. The reduced One Medical membership fee for Prime members is viewed as an essential move in this strategic direction, potentially laying the groundwork for an all-encompassing ‘Amazon Prime Health’ platform in the future.

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USVI Wellness Fair to Offer Comprehensive Free Health Services



The 2024 USVI Wellness Fair is set to bring a plethora of free dental, optometry, and medical screenings to the territory next month. Nearly 300 healthcare professionals and support staff will participate in this extensive health initiative. The announcement was made during Monday’s Government House press briefing by territorial epidemiologist Dr. Tai Hunte-Cesar.

A collaboration among the Department of Health, the Office of the Governor, and the Department of Defense’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) Program, the initiative aims to provide essential health services at no cost to residents. Dr. Hunte-Cesar highlighted that this is the second such mission to the territory, recalling a successful deployment last August where a 20-person medical team conducted nearly 800 pediatric procedures.

From June 1 through June 9, residents can access a wide range of services. Dental care will include exams, cleanings, fillings, and extractions. Optometry services will cover both routine and emergency eye exams, retinal evaluations, school vision screenings, and the provision of prescription eyeglasses. Additionally, the fair will offer screenings for blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels, mental wellness assessments, and pediatric services such as physicals and vaccinations.

Air Force Major Miu Zhang, who is in charge of this year’s mission, explained the dual benefits of the initiative. Launched in 1992, the IRT program not only provides critical training opportunities for military personnel but also delivers vital services to American communities. Major Zhang referred to the effort as a “win-win” situation.

The services will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, with special consideration given to the elderly and individuals with disabilities through dedicated early morning slots. Although not mandatory, pre-registration is highly recommended and will be available starting May 20 via an online portal.

Adult services will be conducted at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School gymnasium on St. Thomas and the Educational Complex school gymnasium on St. Croix. Pediatric care will be hosted at the Department of Health’s maternal and child health clinics.

Operating hours are scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. The fair will conclude on Sunday, June 9, with a special session from 9 a.m. to noon dedicated to connecting individuals with further care and services available within the territory.

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Virgin Islands Health Department Alerts Public to Dengue Fever Amid Regional Outbreak



Amid concerns over a dengue fever outbreak in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands Department of Health is urging residents to be vigilant in recognizing and responding to the symptoms of this mosquito-borne disease. The call to action follows the confirmation of three cases of dengue fever within the territory, sparking fears of a potential increase in cases.

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion emphasized the critical need for public education on the similarities and differences between the symptoms of dengue fever and COVID-19. With both diseases presenting similar early symptoms, Encarnacion underscored the importance of early detection and appropriate medical consultation.

“Dengue and COVID-19 share early signs, but understanding and distinguishing the unique symptoms of dengue is crucial for timely and effective treatment,” Encarnacion stated. She outlined the typical symptoms of dengue fever as fever, nausea, vomiting, rash, and pains in the eye, muscles, joints, or bones. These symptoms generally last from two to seven days, with most people recovering within a week.

The Health Commissioner provided guidance on managing dengue symptoms, advising against the use of aspirin or ibuprofen and recommending acetaminophen instead. She stressed the importance of seeking medical advice and undergoing a blood test if symptoms appear.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is most active at dawn and dusk, is identified as the primary carrier of the dengue virus. In light of the outbreak, residents are advised to eliminate standing water around their homes and use EPA-approved repellents to prevent mosquito bites and breeding.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that severe dengue can develop in about 5% of cases, posing a higher risk to infants, pregnant women, and individuals who have previously contracted dengue. Symptoms of severe dengue, including abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, and bleeding from the nose or gums, require immediate medical attention.

This advisory comes as Puerto Rico declares a state of emergency following a record 549 cases of dengue reported this year. The Virgin Islands Department of Health remains proactive in its efforts to prevent a similar surge in cases, advocating for community awareness and adherence to prevention measures.

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The Complex Challenge of Diabetes Management in the USVI: Insights from Health Professionals



In the US Virgin Islands, the battle against diabetes presents unique challenges, underscored by the local response to treatment options like Semaglutide, known commercially as Wegovy and Ozempic. These medications, which are increasingly popular for their weight loss side effects, have not seen widespread adoption in the territory, according to healthcare professionals.

Semaglutide, a weekly injectable medication for type 2 diabetes, enhances insulin production and lowers blood sugar. It’s also taken orally by prediabetic individuals to delay the onset of diabetes. Despite its benefits and growing fame—bolstered by celebrity endorsements like Oprah, who referred to it as a “maintenance tool”—the drug’s reception in the USVI has been lukewarm.

During a recent legislative discussion on diabetes management, Senator Marise James questioned the extent of Semaglutide’s use in the territory. Carlos Castillo, a nurse practitioner at the V.I. Diabetes Center of Excellence, revealed a surprising trend: many Virgin Islanders resist the weight loss that accompanies the medication. Castillo shared that while Semaglutide could lead to a 4-6% reduction in body weight, many locals prefer not to use it for fear of losing weight.

Another significant hurdle is the medication’s cost. Without insurance coverage, the price can soar to $1,200 monthly, making it inaccessible for some. This issue of affordability, alongside cultural attitudes towards weight and medication, contributes to the drug’s limited use.

The phenomenon of preferring natural remedies over prescribed medication and the reluctance to lose weight reflect broader cultural attitudes towards health, as noted by Julia Sheen, the executive director of the Virgin Islands Diabetes Center of Excellence. Sheen stressed, however, that not all Virgin Islanders share this sentiment. The Center’s efforts in education, outreach, and diabetes management classes aim to promote healthier lifestyles and understanding of the link between weight control and diabetes management.

Despite the challenges, the commitment of the Virgin Islands Diabetes Center of Excellence to combat diabetes through comprehensive education and support programs remains unwavering. Their work illustrates the importance of tailored health interventions that respect cultural values while striving to improve outcomes for those living with diabetes in the territory.

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