Telemedicine Company Investing in Covid Pandemic Boom | US Healthcare

CCompanies want to invest in virtual health care, one of the undisputed winners in the pandemic economy, by offering subscriptions to avoid the complex US health insurance system.

Think of Netflix, but for medicine. At least it’s a promise to the patient.

Gloria Lau, co-founder and CEO of Alpha Medical, a Silicon Valley-based virtual care startup, said: “Covid is an important driving force, not only on the patient side, but also on the provider side.”

Since last year, doctors and patients have tried to avoid face-to-face encounters and moved reservations for everything from colds to anxiety to hormone replacement therapy online. Due to the virus surge from February to April 2020, claims for telemedicine visits increased from around 529,000 and peaked above that. 12 minutes a month.. Demand for telemedicine visits has since fallen to 8.8 million bills per month, still light-years ahead of that in 2019.

Potential exposure to Covid-19 has replaced all other considerations in consumer research. Extensive telemedicine has also eliminated some of the most annoying or completely insurmountable aspects of going to the doctor. People no longer have to take time off from work, find childcare, drive long distances, or park their cars.

The promise of providing so many medical services virtually conveniently, attractively and cheaply in the United States probably never seemed so feasible. Alpha Medical’s subscription costs only $ 120 per year and promises “unlimited messaging” with your provider, but does not cover face-to-face treatments or prescriptions.

However, the latest iterations of “telehealth”, which are being promoted for everything from treatment to contraception, including Alpha, do not look like telehealth, as most patients understand.

Currently, most telemedicine visits are usually live conversations with your own doctor, either by phone or video chat. Proponents of new business models now want patients and physicians to adopt “asynchronous” or “store-and-forward” care. Answer a series of questions in a detailed intake format, and a doctor you never meet will review them. Or you may not send a message – and publish a diagnosis and treatment plan.

“We love new bright and shining objects. Virtual care is now a bright and shining new object,” said the Commonwealth Foundation Chairman, a healthcare policy expert and advocate for accessible and affordable universal health care. Said Dr. David Blumentor.

Its proponents scream that asynchronous care will allow distant doctors to reach distant patients in a much shorter amount of time.

“The economics are clear. It takes three to six visits per video or direct visit,” Avia’s vice president of virtual health, Oliver Lignell, wrote in a column in an trade magazine. .. MedCity News.. Lignell suggested that doctors could complete an asynchronous visit within 3 minutes.

These claims are not without merit. For example, disability activists have been advocating more virtual care for years.

“These stories aren’t just one-sided,” said Hannah Zeavin, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and author of The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy.

In a sense, asynchronous care has been an important part of medicine for over a century, as evidenced by postal care provided by doctors in Paris, or Sigmund Freud’s letter of treatment to patients, Zeavin said. I am. In 2011, Alaska Native Medical Center specialists asynchronous While being careful to treat ear, nose, and throat conditions in remote states, also be aware of the crucial importance of face-to-face examinations.

The idea of ​​joining a clinic is nothing new in the United States. Called “direct primary care,” it has in the past provided “concierge” services for the wealthy, sometimes as a work benefit.

Google and SpaceX offer subscriptions to One Medical, a leading technology-intensive company that promises “care whenever you need it” online. However, the telemedicine aspect of the company is theoretically connected to physical clinics in convenient locations in high-end districts near office workers and the individuals they correspond to. One Medical Raised $ 245 Million Initial public offering January 2020.

Alpha covers completely different demographics and has established itself as a “healthcare solution” for “gigs and part-time workers,” freelancers, and long-term uninsured. These are those who describe Blumental as “deprived” of the American health system.

This phenomenon is “symptomatological to use the medical terminology of deeper illness,” Blumenthal said. “And the disease is a systematic lack of insurance for about 30 million Americans.”

Lau describes Alpha’s existing “patient demographics” as “low and medium income.” This is a high deduction insurance plan, or in some cases long-term uninsured people, where patients need to prepay thousands of dollars before insurance begins. .. In such cases, subscriptions are cheaper than traditional insurance.

