HopeCentral: Offering high-end concierge health care for just about everybody
By Valerie Bauman, Staff Writer- Puget Sound Business Journal
Apr 3, 2014 — When Devin Bruckner selected a pediatrician for her 6-year-old son, she wasn’t just thinking about what was best for him – she found an option that would be good for her community too.
Bruckner took her son to the recently opened HopeCentral nonprofit health center in Southeast Seattle’s Rainier Valley.
The new primary care practice has developed a unique business model, offering subscription-based, high-end concierge pediatric and behavioral health care. The twist is that the clinic also accepts Medicaid, and offers a sliding scale of prices for low-income people, so it’s not just serving those wealthy enough to buy into the concierge system.
Concierge medical services typically include unlimited care for a monthly fee. As in the case of HopeCentral, they often include after-hours access to physicians.
“We heard about the vision and heard about the idea of bringing affordable pediatric care to the Rainier Valley, and we were excited about the idea,” Bruckner said.
The clinic also relies on donations to help offset overhead costs.
“We want to make sure that pediatric care is affordable for everybody,” said Dave Kwok, the clinic’s executive director.
The location is an ideal spot, Kwok said, because of the demand for pediatricians in Rainier Valley and the mix of low-income and wealthier residents.
For $59 per month, Bruckner has the assurance that she can bring in her son at any time, and at no additional cost.
“We get as many visits as you need with both the doctor and the behavioral health specialist,” Bruckner said. “And we might not need to see them at all, but if we need to use them they’re here.”
She also has peace of mind knowing that her subscription fee will help make health care more affordable for other families, because HopeCentral’s goal isn’t just to serve those wealthy enough to buy into concierge systems.
In fact, Kwok said he’s hesitant to label their offerings as “concierge,” because it could dissuade some patients.
“We haven’t been using ‘concierge,’ just because it feels like that might not be what our patients understand – especially our lower income patients,” he said. “’Direct pay’ and ‘subscription’ get at that idea without, hopefully, having that exclusive connotation.”
Kwok said the clinic people also want to be sensitive to the idea that some wealthier clients may not like the idea of subsidizing other people’s care with their monthly subscription.
“That’s something I am keeping an eye on closely,” he said. “We do want to say to our subscription patients, ‘Part of what you’re getting here is you’re investing in the health of the community and that really is a benefit to your family.’”
The clinic had a soft launch in March, with a grand opening planned for May 3.
The goal is to eventually have a 50/50 balance of subscribers and Medicaid/low-income patients.
“Being able to mix these populations helps us to fulfill our mission because it doesn’t put the weight of the model on figuring out just how to do subsidized care,” he said. “Even if the subscription folks are just supporting their portion of the overhead, it gives us a lot more flexibility.”