Forward offers ‘no insurance based’ primary care

11 April 2017
Forward offers services similar to direct primary care and is the brin child of a small but fast-growing movement of pediatricians, family-medicine physicians, and internists. This group doesn’t accept insurance, instead it charges a monthly membership fee that covers most of what the average patient needs, including visits and prescription drugs at much lower prices.

Direct primary care (DPC) practices such as Forward are growing at a time when high-deductible health plans are on the rise. Business Insider quotes a survey in September which found that 51% of workers had a plan that required them to pay up to $1,000 out of pocket for healthcare until insurance picks up most of the rest.

Forward like the iPhone

Forward CEO Adrian Aoun, formerly worked at Google. He didn’t really think about fitting into the traditional  DPC model. He actually doesn’t call what Forward is doing direct primary care. It is to healthcare what the iPhone is to Communications: while the Blackberry phone initially gained traction because companies supplied it for their employees, consumers ended up opting for their own smartphones that were easier to use. In this respect, the existing employer-backed healthcare system is the Blackberry, and Forward’s model is the smartphone.

Big role for technology

Forward wants to to rebuild healthcare from the patient’s perspective. Technology plays a big role in that rebuilding process. It’s a way to”supercharge” doctors, Aoun said, so that they have more time with patients and it’s used effectively.  So you check in with iPads, get scanned using a proprietary all-in-one scanner that looks at your weight, temperature, heart rate and other vital signs, and your history is projected on a screen in the room.

Forward started in January. The monthly fee of $150 per is higher than the price point for most DPC practices (between $50-70, depending on how old a patient is). But Forward is also offering more perks than a traditional DPC office, including certain fertility services, along with wanting to use a lot of the data people collect from monitors. It also offers with an app that subscribers can use to access their information and doctors, and genetic testing to screen for hereditary cancer risks. Like many direct primary care practices, Forward offers generic prescriptions in-house along with some blood tests.

Possible hurdle

A big hurdle might bet hat not many people yet understand how the no-insurance based business models works.  But Aoun said he’s optimistic about Forward catching on. The extra variable of technology could make it so the practice could take on a lot more patients than the typical direct primary care practice, which can vary anywhere from 300 to 1,000 patients per doctor.