So I’m about to go on a major health insurance tirade. Are you ready for this? Because this is about to happen.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed that the U.S. health care system, as it stands, is infuriatingly unsustainable. Beyond its total lack of humanity, there is the fact that you can easily get screwed out of tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of dollars based on one person’s error. And who foots the bill when that happens? You do. A customer service rep mistakenly thinks you’re covered for a certain procedure. Or maybe an office administrator forgets to double-check to make sure you have coverage for something and you end up with an unnecessary procedure that puts you on the hook for thousands.
But mobile health startup drchrono may end up changing all of that. The Y-Combinator graduate announced Thursday that it now offers instant insurance eligibility checks and has partnered with Square to allow doctors and staff to make transactions through their iPads or iPhones.
I got a chance to chat with drchrono COO Daniel Kivatinos about the new features, and he explained that the insurance eligibility check will be offered through drchrono’s patient check-in app OnPatient.
Imagine a world where medical staff can check to see how much your co-pay is by simply tapping an app. It’s real, and it brings a tear to my eye.
As Kivatinos explained to me, drchrono was able to automate the process of checking insurance coverage by working with the insurance APIs. “They generally have ways of accessing coverage data, but people just don’t go and get it,” he said.
So now, medical staff will be able to put in your insurance information via OnPatient, and the app does an instant, real-time verification of your eligibility. In some ways, this is like a knife in my gut, since it comes just six months after I had my son and learned too late that my insurance wouldn’t pay for his birth after the staff and I thought I was covered. It’s a long story that I’m totally happy to share with anyone who asks. Just email me to get all the details. Please. I really need to talk about this. The guys at drchrono have heard all about it.
In equally big news, drchrono has also partnered with Square to allow staff to make transactions instantly with one swipe of a card. Kivatinos told me that this was something drchrono users were asking for, as many doctors were already using Square and having to slug through dual entry by charging patients and then entering the same information in drchrono.
The company has a sample pool of about 100 physicians who test out the new features for them, and Kivatinos said that the instant eligibility check plus the new Square integration was an “’aha’ moment” for them.
drchrono’s user base consists of 23,000 physicians representing some 800,000 patients, which Kivatinos admitted is not a huge number overall, but the company is gaining a lot of momentum and growing at a quick clip with very little marketing effort on their end. A large part of drchrono’s success may be due to its freemium model, which gives healthcare practitioners the freedom to try out the product without committing hundreds of thousands of dollars right out of the gate.
“When we first started company, it was all paid product. We charged doctors a setup fee and higher monthly fees. Then about a year and a half ago, we looked at a whole bunch of successful tech companies like Dropbox and Google, who would give away something for free and then would upsell people over time on their service. So we switched,” said Kivatinos.
drchrono has raised $4.13 million and Kivatinos tells me that the company is now setting its sights on a patient-facing app that will allow patients to access their own medical records and insurance information (such as how much they’ve paid toward their deductible, how much their co-pays are for certain medications, etc.) from their phone or iPad.