Companies use technology to make healthcare more convenient and personalized.
March 11 , 2015 – A working mother of three has recurrent sinus infections caused by seasonal allergies at the same time every year. Squeezing in a visit to her doctor in between deadlines at her job and her children’s extracurricular activities has always been a challenge. In the past, she would have to make an appointment with her doctor, possibly wait days to be seen, then sit in a crowded waiting room for a five-minute visit during which she was handed a prescription that she had to take to the drugstore to get filled.
But today, she can e-mail her primary care physician with a description of her problem and get a prescription for an antibiotic that same day without having to take time off of work, deal with crowded parking or be exposed to sick people in a crowded waiting room. That’s because she chose to get treated via a concierge primary care practice.
Concierge medical companies provide health care through a subscription-based model. Depending on the company, a patient’s annual costs can range widely (from $149 to thousands of dollars) in exchange for round-the-clock access to their primary care physician or nurse, longer visits and shorter wait times. Many practices use mobile apps to monitor their patients’ vitals or keep tabs on chronic conditions such as high blood pressure.
Once considered something designed primarily for the wealthy, more companies are aiming to make concierge – or more personalized – care more accessible to the masses. Plus, with people’s lives busier than ever, the demand for more convenient health care is on the rise. For some doctors, the opportunity to provide more personalized care to a smaller number of patients is appealing. As a result, more doctors are converting traditional primary care offices into concierge practices.
Concierge medical pioneer MDVIP has more than $100 million in annual revenue is profitable and more than 230,000 members in the U.S., according to CEO Bret Jorgensen. The Boca Raton, Fla.-based company not only touts convenience – it claims its patients saw a significant decrease in hospitalizations compared to patients in non-MDVIP practices.
Newer on the scene is One Medical Group is a San Francisco-based primary medical care practice with 30 offices across the Bay Area and Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Boston. One Medical has raised nearly $120 million from investors and counts Uber, Adobe, Fitbit, Pinterest and NBCUniversal among its 100-plus enterprise customers. These companies offer access to One Medical doctors as an added benefit, or perk, to their employees. Individual patients pay $149 to$199 a year for access to One Medical’s 150-plus physicians.
Sandeep Acharya, vice president of strategy and new business at One Medical, said technology plays a big role in making care more accessible. Patients have the option to conduct video chats with their providers. The company’s mobile app allows for online scheduling and can help a patient find the location with the nearest appointment available. It also has features that can help patients treat acute issues such as allergies and UTIs through a questionnaire that is reviewed by the nurse team. Acharya and his team bristle at the term “concierge,” though, because they believe it implies a practice that does not take insurance, and an alternative that is designed for the wealthy.
“We believe in delivering higher quality primary care in an efficient, affordable way,” Acharya said. “We want to be as broadly available as possible, which is one of the reasons we are in network with all major insurance providers in our markets.”
Qliance Medical Management is another startup focused on concierge care. The Seattle company has raised about $20.2 million in recent years and focuses on offering unrestricted preventive and chronic illness care services for a monthly fee. Investors include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell and comedian Drew Carey. Like One Medical, the Qliance team aims to make personalized care affordable to the masses – and not just to the wealthy.
For Christopher Wasden, a managing director in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ healthcare strategy and innovation practice, it’s only logical concierge medicine is attracting more patients.
“Every problem doesn’t require an actual visit. The more you can take care of things via video consultation, email or texting, the more convenient it will be for the consumer,” said Wasden, who is also executive director of the Sorenson Center for Discovery and Innovation at University of Utah. “Technology is providing better tools for concierge medicine to be developed more effectively. When you look at studies by the Mayo Clinic, much of health care – at least 50 percent can be done without a physical visit and most without a video consultation as well.”
Dave Sabow, head of life sciences for Silicon Valley Bank (which counts One Medical as a client), believes such innovative care models are being fueled by “different aspects of technology finally being at a point where delivery of information and care is accessible” through the growing use of smartphones, video-enabled communications and mobile apps.
“It’s a perfect storm of economic pressure, cost cutting and health care reform driving the need for this type of innovation,” he said.
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