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Startups bet on consumer demand for health care convenience

Startups bet on consumer demand for health care convenience

Posted by PanamericanWorld on September 09, 2015

MinuteClinic pioneered the concept of convenience health care more than 15 years ago. Since then the number of walk-in clinics in retail stores, supermarkets and pharmacies has exploded nationally. Now several companies around the country are taking convenience a step further with low-cost primary care that includes house calls.

One example: a Minnesota company called RetraceHealth. Nurse practitioner Kate Estrada sees patients by video and in their homes. She says she can begin diagnosing strep throat with a smart phone app.

"Pretty easily, actually," she said. "You just get a big open mouth and you lean back a little bit and you definitely have to have the flash on."

Estrada says patients can even swab their own throats to send in for lab tests. And she says that's just one of many things people can do at home instead of schlepping to the doctor's office.

"I've done physicals by doing a home visit," she said. "We've done stitches removal — that's a home visit for sure. A lot of the rashes or bug bites or ticks — things like that don't need a home visit and we can do that remotely."

Thompson Aderinkomi, RetraceHealth founder and CEO, came up with the idea of clinic-free care a few winters ago. He and his wife had to make four trips to the pediatrician in frigid weather and spend more than $650 to nail down a pneumonia diagnosis for their infant son.

"I started to think there's people being affected by this, not just me, and someone should do something about it," he said.

Aderinkomi, a former MNsure board member with no clinical background in health care, points out that his new company is licensed, registered and insured just like a conventional clinic, but that he can offer better prices. He says a typical clinic spends five times more on overhead.

"In our business model only about ten percent is going to 'admin' because we're using the latest 21st century technology," he said. "Everything is digital. There's no paper. We don't have any brick and mortar. We don't have any buildings."

Similar services are popping up around the country. Pager offers physician house calls for $200 in New York and San Francisco. Heal, which began operating in the Los Angeles area earlier this year, recently secured $5 million dollars in venture capital and hopes to expand to 15 markets over the next year.

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