For many, the phrase “concierge medical care” doesn’t feel familiar or align with their experiences in the medical industry. However, UPLIN’s Founder John Ricci has a vision of making concierge medical care the premier healthcare experience.
Q: What would you say is the biggest problem facing Americans today regarding their healthcare?
There’s no access to truly great healthcare. Here’s the current experience many Americans face. They call up to see if a doctor in their network has an appointment available. The first line of communication is a voice recording, its prompts. By the time you get to a live person, half of the time you’re in the correct department, and half of the time you’re in the wrong department.
By the time you’re in the right department, they’ll check your insurance to see if you can be seen. Then they’ll schedule you based on if a new patient or an existing patient. You can go through all of those steps only to find that the office doesn’t take new patients. If they do take new patients, they schedule appointments months out.
That’s not a great experience. At all. If you have a problem, you want that problem solved now, not in three months!
Q: You’re exceptionally passionate about this. Have you experienced these issues firsthand?
Yes, I have. For over six months when I was living in Nevada, I saw a number of doctors who told me I had a cyst in my throat. Six months later after seeing an ENT who asked to do a biopsy, they discovered I had neck cancer. Not only did I have terrible doctors who had no idea what they were doing, but the process itself also wasn’t efficient and frustrated me given my illness.
When I was diagnosed, I flew to New York, found the best of breed for the cancer I had, moved to New York for 3 months for Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan, and went from having the worst healthcare in the world to the best in the world. That made all of the difference.
I also witnessed poor healthcare from a different perspective — that of a loved one. My mom fell in her kitchen five years ago. I was living in another state when it happened. An ambulance came and took her away to the hospital. They sent her home relatively soon, so I wanted to find a doctor who would do a house call to check in on her. However, I couldn’t find one. I wanted to make sure resources like that were available not just for my mother but for people in similar situations to the one I was experiencing. After my mom fell, I changed our business plan and said we need to bring this to our marketplace.
Q: If this is such a prevalent problem, do we know what the root cause of this is? What are the underlying issues at play?
After talking with my concierge doctors in New York and doing research, it all comes down to insurance companies. Old-fashioned house calls used to be the thing for many, many years. With house calls, the burden is on the doctor. They show up, diagnose, treat and leave. Insurance switched the burden to patients. Patients have to book the appointment and get in the car when they’re sick or injured just to get to the doctor’s office. They have to go up in the elevator or another small space with people they don’t know while sick. Then you get into a waiting room with other sick people and wait.
There are obstacles at every point just to get care. Patients wait a ton of time — finally get seen only to wait longer. They wait for the knock on the door only to get five minutes with him. Sometimes, they never get to see a doctor. For many, that’s not enough peace of mind. The system is built around no easy access to quality healthcare.
Q: What does “concierge healthcare” mean to you?
Traditional concierge medicine means you pay the doctor a fee for the year so they’ll be available to you. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to do house calls. That they’ll answer the phone at 2 am. Even if we assume they do, they’re not coming to your house ASAP. They’ll likely tell you to come into the office the next day.
Concierge medicine has become a bit of a misnomer — in essence, it’s become a high-level word for common services people should expect. We’re setting out to be different.
What makes us different is that the Uplin platform provides medical doctors that are available all the time. We also have a collaborative approach to our network. We assign a primary doctor and the primary doctor consults with the team. This makes sure that you have a number of doctors familiar with your case, concerns and history.
We’re also making sure that memberships include everyone in your household. We’re not nickel-and-diming a family with children and additional adults. If you have caretakers or nannies, we’re not charging each of those people as a separate charge. Each membership is allotted a number of house calls and ancillary services and comprehensives, and everyone in the household can use those services for no additional fee. That, to us, is truly concierge medicine.
Q: How are physicians benefiting from this concierge healthcare model?
Uplin does everything for the doctor. We answer the phone, book the patients, calendar the doctor, and calendar the patient. We also talk with the patient about the ETA of the doctor to give both parties peace of mind so they know what to expect.
Doctors have access to medical records before they see patients. This gives them the time to truly address a patient and also manage time expectations.
We limit all the back office work for the doctors, and we do virtually everything for them. The template for patient notes is streamlined. They don’t have to spend half an hour filling out paperwork. They also don’t have to spend a lot of time dealing with insurance. We create the perfect environment for an experienced doctor who wants to spend time with patients and go back to practicing medicine.
Imagine working in an urgent care system; that’s a cattle call system. For the doctor that’s being ground down by the system, this is an opportunity for them to get back into an environment where they’re practicing medicine in a meaningful way that means something to patients.
We’ve taken the business out of medicine for the doctors. We let doctors practice medicine, not business.