This article is written by Adrian Rawlinson, MD and VP Medical Affairs, hims/hers
We started hims & hers to eliminate stigmas around health and wellness issues and break down barriers for people when it comes to obtaining quality healthcare. In many cases, patients are discouraged from taking care of themselves due to high copays, drug prices, long wait times and an overall lack of accessibility.
We’ve all had days where spending two or more hours commuting to and waiting for a doctor’s appointment isn’t feasible with life’s daily demands. Telemedicine is providing patients across the country with an incredible opportunity: to be more engaged in decisions around their health and access licensed physicians when it’s convenient for them.
Telemedicine is one of the healthcare industry’s most creative and innovative technological advances. Doctors’ ability to communicate directly with patients, no matter their physical location, has introduced an entirely new level of patient engagement that we’ve incorporated into the hims & hers platforms. The licensed physicians practicing on the hims and hers telemedicine platforms implement a strategy where providers consider the patient's conditions, treatment options, medical evidence behind those options, benefits and risks of treatment, and preferences. Then, physicians and patients execute a treatment plan together.
By allowing patients to communicate with highly credentialed, board certified physicians on their smartphone or computer, without having to physically be in a doctor’s office, we’re taking the first step to making healthcare more accessible and affordable.
There’s also a growing body of evidence that demonstrates patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare experience achieve better outcomes and incur lower costs. Modern healthcare is complex, and many struggle to obtain, process, communicate and understand important health options available to them. This just simply shouldn’t be the case.
In fact, a 2001 Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, called for reforms to achieve a "patient-centered" healthcare system. The report envisioned a system that is "respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions." This is the system that guides our company and is why we believe so strongly in benefits of telemedicine.
Here’s a little more information on what this means for patients who come to the hims & hers platforms to discuss their health with licensed doctors.
We believe patients should be able to access quality care when they want and need it. A doctor’s office that is open between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. is not always useful for patients balancing the demands of daily life like work, school and children. The hims and hers platforms allow a patient to receive medical treatment without being beholden to an office schedule that does not fit their needs.
Telemedicine allows us to expand our reach to areas, beyond traditional ‘brick & mortar’ offices where doctors may not be easily accessible, or where lack of transportation options limit patient’s health options. Additionally, given the provider shortages in both rural and urban areas — telemedicine has a unique capacity to increase access to healthcare for many Americans across the country. For example, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas, according to the National Rural Health Association. Per the American Hospital Association, approximately 3.5 million patients go without care because they cannot access transportation to their providers. That’s simply not acceptable.
Telemedicine allows healthcare platforms like hims and hers to close care gaps caused by these geographic barriers and we are proud to be a part of the solution in improving the health and wellness of millions of Americans.
Studies have consistently shown that the quality of healthcare services delivered via telemedicine is comparable to the quality of care patients receive in traditional in-person consultations. In fact, telemedicine can improve patient care by reducing administrative mistakes, reducing patient wait times, and providing more thorough patient information upfront to doctors.
According to researchers at Harvard Medical School, patients are paying for health care with their time. It takes an average of 24 days to schedule a first-time appointment with a physician in a large US city — a 30 percent increase since 2014, when the average wait time was 18.5 days. After waiting almost a month for an appointment, patients can spend an average of 37 minutes traveling to the doctor for just 20 minutes of facetime with physicians, not including the 64 additional minutes spent waiting, completing paperwork or speaking with non-physician staff (Source: American Journal of Managed Care).
It’s not just that patients appreciate the convenience that comes from a doctor’s visit using telemedicine technologies. With a growing physician shortage, rising healthcare costs, and a need for increased, measurable quality, we have a responsibility to make changes in how we conceptualize and deliver care. Incorporating more technology in the healthcare space allows patients to access care on their terms and gives doctors an opportunity to capture a much more comprehensive footprint of a patient’s needs. Telemedicine is a tool that will transform health delivery for the better.
With rising copays and deductibles, the cost to see a Primary Care Provider can be unattainable for many American families. The Health Care Cost Institute projects the average cost of a visit to a Primary Care Provider at $106. That’s not including potential missed wages from leaving work, childcare expenses, or transportation costs. That’s why at hims and hers we’re striving to enable lower costs and more accessible care through our comprehensive telemedicine platform.
In the next installment of this series, we will look in more detail at the hims and hers telemedicine platform, from account set up to consultation, and how physicians are credentialed. Stay tuned for more.