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Solutions to Healthcare Access?

Adrian Tromel
February 15, 2022

Are There Solutions to Healthcare Access?

The past articles have illustrated that the challenges that we face as employers and patients in healthcare in the United States can not be easily simplified into a limited set. The underlying issues include some of the themes we touched on including rising costs, difficulty accessing and providing insurance, or avoidance of preventative care. The previous articles did not touch on some of the other challenges that need to be addressed, including the operations of your business, legislative issues, urban migration, or even racial, socioeconomic or linguistic considerations.

As employers and as patients, we are faced with the challenge of trying to find the best solutions for healthcare for our employees, for ourselves and our families. Companies big and small in healthcare, insurance, or technology are looking to solve the challenges we see in healthcare today. There is a disorienting array of solutions we have to choose from - I will attempt to summarize below and look to dig deeper into in future Insights Series. 

Telemedicine

The first word often to come to mind in healthcare access, especially following great adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, is “telemedicine” - but what do we mean by “telemedicine”? The term often encompasses everything from being able to video-chat with a doctor on-demand, to a dedicated physician-patient relationship, to a connected physical “kiosk” with connected medical devices. Telemedicine is finally the platform with which patients can connect to a provider who is not in the same physical location. Some of the considerations with telemedicine include whether or not the patient is always speaking to the same provider, and what to do when simply talking and showing a picture are insufficient? 

(Benefits) Navigation Platforms

For employers, there are an increasing number of solutions that seek to help guide the employees and their families. These solutions range from 1-800 numbers, through AI-based chat-bots, to dedicated concierge-like services via text or audio. These platforms often include additional services such as virtual urgent care, second opinions and more. The challenge with these platforms remains, however: where can you send the patient that is easily accessible and convenient?

Direct Primary Care & Concierge Medicine

Maybe you watched Royal Pains on the USA Network; maybe your primary care provider (PCP) informed you they’re switching over to a subscription model of care. Looking to solve the problem of healthcare access, some physicians have taken things into their own hands. These solutions are both subscription-based approaches; they look to increase access by allowing providers to take care of few patients thereby spending more time with them. 

Concierge medicine is typically reserved for the well-heeled, often costing thousands of dollars per year, but giving the patients preferential access to the providers. In Direct Primary Care (DPC), providers additionally look to align their incentives with patients by reducing the amount of charges run through insurance (i.e. instead making payment “direct”) and thereby being “at-risk” for more visits, further incentivizing them to keep patients healthy. The DPC and Concierge practices may include telemedicine features, but unless talking on the phone is enough, patients still need to get in a car to seek in-person care.

Near-Site Clinics & On-Site Clinics

In the employer space, near-site and on-site clinics are looking to make healthcare accessible at the place where most of the US population spends the majority of their waking hours: at or near the workplace. The Near- and On-site clinics typically work similar to DPC, on a subscription basis Per Member Per Month (PMPM).

Near-site clinics still face the same challenge of access: taking time off of work to see the doctor, unless talking on the phone is enough. This is where On-site Clinics excel as the doctor’s visit could be completed during a coffee break. Unfortunately, however, until recently On-site Clinics were reserved for workplaces with thousands of employees, meaning that the convenience of a doctor only for you was reserved to those working on giant campuses. 

Final Thoughts

In this Insights Series we touched on the various challenges our healthcare system faces; in this last article we looked at some of the solutions being developed to address the shortcomings in our healthcare system.

These solutions effectively paint a Venn Diagram of technologies and business models available to employers and patients looking for access to better, more affordable care. In the following Insights Series we’ll look to dive deeper into some of these solutions, as well their implications for you as employers, employees and individuals in the US. 

At Hamilton Health Box, we’ve made it our mission to make healthcare accessible, convenient, and affordable. With our telemedicine enabled onsite clinics, we serve clients with as few as 100 employees per location, allowing you to get the healthcare when you need it, where you need it.