March 27, 2011

Startup Medical Group Aims To Save Patients Money

Dr. Garrison Bliss, co-founder of the Qliance Medical Group, has found a way to decrease the role of insurance companies in day-to-day medical care that leaves doctors and patients with more money.

Bliss operates three clinics in the Seattle, Washington area that treat insured and uninsured patients who have a monthly fee of $49 and $89, depending on their age.

"The primary difference is that we don't take money from insurance companies," Bliss told Reuters.  "The amount of money per patient that we make is actually higher than it would be if we ran an insurance practice."

He said that physicians see 2,500 to 3,000 patients annually, each for only 10 minutes.  Doctors at Qliance see 800 patients and spend at least 30 minutes with each.

"We promise to see you on the day that you're sick, or the next day," Bliss told Reuters, adding that Qliance neither pre-screens nor cares about pre-existing conditions. "Patients want to have access, they want to be the boss, they want to be appreciated and taken care of and physicians want time to do good work."

The clinics are open seven days a week for 12 hours a day.  Patients are given cell phone and email access to doctors as well.

The monthly fee patients pay covers first-time prescription fills, stitches, casts and X-rays.

"We don't make money on ancillaries," Bliss said.  He said that 50 percent of the money spent in primary care gets "burned up" in insurance company transaction costs, which instead could go to doctors.

He said that insurance companies are still needed, but only for "catastrophic events" like big operations.

"We have 62% fewer emergency room visits in our patient populations compared to others in our region here," Bliss told Reuters.

"We have about 50 percent less use of specialists, 50 percent less use of advanced imaging, 25 percent fewer hospital days."

Qliance is a direct primary care medical home (DPCHM), which currently operate in over a third of U.S. states and treated over 50,000 Americans in 2010, according to Direct Primary Care Coalition.

"We're ready now to start looking at a national roll-out. Our objective is to be in 50 states within the next five years," Bliss said.

He said that moves will require him to raise another funding round for "substantially more money."  Qliance has had three funding rounds that generated a total of $13.5 million.  

He said revenue for 2010 was about 60 percent higher than the year before due to very significant patient growth.

The company laid off nine employees last year due to "overpredicting slightly" on how fast Qliance would grow.  Bliss told Reuters that the company will likely double its 53 employees over the next year.


On the Net: