Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Marcus Welby meets Jiffy Lube

We’ve discussed medical care alternatives before, but – as Emeril would say – this idea “kicks it up a notch:”
In a little strip mall in San Mateo, California, nestled “between a UPS store and a hair salon” is a new type of doctor’s office.
A large banner hangs across the top of the entrance, advertising doctor visits for $39. Another sign encourages passersby to "Get your flu shot now!"
The office itself is as much coffee shop as medical center: prices for various services and procedures are prominently displayed above a reception desk, and there are even “packages” of related health care services available for one’s convenience.
It’s apparently first in the nation to implement this model. The San Mateo location “is [their] prototype store and [they] hope to roll it out to many locations.
Called QwikHealth, the Burlingame, CA based company is the brainchild of entrepreneur David Mandelkern. Mr. Mandelkern looked at the millions of uninsured folks clamoring for medical attention, and saw a business opportunity. In addition to serving as a primary care provider for these folks, the convenience of a “drop in” medical service is appealing to insured people who need (or just want) quick service.
QwikHealth offers a panoply of services at relatively low rates because there’s no 3rd party (i.e. insurance) involved; it’s a strictly cash business. That helps cut down both overhead and wait time for payment, and keeps things simple, as well.
Of course, California itself is home to a lot of, shall we say “undocumented” workers, who don’t have insurance. Such a facility would appeal to that population for a number of reasons, not the least of which would be that since there’s no insurance, there’s probably not a lot of other personally identifiable information changing hands, either.
Regardless, the concept seems sound, and it will be interesting to see if Mr. Mandelkern can transfer it to other areas. Or, perhaps some other forward-thinking business critter will capitalize on it.
I’m actually pretty impressed with the idea: it is, after all, the ultimate in transparency. One area of concern, however, is quality of care. Typically, network providers are subject to multiple layers of quality control, which seem to be absent in this model. On the other hand, one gets what one pays for.
UPDATE: In a related post, Health Business Blog has an item on "TelaDoc, which provides telephone consults to patients 24x7." Interesting read.
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