Hello, may I take your order?

By Steve Moran

I go for months without ever finding anything in the Wall Street Journal worth writing about, then in one day, two pretty interesting articles.  The first is about occupancy challenges and then this one.

The Journal article is titled Startups Vie to Build an Uber for Health Care. What is happening is that a number of companies have started relatively low-cost concierge physician house call services. Something that has not had much popularities since about the 1930s.

The way it works is that you download an app to your smart phone, put in your credit card information and then just like Uber, make a request for services when you need it. Within an hour a doctor will be at your door.

It is not hugely expensive but it is far from cheap. The prevailing rate seems to be in the neighborhood of $100 per visit, but run from $50 for a telemedicine visit to $250. It is generally not covered by health insurance but can be paid for using FSA dollars.

The Why

There are several reasons why this is attractive to individuals:

  • It can be less expensive than taking time off work to go to the doctor’s office.

  • It allows you to not go out at night if you need after hours medical care. No dressing up, no waiting rooms, no driving while ill.

  • You don’t have to spend time in waiting rooms with other sick people who might actually make you worse rather than better.

Cost Effective

There are some early indications that suggest this new era of Uber-style house calls will save Medicare and insurance companies money, particularly when treating individuals with multiple chronic conditions. There are two things that happen. First, it means interventions happen earlier and, secondly, it becomes a great way to short circuit hospital readmissions.

Senior Living

While still far from universal, more and more senior living communities have regular scheduled visits by physicians, PA’s or Nurse Practitioners. In larger communities it is possible there are physician services 5 days a week.  

The problem is that with 168 hours in a week, at most, only 40 or 50 of those hours will be covered by physician services. And for many smaller communities there are fewer hours or more likely none at all. This means even small problems that require a physician could result in an ambulance ride, and emergency room visit and hospitalization.

At that point, you have lost control of the resident and too frequently, hospitals are places where residents get sicker.

The opportunity here is to have early intervention at any hour day or night. It seems likely that families would be glad to pay the tab, but it might . . . even be a reasonable expense for the community to absorb.

Have you had any experience with this? How is it working out?