Direct primary care pratice sees itself as a vital component to reducing healthcare costs.
By Stephanie Baum
September 17, 2013 10:05 am – Randy Mason Co-founders Mason Reiner, right, and Dr. Randy Robinson. The growing number of retainer-based primary care physicians or direct primary care practices has come to Philadelphia. Mason Reiner, the founder and CEO of bootstrapped healthcare startup R Health, sees an opportunity to help consumers cut down on healthcare costs through more meaningful patient interactions and 24-hour access through telehealth. Its opened its Center City Philadelphia offices last month in the first of what he hopes will be several offices in the Mid Atlantic region. It goes some way to fulfilling some of the aims of Obamacare health insurance, as Reiner sees it. “If you take the accessibility of the urgent care center, the accountability and cost containment benefits of an Accountable Care Organization and personalized care of concierge medicine — that’s the way healthcare optimally should be delivered,” Reiner said in a phone interview.
Reiner claims its physicians can have longer and more meaningful interactions than is typical for primary care visits because the incentivization equation differs from typical health insurance where reimbursement has been flat.
“Under current reimbursement practices doctors have no incentive to build a relationship with you,” said Reiner. In an optimized model, Reiner says, you want to have healthcare contractor who has time to engage with the patient and help them get and stay healthy.
Using aspects of telehealth such as emailing a photo of a wound so a physician can determine whether it warrants an emergency room visit can save its members money. It charges a flat monthly fee and is marketing its services to employer plans, unions, individuals and families.
Reiner sees its service not as replacing health insurance but supplementing it. He sees it as a similar to the out-of-pocket costs people pay for maintaining their homes and the homeowners insurance they pay to cover catastrophic events like a fire or tree slamming into a house. Similarly, health insurance is useful for unexpected, major medical expenses but the primary care that comes with it tends to be cursory and impersonal.
“We should decouple primary care from specialty care because it’s fundamentally a different risk profile,” he added.
Direct primary care practices have been on the west coast for a while and have begun popping up in other areas like Minneapolis.
Reiner is betting that consumers will accept the tradeoff of convenience and value in exchange for additional monthly payment, but he will be keeping a close eye on how successfully it can retain customers.