Technology for Better Health Care
At a time when health care is on everyone's mind, there are companies that are centering their business model around the benefits of modern technology as a way to build relationships with patients and reduce overhead. "We did all the careful fine-tuning over e-mail until we got just the right dosage of blood pressure medication," Jennifer Contreras told the New York Times in a recent article. She is a patient with One Medical Group in San Francisco. Companies like One Medical Group, MDVIP, and GreenField Health are giving patients more attention, while using technology to keep overhead at a minimum while communicating with patients. This type of health care, known as concierge health care or boutique health care uses the business model based on customer satisfaction instead of volume.
Many patients complain of long wait times and short visits where patients feel like they are ushered through like cattle. Patients complain of never getting through to the doctors' office for questions or appointments. Concierge medical services offer short wait times, same day visits, and more time with the patients. The extra time with patients makes them feel heard, and gives doctors more time to address the patients' illnesses as well provide preventative care. Their business model focuses on seeing fewer patients, which gives doctors the opportunity to build relationships with their patients. A component of building those relationships is 24-hour access to physicians, which means phone calls, secure web portals, and email. With One Medical Group, patients can make appointments and refill prescriptions online, or use a specialized iPhone app. MDVIP, which was bought out by Proctor & Gamble in 2010, promotes its focus on preventative care and the long-term savings for consumers.
Arguably, it is possible to receive the same kind of care from your family physician. Greenhouse Internists in Philadelphia - run by former chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Richard Baron - uses the same business model in his seven-physician practice. Any private physician can alter his or her business model to offer these same items to customers.
With concierge services, patients pay a yearly fee for the added attention, in addition to the costs of office visits, prescriptions and tests. The concierge services will often accept insurance plans (and in some cases Medicare) and will bill insurance companies like any other doctor's office. Although the costs covered by insurance plans vary, customers can expect to pay the concierge fee out of pocket. Depending on the provider, some patients can be reimbursed for their concierge fee through a federal Health Spending Plan. One Medical Group can charge between $100 and $200 per year, although costs for other concierge groups can go up to $5,000. The business model has been working on a small scale, but has yet to reach the heights of public health facilities and get the same results. GreenField Health operates in Portland, Oregon, One Medical operates in San Francisco and New York. MDVIP, boasts 135,000 (as of October 2010), with 430 physicians in multiple states.
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