Health care on a freemium pricing model


I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk* yesterday deliver a talk to publishers and indie bookstore owners. At some point in the talk, he encourages everyone to have some sort of freemium pricing model. That got parked in the furrows of my brain.

What if we had a freemium pricing model for health care? When you move into a new area, you need to choose a doctor but that doctor may not be compatible with you. Once you got there, though, you usually become “stuck” with the doctor as the new one will require endless reams of forms, medical history photocopying charges, blah, blah. Many of us stick with a doctor because the pain of finding a new one is overwhelming.

Under the freemium model, your first visit is free with no obligation to provide stacks and stacks of forms. S/he would then have to put his/her best foot forward, maybe give you a few extra minutes of time instead of processing you like a sack of potatoes, maybe even have a full conversation with you. The doctor and the practice would have to sell you they are the best option for you.

Maybe the doctor would give you one free checkup a year. They could work the model like auto repair. If you bring your car in every three months for an oil change, they usually find something else wrong with it and end up charging you for replacing this or that, even though you may have waited until this or that fell off. (Come to think of it, oil changes should be free and … that’s another post.)

Vision and hearing checks could be available through the schools to our children free of charge. At the end, the doctor could send home a brightly printed piece of paper that has eyewear package option listed. The model works for class photos and we all know how many of those we buy that we don’t need!

If wellness programs really did save costs overall, they should be free as the “public option” because it makes good business sense. Then, insurance would only be used for major repairs, like heart attacks disease, broken bones, hernias and life-saving operations. Why don’t medical practices compete against each other for customers? What if only the free parts of the medical service was subsidized by a government-run “public option.”

The time to start thinking a little bit outside of the normal ways of doing things is now. The current system of health care is unsustainable and a full public option is perceptibly unaffordable. Every other business is expected to adopt some sort of freemium model in the near future; why not health care?

*I don’t know what Gary’s views are on health care. His video was merely inspiration for this blog post. The views expressed above are entirely my own.

One Reply to “Health care on a freemium pricing model”

  1. An example of freemium in health care

    Aravind is the world’s biggest eye-hospital chain, based in India founded in 1976. Its core principle is that the hospital must provide services to the rich and poor alike, yet be financially self-supporting. It treats over 1.7 million patients each year, two-thirds of them for free.

    There are separate facilities for paying and non-paying patients and it is up to the patient to choose where to get the care. The fee based service can include fancy meals or air-conditioned rooms and the paying customers pay well above costs to cover the costs for subsidized and free services. The free or subsidized services are made very cost efficient by proving only the basic facilities that enact a process of social self-selection and create a hurdle for those who can afford to pay to demand free treatment.
    To maintain the quality of the care, the same doctors rotate to deal with both paying and non-paying patients.

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