“Membership Has A Price…and It’s F’n High

A few weeks ago I posted some comments regarding a new membership style of practice that I had heard about from a patient.

 

In the last few weeks, I have been approached, as a “top doctor in my field.” By this very same company. For the sake of discretion, I will refer to this company as Lucy Health (Lucy is our family dog–who I hate, but that is beside the point.)

Now, I have in my hands, the exact printed materials that Lucy Health is distributing to doctors and patients. What I would like to do, is go over, point by point, the “advantages” to being a Lucy Member and then add my unadulterated rebuttal to each point.

Before I do, please understand that my comments are based solely on my opinion as a physician in this community for the last 12 years. I do not have medical evidence to refute the value of Lucy Health.

Here is how it works.

Lucy contacts a physician group. They extol the values medically and financially to the owners of said practice of converting to a membership model. The doctors and Lucy agree, contracts are signed and a letter is sent to all the patients in the practice asking them to sign up.

The letter states in bold “We are asking you to join our membership practice today by enrolling as a Lucy member.”

Note the word “asking.”

The next line states “We’re expecting all patients to at least participate at the silver level (which is only $15 per month).

Note the word “all.”

They are not really asking. They are saying, to remain a patient in the practice, ALL must sign up at least for the lowest level membership.

Then comes the list of “benefits.”

Email access to your doctor. Later on, the patient learns that for this silver membership, you get 2 emails PER YEAR to your doctor.

Ok, email is free.

Why does a patient have to pay anything for this. Secondly, this is 2012. Consumers in EVERY industry in our country expect email communication. Why is it that in the healthcare industry, this is “special?”

Lastly, 2 emails per year??? I literally get 2 emails per hour from some patients. What in the world can you use 2 emails per year for? Note that at the highest level “platinum=$75 per month) patients are allowed 12 emails per year. Still painfully inadequate despite being expensive.

Schedule same day and next day appointments and refill prescriptions [via member only website]

Website is cool. I am on board with trying to eliminate phone calls to a front desk as much as possible. But, EVERY patient should have access to their doctors office within a day or two. And refills? Seriously? Some of these medicines are life sustaining. Are we saying that Non-Lucy members will just have to not get their meds refilled on time?

In our office, we reserve 15 sick appointments per day at least for same day callers.

There are days, when they don’t all fill up and then I feel badly because we lost some revenue but every single patient that is able to come in urgently is so appreciative. We have saved some trips to the ER or urgent care. Most importantly, by seeing some patients right away, we have saved lives. Why is that a benefit allowable only to those with $15 extra per month?

A dedicated wellness team.

“Team” requires 2 participants. Patient and a doctor willing to listen and take the time. More team members are nice but may not be necessary if player one and player two are compatible.

Identify health issues before they become a problem

Right. Because until now, all of us practicing physicians have been letting patients go on and on undiagnosed and unmanaged until something bad happens.

Garbage! That is what GOOD doctors do: we focus on prevention, and lifestyle modification, and coaching and screening. Lucy did not develop these concepts, they are just making money off of patients fears of illness going undetected.

24/7 access to nurses at Mayo Clinic

Again, I feel a huge Tourette’s like explosion coming on. I will suppress it and simply say: ask any patient if they would rather reach an on call Mayo Clinic Nurse at 2 am or their personal doctor and my point is made. All of my patients have my cell phone number (its on my website and on every business card). Patients call and text anytime from anywhere, (pause for effect), for free.

Support to better manage your care [from a Lucy Health Advisor] This LHA calls to follow up after a visit and coordinates visits to top specialists.

I have Judy Platt. Judy has worked for me for 9 years. She sits in an office 40 hours a week and calls patients, responds to emails from patients to her personally, schedules and coordinates everything from STAT x-rays to consultations at Sloan Kettering, Penn, Jeff etc. Judy is expensive —but I believe those payroll dollars improve patient care. And, I would never dream of passing the cost of someone so valuable as Judy to my patients.

Lucy Health may be on to something as Health Care Reform takes hold and I may eat my words.

However, I do a job that I consider a privilege and I am paid well. We have a very successful practice and an amazing group of employees that are really friends. There is absolutely nothing Lucy Health could offer me that could add to that.

So, when the lovely young representative called me for the fourth time last week. I did swallow my tic-like profanities, breathed deeply, and simply said “thanks but no thanks.”

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