The healthcare industry remains one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world…
In late April, I interviewed Antidote Health Founder and CEO Avihai Sodri about his startup’s mission to provide accessible and affordable telemedicine services to people. The company describes itself as a “state-of-the-art telehealth platform [that offers] acute and primary care services to Americans at a fraction of regular costs. Services are provided through an app, available on iOS and Android, and can be one-time appointments or part of a recurring subscription.
Remote medical appointments are beneficial for everyone, especially in the context of the pandemic, but are particularly beneficial for people with disabilities. Even before the word “coronavirus” became a mainstay of our daily vernacular, so-called video tours were preferable to many people with disabilities who could not easily, if at all, travel to a clinic or hospital. community. The fact that the virus has forced people to shelter in place for long periods of time has only exacerbated the need for virtual services like Antidote’s. If conference rooms have been made digital by Zoom and Webex, it makes sense that exam rooms would also be transformed.
Regardless of the logistical accessibility of virtual appointments, there remains a significant barrier: affordability. Medical care is expensive, and most people with disabilities have very little money to cover insurance and specialty services that an HMO doesn’t cover. Antidote recognizes the problem and works to remedy it, just as their doctors would treat a physical illness.
“At Antidote, we believe that physical and financial well-being go hand in hand. When people are healthy, they can meet all of life’s challenges and play an active role in shaping their future,” said Jike Chong, Head of Financial Services at Antidote, in an interview with me by E-mail. “When a person’s physical health is compromised, financial stress is often cited as one of the biggest barriers to health success and recovery. By providing access to an affordable installment payment option, Antidote removes one of the most significant barriers to high-quality healthcare services, allowing individuals to focus on their well-being without worrying about financial uncertainty under -lying.
As mentioned, users can schedule single appointments with Antidote, but there are also options for a monthly subscription and a six-month plan. Chong noted that the six-month plan is particularly suitable for people with chronic conditions; an installment plan helps patients pay for services over time in manageable installments. “[The installment plan allows] that they continue treatment long enough to get into routines that form the basis of effective long-term care,” he said.
Demand for more affordable health care from initiatives such as Antidote’s installment plans has been high, according to Chong. He cited medical debt as one of the main reasons people forgo health care, saying 50 million Americans pay medical bills for themselves or family members. Part of Antidote’s business plan, Chong told me, is to work with employers and insurance companies to address high deductibles and inflation through actions such as establishing a payment plan option. Additionally, Chong explained that the popularity of installment plans, for medical care or otherwise, is popular among consumers because they allow budgeting for big-ticket items without racking up insurmountable amounts of long-term debt. Members of the disability community can benefit immensely from pay-as-you-go schemes, as it is often literally impossible for them to pay for everything at once.
Chong pointed out that healthcare prices vary geographically, so it is imperative to identify affordable healthcare options. “To make downstream care pathways more affordable, patients should first learn about high-quality, low-cost referral alternatives near them, and then consider all payment plan options,” said Chong. “Antidote is currently developing a tool [that navigates] cost of healthcare services and will be able to provide affordable payment options for medical expenses selected by the patient. It is not insignificant for Antidote to manage the backend of these installment plans; they have partnered with the financial company Walnut to help them assess the creditworthiness of patients. “Together, we are combining the best of integrated finance and proven treatment methodologies to increase the accessibility and effectiveness of our chronic disease management capabilities,” said Chong.
Looking to the future for Antidote, Chong told me that “this is just the beginning” for them as they work to revolutionize modern healthcare, adding that the company has “a lot of exciting products in our pipeline”.
“To make health care more affordable, we need to address the problem of the uninsured and underinsured, where a family’s annual health insurance deductible is often greater than the amount of expenses their savings can cover. An unexpected medical incident unfortunately has the potential to destroy [a] all of the family’s savings and putting them in debt,” Chong said. “Allowing our patients to use installment payments to reduce the financial burden of their healthcare costs can increase their long-term resilience, reduce stress and improve their overall condition. [mental/physical] welfare.”