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How Do They Do That? Marketing High-Touch Primary Care That's Less Than the Cost of a Weekly Latte

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer
caring hands

No extra charge for personalized care

What’s not to like about personalized healthcare service? Same day and on time appointments, email access to scheduling and to your doctor, physicians who are not in a hurry and have the time to listen to patients—these are the patient benefits of a concierge practice without the typical (premium) concierge fee schedule.

An article in The New York Times about concierge-style primary care caught our attention recently. Not because high-touch, personalized medical care is new, but because the business model of a few concierge practices is significantly different from most others. There’s a business lesson for healthcare marketing here and an effort to set an example for primary care nationwide.

But we couldn’t help wondering: For an annual fee as low as $150 instead of the typical concierge membership of $1,000-$5,000, how do they do that? According to the Times article by Katie Hafner, several primary care practices around the nation are using this counter-intuitive business model. (Which, in most instances, also accepts health insurance in addition to any membership fee.)

In San Francisco and New York City for example, One Medical Group positions itself as “Not Your Typical Doctor’s Office,” and strives to deliver on the vision of a healthcare organization with both “the service hospitality mind-set of hotels and the operational efficiency of [some] manufacturing industries."

So... How do they manage to offer the patient an upscale experience and unhurried personalized primary care for less than the annual cost of a gym membership?

According to One Medical Group founder and internist, Dr. Dr. Tom X. Lee, they keep the overhead low with technology and automation reducing by about half the number of administrative staff. And, using the practice website “or a new iPhone application,” according to the Times, “patients can schedule appointments and refill prescriptions, and, in limited cases, originate new ones.”

Dr. Lee is also the co-founder of the mobile and interactive healthcare company Epocrates, now a public company. The One Medical model was launched with venture capital backing and it remains to be seen if the business model can be sustained and grown.

From a healthcare marketing perspective, however, these goals (a positive patient experience and business efficiency), and the adoption of online and interactive tools are not limited to a concierge model. They have value and purpose for virtually any practice...hospitals, medical clinics or healthcare organizations also. Patients find the personalized care and welcoming environment appealing. And physicians find more professional satisfaction in having more time to build rapport and contend with less paperwork.

Read more about creating ethical and effective marketing for your medical group, solo practice or concierge practice on the Healthcare Success website. We've got the time to talk and get acquainted.

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