Robert Pearl: These 3 companies are shaking up healthcare

A compass pointing to the word "Innovative"
Three companies are disrupting the existing healthcare landscape, but whether they are the answer remains to be seen. (Getty/Olivier Le Moal)

“American healthcare needs a hero,” according to Robert Pearl, M.D.

The inefficient, ineffective and expensive U.S. healthcare system needs a “disruptive cure” for what ails it, Pearl, a clinical professor of surgery at Stanford University, writes in a contributed post on Forbes.

The former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, the largest medical group in country, describes some innovative companies trying to shake up the healthcare landscape that could take the industry in a new direction.

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One of those is Forward, which uses technology to reduce staff and costs, Pearl says. The startup company opened what it called the “doctor’s office of the future” in San Francisco in January and opened the doors of its second location in Los Angeles yesterday, part of a national rollout.

Forward is a direct care model that charges members a $149 monthly fee. There are no copays or deductibles. An iPad, not a receptionist, checks patients in and a body scanner records a patient’s pulse, oxygen level, height, weight and temperature during the visit, FierceHealthcare has reported. There’s no computer between a physician and patient, as medical information appears on a large wall monitor powered by artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

It’s an example of how high-tech systems could reduce payroll costs and create better outcomes for patients, Pearl writes.

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Pearl also points to CareMore, which focuses on caring for relatively sick, low-income seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage, and Health City, a hospital in the Grand Cayman Islands. He describes the latter as a “sophisticated, modern hospital … with clinical results that rival the best in the United States.”

The three companies are examples of how highly personal care that effectively manages utilization can work, as well as how an operationally efficient organization outside the U.S. could compete with hospitals here, he adds. Disruption of the existing healthcare system could come from one of these models, Pearl says, but he notes that right now these companies care for just a tiny fraction of American patients.

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