Q&A with healthcare entrepreneur Nick Vailas
Launching an enterprise in healthcare is nothing new to Manchester native Nick Vailas, who founded Amoskeag Physical Therapy in 1985 and is founder and chair of Apple Therapy Services, with six locations in Southern New Hampshire. In 1993, Vailas opened the Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center, which he describes as “the first multi-specialty ambulatory surgical center in New Hampshire. At the time, there were fewer than 700 across the country.”
He later added BASC Imaging and BASC Eye to the network, along with the Nashua Ambulatory Surgical Center in the Gate City. His latest enterprise, Member Medical, is aimed at making healthcare more affordable through a network of outpatient care providers. He also served in 2003 as the state’s commissioner of health and human services.
Your website states Member Medical is not an insurance company and does not take the place of insurance. So just what is Member Medical?
Member Medical is the ultimate wellness initiative that is a complement to health insurance, but it is not insurance. Its main focus is to increase your access to care by making it more affordable … As of July 1, we started using telemedicine for urgent care and mental health. So it’s convenient, affordable, and if we can prevent you from going to the hospital, it will not only reduce the cost of your personal care, but also that of your employer or whoever is paying for your health insurance.
The membership fee is $19 per month for an individual and an additional $10 for a dependent, with a charge of $10 per visit for up to three visits per year. So what does the member get for that?
The actual membership includes urgent care, three visits, via telemedicine or face-to-face with a medical provider, and then the concierge. If you need access to as specialist, we will get you that appointment with a specialist who’s a proven quality and lower-cost provider. Because some specialists work at higher-cost facilities than others, the difference can be very dramatic. Simple lab services with Quest or Lab Corp are far less costly than at hospital-owned lab services. Radiology, X-rays, MRIs, CAT scans are far less expensive than at hospitals.
How do people who have health insurance benefit by joining your plan?
Even if you have health insurance, keep in mind that if you’re in a high-deductible plan, you’re paying $3,000 to $5,000 before your insurance kicks in. If you go to an emergency room, you could be paying $1,000 or more.
Today, we’re paying more for health insurance and getting less coverage. Premiums are going up and deductibles are going up to the point where you are almost self-insuring for an individual or family. You’re just paying for catastrophic coverage.
How does telemedicine work?
With the evolution of smartphones, laptops and computers, you now can be seen virtually by a provider while sitting in your car, at home or at work. Most common things you see at urgent care centers are ear, nose and throat issues. The second most common is gastroenterology (digestive disorders). The vast majority of those can be treated digitally.
But a doctor can’t examine the patient digitally, can he?
Oh, yes, he can. By asking questions, by looking at the eyes or ears, looking at the throat, looking at deformities in skin coloration. This isn’t really new, it’s becoming more mainstream. Believe it or not, young people are more comfortable being screened digitally than in person.
What about mental health issues?
If you’ve got mental health issues and you feel that you are exceptionally stressed and not well emotionally, you can get counseling right at home or at work. If intervention is needed, the provider will stay on the phone with you until the emergency responders come. The mission is making access to healthcare more affordable and more convenient. Healthcare is not about bricks and mortars and bureaucracy.