Many experts within the healthcare industry believe that preventative care is the way of the future. One of the most popular ways to structure preventative healthcare is through a membership-based business model and payment structure.
Practices using this kind of model typically charge a monthly fee, much like a gym membership. Patients who join are entitled to a certain number of visits per month, and may receive discounts on such things as nutritional counseling or lab tests. They may also be treated to free health-related educational seminars. A stunning example of what is possible is Forward, a membership-style doctor’s office in New York. Forward relies on innovative technology to provide personalized preventative health services that seem futuristic and boutique. But its founder, a former Google executive, wants to launch practices similar to Forward on a much larger scale, for the masses.
Member patients can schedule same day visits with one click of a phone app, as often as they like, and there is no waiting or even a waiting room. Their technology includes a body scanner that gives their doctors a full cardio EKG reading and a thermal map that detects heart rate, oxygen levels, bone and muscle density, and other metrics. The Forward clinic also offers blood test results in less than 15 minutes, plus DNA sequencing tools to illuminate hereditary health risks. Data from each visit is always available to the patient via a handy mobile app.
Today, many patients, both insured and uninsured, avoid going to the doctor until they experience a catastrophic need. Oftentimes they do so because of the prohibitive cost of healthcare. An affordable preventative membership program with services like Forward’s could help them avoid that kind of extreme outcome. Instead of rushing to the ER after a heart attack, for example, patients could access preventative care through a membership practice. On a proactive therapeutic cardio health program they might minimize or eliminate their risk of cardiovascular disease. The central idea is that an ounce of cure is worth a pound of prevention.
Make it affordable or free, however, and the influx of new patients may drive up the cost as more people opt-in for more procedures and treatments they would otherwise neglect. A population supported by great healthcare also lives longer. But the historic growth of an aging demographic puts a burdensome strain on systems like Medicare. A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at preventive measures to cause more people to stop smoking. The study concluded that such steps would trigger significant short-term health cost savings. But those savings would be undermined over time, thanks to population longevity.
Research cited by the New York Times examined 20 proven preventative services recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. Researchers used computer modeling to calculate the financial impact if up to 90 percent of the services were utilized. Unfortunately, they found that it would result in only a savings of 0.2 percent in annual personal health care spending. Such findings appear to say that technology and strategies exist to ensure that people are healthier and live longer. But that much-needed desirable outcome will likely require a generous financial commitment.