Alex Tolbert: The new way to see your doctor
MARCH 27, 2014 – Historically, visiting your medical provider meant a lot of waiting followed by an extremely brief interaction with the doctor before they scurried out the door. And it was often only then that you realized you had one more question!
Later you would complain to friends that the customer service at your medical provider was terrible. You said this because you had thought of yourself as the customer. But you were wrong. As we’ve discussed before, an organization’s customer is the person or entity who pays. Any other user of a product or service is a mere consumer.
Generally, it was the insurance company who paid the medical providers. For a variety of reasons, it was easiest for the insurance company to measure and pay a medical provider on things like number of visits, number of tests and number of procedures performed. And as we’ve all witnessed, the medical providers responded to what their customer – the insurance company – wanted and paid for. Almost uniformly across all of health care, medical providers implemented fee-for-service business models and saw the maximum number of patients, ordered a variety of tests and performed a lot of procedures.
The customer is changing.
Health Savings Accounts allow individuals and families to have more control over a portion of their own health care spending. And now, with health care reform, more and more employers are allowing their employees to have their own health insurance.
Medical providers are responding. Seattle-based Qliance is one of the nation’s leading examples of a direct primary care practice. Direct primary care’s subscription pricing represents a new business model in health care. These practices don’t take insurance at all. Instead, they charge their patients an ongoing monthly subscription fee.
With this new business model, the customer is no longer the insurance company. Rather, it is the patient who is the customer. And one doesn’t need to look all the way to Seattle to find an example of this new model. We have a direct primary care provider right here in Nashville – GracePointe Healthcare.