Apple Store Meets Doctor’s Office in New Primary Care Model

Whether it’s called “retail healthcare,” “concierge care,” or “direct primary care,” it’s here—to stay, investors hope. For a monthly subscription fee of $149, Silicon Valley executives are betting big that consumers will be willing to accept a new primary care paradigm, where the act of receiving care most closely resembles a trip to an Apple store.

A primary care startup called Forward, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, touts itself as a direct primary care model that trades “fee for service billing… for an approach focused more on health outcomes,” according to Fast Company. The flat monthly fee helps Forward avoid administrative costs and frees physicians up from the billing process, allowing them to concentrate on the patient. According to Fast Company’s profile of Forward, some of the high-tech features at Forward, which health information management (HIM) professionals of the future might find themselves involved with, include:

  • Standard medical services, as well as genetic screening tests, body scanners (that monitor weight, pulse oximetry, and other biometric measures), wearable sensors, artificial intelligence software
  • A homegrown electronic health record (EHR)
  • A rotating nook in the bathroom where patients can place their urine samples to avoid carrying them elsewhere
  • An iPad station where patients check in
  • Instead of standard issue hospital robes and gowns worn for tests and procedures, patients can wear comfortable workout wear
  • Medical scribes take notes so physicians can focus on the patient
  • Doctors can communicate with patients via mobile devices that integrate health monitoring devices and apps.

While the business’s founders, who hail from Google and Uber, tinker with ways to entice a patient mix that supports their payment model, some healthcare technology gurus have expressed concern.

“I would be firstly interested in what new tools they are using because are they proven, are they validated, are they well-accepted, and moreover I am particularly interested in publishing results to show that this gadgetry is helping these people,” cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol, MD, told MedCity News. “…If you want to do something that is new and claim that it is disruptive, then you better be publishing results of how you’re hopefully helping people and not harming them.”

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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