Connect2Docs ‘bundling’ of services for self-pay patients = big savings

The Self-Pay Patient has been up and running for about six weeks at this point, and I’ve probably brought to readers’ attention dozens of different providerscompaniesfacilitiesorganizationsprograms, and web sites that can help the uninsured or those with high-deductible health insurance to save money when paying for healthcare. And I probably have several hundred more that I hope to be able to get to in the near or distant future!

But one thing that has struck me several times as I’ve looked at the self-pay healthcare market is how fragmented so much of it is, requiring individuals to essentially stitch together their own ‘network’ of insurers, providers, facilities, pharmacies, and other entities, all completely separate from each other. In many ways this is a strength of the self-pay marketplace, because it allows patients to shop for care from anyone they like without being steered toward any sort of ‘preferred’ provider or vendor. At the same time, it can be a bit of a nuisance!

I’ve recently had brought to my attention a company that is bundling a few services together that can be an important part of any self-pay patient’s plan to get access to affordable, quality care, which may help to alleviate some of the nuisance aspects of the fragmented self-pay healthcare market. Called Connect2Docs, it brings together three important and complimentary services that can be of tremendous benefit to self-pay patients, while maintaining the flexibility that so many value. 

Connect2Docs combines access to primary care through telemedicine with a medical negotiation service and a prescription drug discount card. As their web site explains:

… Services include the AmeriDoc Telemedicine service, My Medical Negotiator, and the Connect2Docs Rx Savings Card. Our membership gives you access to these incredible services at a lower price than if you were to purchase any one of them separately.

Recent studies estimate 70% of primary care visits, and 40% of emergency room visits to treat acute medical conditions could have been diagnosed and prescribed medication all over the phone. The AmeriDoc Telemedicine service gives you access to board certified physicians to diagnose and prescribe medication all over the phone… Best of all, physicians are available in all 50 states, 24/7/365!

…My Medical Negotiator will review and negotiate a lower price on any medical bill over $200, whether you have insurance or not. Some of the most common and successful negotiations include medical equipment and procedures, dental bills, veterinarian bills, and so many more!

…The Connect2Docs Rx Savings Card saves members an average of 55% off the price of their prescriptions at the pharmacy.

I’ve written about medical bill negotiators in the past, and prescription drug discount cards probably don’t need much explanation. But telemedicine might.

Telemedicine covers a lot of different types of medical care, such as remote monitoring of patients or even having a physician perform a procedure remotely, controlling a robot that physically does the work.

What Ameridoc Telemedicine offers is phone consultations with licensed physicians, who are looking at an electronic health record created when you first enroll, giving your medical history and other relevant details. From there, according to AmeriDoc’s web site, customers have two basic options:

Information Consultations (General Medical Advice)

There are plenty of online Q&A forums, but where medical problems are concerned, the “community” doesn’t have the qualifications to give you reliable answers. You need real medical advice from a real doctor. That’s what we offer. If you have a medical question that only a doctor can answer, we offer the convenience of on-demand access to physicians for general advice and recommendations regarding a range of routine medical conditions. Consultations are available through our secure messaging system or over the phone.

Diagnostic Consultation

Sometimes you need more than basic medical advice for common conditions. You may have an ailment that you cannot identify, and require a more thorough examination by a licensed physician. For in-depth consultations, including prescription requests or refills, we offer anytime access to physicians over the phone. All you have to do is schedule an appointment online or by phone. Our user-friendly patient dashboard gives you all the tools you need to schedule an appointment in minutes. If you’d prefer, you can simply call member support and they’ll make the appointment for you.

Obviously telemedicine isn’t for every ailment or condition – this is generally for relatively simple primary care needs. Ameridoc lists several common ailments and conditions that are generally able to be treated over the phone, via e-mail, or through a video connection:

In some cases, a visit to the doctor’s office can be avoided, saving time and money. As a complement to primary care, our goal is to make sure you’re equipped with all the tools and resources you need to reduce the cost and frequency of in-person consultations. Part of that effort involves the delivery of care for a comprehensive list of common conditions by qualified physicians via phone or email.

[These include:]Allergies, Nausea. Cold & Flu, Ear Infection, Stomach Virus, Acid Reflux, High Blood Pressure, Acne, Sore Throat, Pink Eye, Asthma, Sinus Conditions, Headache, Rashes, Diabetes, Constipation,  Hemorrhoids, Fever, Vomiting, Urinary Tract Infection

Ameridoc isn’t the only company offering telemedicine for basic primary care, others including 1st Care MDTeladocConsult A Doctor, and CallMD offer similar services.

Each of these telemedicine companies offer relatively low-cost alternatives to generally more expensive in-person visits to a doctor or retail clinic like Minute Clinic. Each has their own pricing structure, including being charged a fixed amount for each call or annual fees that allow unlimited calls. Of the two companies I looked at closely in the course of writing my book, one charged $35 per call while the other offered a family plan with unlimited calls for around $200 a year.

Telemedicine services seem ideal for patients with simple, recurring, or chronic conditions that are easily recognizable and require a prescription. Obviously there are situations and conditions where there simply is no appropriate substitute for a visit to a trained medical professional, either a regular primary care physician or even a specialist.

So that’s telemedicine. What’s interesting and exciting for self-pay patients is that Connect2Docs has bundled three services that each address what are the three cornerstones of most medical care that patients seek – Ameridoc provides primary care, My Medical Negotiator is a huge benefit in terms of more costly specialist and hospital care, and Connect2Docs Rx Savings Card provides savings on prescription drugs, an important part of modern medicine.

The price also can’t be overlooked – Connect2Docs has three levels of membership, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, charging roughly $25, $20, and $15 a month, respectively. The Gold plan provides unlimited informational and diagnostic telemedicine calls for up to six family members, a free annual lab screening for the member and a spouse, enrollment in My Medical Negotiator, and the prescription drug discount card. The lower priced memberships mainly differ in that they either offer a limited number of free diagnostic calls (four in the Silver plan) each year with additional calls costing $35, or no free diagnostic calls with each one costing $35.

These costs compare very favorably with the expense of visiting a primary care physician or retail clinic for relatively low-grade medical issues that are easily recognizable, particularly if there aren’t any cash-only doctors available.

The $300 a year fee for a Gold plan would be a bargain in the event of a couple of cases of pinkeye, an ear infection, and a bout of flu in a single family that might otherwise require a couple of visits to a primary care physician or retail clinic, and having a medical bill negotiator that can reduce charges for specialist and hospital treatments can literally save thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for a self-pay patient.

Worth noting also is that Connect2Docs members receive a discount off of the fee My Medical Negotiator typically charges for a successful bill reduction. The prescription discount card is a nice feature as well, although to be honest free discount cards are relatively easy to come by.

The bundle offered by Connect2Docs breaks new ground in some ways, creating a combination that can help to address some of the most common challenges that self-pay patients face. It’s my belief that they are only scratching the surface at present time, however, and I expect to see them and other providers, companies, facilities, and organizations to continue to look for ways to build more comprehensive bundles that effectively address more of the issues, challenges, and opportunities of the self-pay patient while preserving the freedom and flexibility that many have come to value.

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