Health systems and hospitals are facing competition from disruptors offering personalized urgent and emergency care. But is that a bad thing?
A new disruptor is taking aim at the healthcare industry’s busiest site: The Emergency Department.
Concierge care programs designed specifically for urgent and emergency care are finding support from consumers who don’t want to wait several hours in an ED, along with primary care providers who don’t want to send their patients there. The service offers a cash-only alternative to the ED and could pull more patients away from hospitals and health systems.
“The experience [of an ED] is so challenging,” says Brad Olson, CEO of Sollis Health, which operates 11 clinics in New York City and the nearby Hamptons, as well as California and South Florida, and serves some 18,000 members. “What makes us different is we’re offering [patients] immediacy.”
Launched in 2016 in New York as Priority Private Care, Sollis is building a business model through partnerships with consumers, primary care providers, and businesses who want to avoid the traffic and time spent in an ED, which sees more than 130 million visits a year. The company offers a concierge care model that bypasses payers, and also offers a range of services that include diagnostics, labs and vaccines, virtual care, specialty care, even house calls.
The model adds another wrinkle to the crowded urgent care market, where hospitals and health systems are already competing with retail and stand-alone urgent care clinics that not only pull patients out of the ED, but offer additional resources and connections that pull a patient further outside the health system’s orbit of care.
Olson is quick to point out that Sollis Health is a disruptor, but not necessarily a competitor to health systems and hospitals—he notes the company has partnerships in place with more than 30 health systems for everything from ED services to specialty consults. He notes one clinic is located not far from Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and is partnering with the hospital even while giving consumers an alternative to Cedars-Sinai’s ED.
The ’disruptor’ moniker is important. Olson, a former executive with Peloton and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, brings a retail mentality to healthcare that is propelling companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Walgreens in the healthcare space. He notes that consumers are turning away from hospitals and health systems because of the complexity and cost of healthcare, and they certainly don’t want to wait several hours in a crowded hospital waiting room for fragmented care that leads to more scheduled visits in other locations.
Disruptors like Sollis Health and other concierge care companies are luring consumers away from traditional healthcare organizations with the promise of convenient, personalized care. And Olson says Sollis equips its clinics with ER-trained and boarded clinicians, many of whom also work at nearby health systems. Sollis also offers a range of services that stand-alone and retail urgent care clinics do not.
In the basic business model, Sollis Health partners with primary care providers and businesses who will refer their patients/employees to Sollis for urgent care, with those patients paying out of pocket for services. In some cases a PCP or business will purchase memberships for their patients or employees, figuring the cost of a membership will be much lower than costs associated with going to a hospital or urgent care clinic.
Olson says Sollis Health reaches out to health systems and hospitals to suggest partnerships, particularly in specialty care services, and those organizations haven’t sought out Sollis Health to help with crowded EDs. But the opportunity is there for healthcare executives to see disruptors like Sollis Health as a valuable resource, giving patients another option to access care.
“We definitely don’t compete with them,” he says.
Olson emphasizes that Sollis Health’s growth is in the consumer market, and in building out its concierge care to attract more primary care providers and businesses looking for alternatives to the ED or retail urgent care space. He says payers have expressed interest in this model of care, though the company currently isn’t working with any insurance companies and is focused on membership and cash-only payment plans.
“Our biggest challenge right now is explaining who we are and what we do,” he says. But once that connection is made, the value becomes evident.
Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.
A key pain point for health systems and hospitals is the Emergency Department, where crowded waiting rooms, long wait times, and expensive services are giving the ED a bad reputation.
Some concierge care providers are now offering urgent and emergency care, aiming to meet consumer demand for better and more convenient care and give PCPs and businesses an option for their patients and employees
While health system execs could see this as competition for ED care, some are partnering with these companies to reduce ED traffic and improve the patient experience.