I have made no secret of my disdain for some of the health care fads of late, most notably the co-called “concierge” physician practices. Apparently, as discussed in a recent Chicago Tribune article, there is a new business that has cropped up that may have some opportunities – “health advocates”
One could look at this as simply another get rich quick scheme for the parasites of health care. Or, a symptom of a health system that is more complex than the tax system, so that only the wealthy. In the tax system, the more wealth, the more likely that your tax situation will be more complex, and legitimately need professional assistance. In health care, the reverse may be the case – more complex health needs drive wealth down, as health problems lower income opportunities.
I looked at the website of Health Advocate, Inc, which claims to be the largest such company in the country. What they do is not that unique in terms of the services – for example, people hire geriatric care managers to handle such things, such as sitting in on doctor visits, coordinating medical appointments, pushing for specialist visits, resolving insurance issues and so on. Advocates can also offer wellness services, such as health risk assessments and wellness plans (diet, exercise, etc). Here are some of the services offered:
- Health Risk Assessment (HRA): Online tool for identifying risks for diseases with a personalized summary.
- Wellness Coaching: Unlimited one-on-one, telephonic or online guidance for reaching health goals enhanced by a robust website of health information.
- Personal Health Record (
PHR): Electronically stores medical history, insurance coverage, medications, etc, in one secure place.
- Screenings, other: “Biometric” screenings and on-site wellness advocates.
I can see this kind of package of services as marketable in higher income neighborhoods, and in markets where employers will add it as a benefit. While some insurance plans will pay for them, most probably will not, so these would have to be a separate service. The health information is right off the web – Healthology and YourTotalHealth, the latter a division of iVillage and NBC. For a fee, you would be able to license their content as integral to your website. Generally, you should be able to use links to the specific content on these sites if you so choose.
On the other end of the scale are services such as PinnacleCare, which markets to wealthy families and family offices – these are real concierge services for the very wealthy. I have no problem paying someone to handle tasks of daily living, whether it is cleaning, landscaping, housekeeping and cooking, paying bills and managing money – all power to them. The focus of the Chicago Tribune was just such a service.
Offering health information and wellness services through your website is a good value added service for patient retention and to promote better preparation for your visit. Your market may be receptive to offering some of these services on a paid basis through local businesses. If you are seeking HMO contracts, they may be interested in such services from you.
Healthcare, unfortunately, attracts hanger on companies who want to pick off profitable niches. But often these are needs that we may not see, but that the market will find receptive. You don’t need to be first in to develop a profitable service for yourself, just smart enough and fast enough to recognize a good idea and see if it is something that you want to do and can do effectively and profitably.