Proponents of the new business model advocate “asynchronous” care. Answer the questions on the detailed intake form and your doctor will issue a diagnosis and treatment plan. Photo: Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

“Obviously, we have a lot of patients who don’t have insurance. They don’t have insurance at all,” Lau said. “Some of them go in and out of work … in other cases, they choose to be self-employed or self-employed. Often, they have long-term insurance and It may not be. “

The importance of this new asynchronous model has increased since before Covid-19. In October 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom Increase the amount The state pays patients who receive asynchronous care through Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

However, as the field has grown, some companies have focused on the virtual side of care. Alpha is one small player, CrunchBase.. It may introduce people for a direct visit, but never pay them.

To date, the largest companies in this area have focused on mental health, such as TalkSpace. The company plans to publish in a $ 1.4 billion transaction this year.

But companies like Alpha are committed to treating physical illnesses. In the business model, Lau believes that one day the patient will be the first point of care to be “triaged” before talking to a real doctor. “We are significantly reducing the cost of care,” Lau said. “Hopefully, over time, the cost of providing insurance to employees will be reduced.”

However, Zeavin said the low-cost approach has the potential for a more volatile direction in medicine.

“This is a dystopian nightmare,” Zeavin said. “This is the first form everyone gets before doing anything. It’s the people who need these additional access and care most because of health care, redlining, and homophobic disability discrimination. Will significantly change the types of care possible. “

Others are less convinced that such a direction is imminent.

“Who would make money from it if it were triaged?” Said Dr. Jay Parkinson, co-founder of Sherpaa, an asynchronous virtual primary care company that was acquired by another virtual care company, Crossover Health. Sherpaa was typically offered to white-collar workers receiving folk remedies at companies such as Four Square, Casper, and Tumblr.

“Traditional healthcare systems make more money when misused,” Parkinson said.

Patient triage at this rate also has labor implications. “Asynchronous care is really bad for the person who provides the care,” Zeavin said. TalkSpace has been revised Provider payment model In the past, Alpha declined to say how much it would pay a doctor.

It remains to be seen if the business model can actually solve the broken medical system in the United States. One of Alpha’s main claims was that “more than 70% of medical conditions, including colds, flu, and rashes,” could be treated online. This is a comment that Lau echoes in the conversation.

“Currently, most things can be treated with telemedicine,” she said. “The other 20-30% who need to meet in person need to meet in person.” However, this claim turns out to be difficult to support.

To explain how this number was found, a spokesperson for the company first turned the Guardian to a statement widely published in an article on telemedicine originating from the American Medical Association (AMA).

“According to statistics from the American Medical Association and the US Wellness Council, nearly 75% of all physician, emergency care, and ER visits are unnecessary or can be handled safely and effectively by phone or video,” the statement said. I am. Said.

AMA denied saying this.

“We can confirm that AMA is not the source of statements or statistics,” said Robert Mills, AMA’s media coordinator who handles telemedicine inquiries. “AMA is unaware of the original source, but many are confusing the statement without reconfirming with AMA.”

Unable to back up the statistics, an Alpha spokeswoman said the company would remove the claim from its website.

The fact that direct primary care services are not insurance is part of the appeal for both consumers and lawmakers. U.S. insurance is very expensive and often costs hundreds of dollars a month and thousands of dollars for patients to use, so don’t fall victim to catastrophic medical debt from accidents, Covid-19, or meningitis. Some people give up their insurance in the hope of. , Cancer or other serious illness.

Companies that offer direct primary care subscriptions are quietly urging lawmakers to exempt them from the supervision of state insurance commissioners.One such law is Recently passed in Montana..

But in emerging industries, the answer is what such arrangements should cover.

“When we offer these alternatives, very limited and sometimes deceptive plans, we reassure people who don’t want to buy insurance,” Blumenthal said. “It’s only dangerous if it encourages people not to get the insurance they really need.”

Telemedicine Company Investing in Covid Pandemic Boom | US Healthcare

Source link Telemedicine Company Investing in Covid Pandemic Boom | US Healthcare

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