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The doctor will see you now, at home Posted: October 28th, 2010

By Megg Mueller

Technology has taken health care to a whole different place; the past. Thanks to new software, high-tech devices and advances in medical records management, the doctor is once again making house calls. Your health insurance might just cover it, too.

WhiteGlove House Call Health, a Texas-based company, has created a network of medical providers that bring health care to its patients, in their homes and places of business 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The company provides routine primary care, or any other health care service you'd go to your regular doctor for, according to Michael Cohen, Vice President of Marketing from White Glove.

For example, health care services might include respiratory and digestive issues, flu, sinus infections, colds, urinary tract infections, as well as ear, nose and throat problems. Providers can also conduct wellness assessments, back-to-school physicals and blood work.

Bringing the doctor to you

WhiteGlove is currently only available in Texas, but this year will expand its program to Phoenix and Boston. The company hopes to be in 20 to 30 markets by the end of 2011. Cohen explains that there are three ways to become a member of WhiteGlove:

  1. Sign up on your own. If you live in WhiteGlove's service areas, you can become a member for $35 a month, regardless of health insurance coverage. Each visit is just $35 and includes routine medical care and generic prescriptions. Members also receive a well kit, which includes such items as chicken soup, tissues, jello, Tylenol and other over-the-counter items to help you heal. According to Cohen, "We're the good old fashioned house call. We've brought it back, made it affordable. We're a doctor, pharmacy and grocery store on wheels."
  2. Through your health insurance company. Right now, WhiteGlove works as a network provider with Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare, which recently expanded to provide coverage in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. UnitedHealthcare had previously covered WhiteGlove for customers in Austin and San Antonio. In each case, the health insurance company pays WhiteGlove's membership fee for members, and members pay applicable co-pays. In UnitedHealthcare's case, the co-pay is the same as a regular doctor. For Aetna and Humana, it's the specialist co-payment.
  3. From your company. Individual companies can purchase WhiteGlove care for their employees, which Cohen says is the fastest growing way WhiteGlove is selling its care. Companies are given a discounted membership fee for each employee that is also capped for families. Employees then pay the $35 visit fee, and that's it.

The best part for companies, Cohen says, is WhiteGlove doesn't file claims against any health insurance plan.

"If you think about a large company, with thousands of employees, to eliminate all those claims, that savings is huge," he explains. "Some companies have a high measure of emergency care by employees on the weekends. Those costs are very expensive to a company plan. When the employee only has $100 co-pay, they say 'why not go to the ER?' But the company is getting hit with a $750 bill. For self-funded companies, we just make a fantastic alternative."

Innovation and old-fashioned health care

This unique health care delivery system has been made possible through the marriage of technology to old-fashioned care. WhiteGlove's CEO Bob Fabbio came up with the idea after he spent almost an entire day dealing with a health care situation; he knew there had to be a way to speed up the process of seeking care, getting treatment and procuring needed medication.

"Technology helps us remove costs," Cohen says. "We've integrated all our platforms; lab companies, clinicians are plugged in and they chart from it. We've automated customer surveys, consent-to-treat forms--all of our clinicians use iPads and/or iPhones."

Cohen says the first response for many is that the company and its services are too good to be true. Others ask how the company is able to turn a profit while delivering such personal care. Cohen explains that WhiteGlove is making money just like other service providers that charge low prices for great convenience.

"We're a medical care provider but we're also a membership. Think Costco," he says. "You pay a membership fee to get great products at great prices. With us, people pay a membership fee to get great health care that comes to them."