The idea for UMA Health—a new app that cuts out insurance altogether and allows patients to find doctors and quality, affordable healthcare at the click of a button—came to Pedram Hendizadeh last year after a seminar on how technology was changing so many industries.
The New York-based podiatrist realized that consumers can access so many services via their cell phones—pizza, transportation, glasses, everything that is except healthcare. And so was born Urgent Medical Access, or UMA, an app that Hendizadeh tells FierceHealthcare has the potential to disrupt the healthcare industry.
The app, currently being launched in the New York region, allows patients to find certain specialists (dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors and plastic surgeons) for an initial consultation by searching based on cost, distance, ratings and availability. Patients can then schedule appointments at their convenience and pay for the appointments in advance with no fear of ever receiving a surprise medical bill.
“I’m a doctor and when patients find me, they have to call my office. They may get the answering service or if it’s busy, they may be put on hold for 15 minutes,” Hendizadeh told FierceHealthcare during an exclusive interview. “Why not find a way for them to go online to make appointments.”
If the app takes off in New York, Hendizadeh has plans to expand in large metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles and Dallas.
The app and website currently only allow a search for an initial consultation. Doctors who sign up to join the app set their own prices, and UMA receives 10% of every completed patient transaction. There is no cost or fee for physicians to join. Hendizadeh says physicians like the idea of the app because it eliminates insurers entirely and they are paid upfront for their services.
Patients benefit because they can shop around for the best prices, schedule a same-day appointment, and know how much they will pay before they even see the doctor. Hendizadeh says the app provides for complete price transparency and eliminates surprise medical bills that patients often receive after treatment to cover coinsurance, out-of-network fees and deductibles.
“The [healthcare] system is so complex and convoluted. Physicians just want to take care of the patient and not worry about insurance,” he says.
As an added incentive to patients, UMA will give 5% back to patient users who write a review about their experience as part of a reward or loyalty program to use toward future treatments.
Now that the Internal Revenue Service is no longer enforcing the individual mandate that requires taxpayers to indicate they have health insurance or face a penalty set under the Affordable Care Act, more consumers may opt out of health insurance, Hendizadeh says. Others may opt for high-deductible health plans in order to pay lower premiums.
Either way, he says, more consumers will seek out cost-saving opportunities.
“Transparent medicine is the wave of the future,” he says, “and it is much, much needed.”