By Jana Soeldner Danger
City & Shore Magazine – The Luxury Issue
Accessing health care can be time consuming and not much fun. But a new online service that connects patients with practitioners helps make it easier to navigate options, and VIP care programs make visits to the doctor happen more quickly and seem more pleasant.
Hate the idea of calling a doctor and getting an answering machine, or being put on hold when trying to schedule an appointment? Or, after waiting, being told nothing is available for several weeks? DocNow, a new AI-driven booking platform, allows patients to avoid all that, while at the same time making practitioners more visible to patients. The service is designed to help patients find the right physicians, psychologists, dentists and even veterinarians through a mobile app, and to create a more effortless health-care experience for both providers and patients. “It’s a three-click process,” says DocNow CEO Frank Wasti. “You don’t have to make any phone calls.”
The service, which the company says integrates seamlessly with existing electronic medical records systems, launched in October in Georgia, and was scheduled to roll out in Florida on Jan. 15. Physicians pay an annual fee of $2,700, or $3,000 if remitted monthly, to be listed on the site, along with profiles of their practices. The basic service carries no booking fees for practitioners and is free to patients, who can search by name or specialty. They can then access a doctor’s calendar and schedule an appointment for either an in-person or telehealth visit. There is also a chat feature.
DocNow was created to be both patient-centric and to provide growth to medical practices. “For physicians, the value is visibility,” Wasti says.
For consumers, the value is convenience. Modern patients, especially millennials, are extremely likely to search online for practitioners, Wasti says “They want to get everything done electronically,” he adds. If there are no openings available soon on the doctor’s calendar, a patient can get on a wait list. Then if the practitioner has a cancellation, the patient will be notified that the slot is open and be put in a queue with others who may want the appointment.
In addition to the basic service, the company offers DocNow Plus. For a monthly fee of $10 per person or $15 for a family, a self-paying patient receives a 30 percent discount for services at urgent care facilities. The company is also in the process of launching a doctor-on-call system for telehealth visits.
“DocNow is a one-stop for all your health-care needs,” Wasti says. “The convenience is really priceless.”
Concierge medicine comes in a variety of forms, but a common thread is that patients pay extra for streamlined services and VIP treatment.
Cleveland Clinic Florida
Patients in the concierge program here have their doctor’s cell phone number, and they can call it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Suppose they call in the middle of the night? “I answer the phone,” says Dr. Nabil Tadross, director of concierge medicine at Cleveland Clinic Florida. Patients can also communicate with Dr. Tadross via text or email. If they call his office number in Fort Lauderdale during regular hours, a human being, not a machine, will answer the phone. The doctor will usually call back within 30 to 60 minutes, unless the patient has a question the nurse can answer. “That’s what they pay for — easy access,” says Dr. Tadross, who started the program three years ago.
Concierge patients can get same-day appointments, and visits may run 30 to 60 minutes. If a patient requires a specialist, a coordinator will help with scheduling. The cost is between $3,000 and $4,000 annually; the program currently serves about 300. Both patient and physician benefit, Dr. Tadross says. “The doctor has time to focus on a small group and give them the best care possible. It’s very important for the patient to have that personal relationship with the doctor, and it’s the same for the doctor.”
Baptist Health South Florida
The Executive Health program here provides a patient coordinator who assists in scheduling exams, tests and procedures, usually all in one day and in one location. Lab results are usually available within several hours. Patients who come from other countries can use Baptist’s international program, which will also assist with transportation to and from the airport and booking hotel rooms. Some insurances cover executive health visits; other patients pay out-of-pocket. “It’s a convenience,” says Dr. Rogelio E. Ribas, corporate vice president, Baptist Health International. “We live in a fast-paced world. Some people like to get everything done in one day. They want to be able to get in and get out.”
Leone Center for Orthopedic Care
At this Fort Lauderdale center, part of Holy Cross Health, Medicare patients pay out-of-pocket for a consultation with orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Leone and for his surgical fee. (Medicare pays its usual fees for all other related services, such as hospitalization, other doctors’ fees, prostheses and rehabilitation after surgery.) In return, patients get more personalized care that includes longer consultations that may last up to an hour; priority scheduling for appointments and surgeries; and more direct contact with the doctor and staff. There are other touches that can make a patient feel pampered, like cloth robes instead of paper ones, quick phone call returns and, before COVID restrictions, priority for private rooms and special meals during hospital stays. “I turned my office from a volume model to doing what I like to do: building relationships and providing better care for my patients,” says Dr. Leone, who began the program in 2009. “Patients tell me regularly that they have never had a medical office experience like this before, and that they have never had such a thorough exam and explanation like this before.”