Would you pay extra to skip the waiting room?

by Hanna Horvath
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Would you pay extra to skip the waiting room?

Going to the doctor is often a time-consuming process. First, patients must try to find a doctor within their insurance network (or pay extra). Then comes the waiting room: The average wait time to see a doctor is more than 18 minutes, according to a report by Sapphire Digital, a health care analytics company.

One Medical aims to make doctor’s visits more accessible and even enjoyable, for a cost. The company offers a $199 annual membership that grants access to primary care doctors without the long wait times.

The company initially sold memberships directly to consumers before signing up employer groups. It now has more than 6,000 employers signed up, including Google (and, full disclosure, Policygenius). The company went public on Jan. 31, and stocks rose 44% on the first day of trading Friday.

If your employer doesn’t offer the membership, is it worth buying on your own?

How does the membership work?

One Medical works with most major health insurers to provide primary care. Patients can expect minimal wait times, nicer-looking waiting rooms and 24/7 telemedicine service.

While patients may not always save money with a One Medical membership, they are saving another commodity: time.

“Increasingly, it’s become harder to get appointments with physicians,” said Glenn Melnick, professor of health care finance at the University of Southern California. “Time is money for a lot of people.”

One Medical can reduce trips to emergency rooms and to specialists, which are generally pricier than primary care trips, according to the company’s website. If specialty care is needed, One Medical offices can connect patients with specialists, a typically time-consuming task.

“In my experience, getting specialty appointments is a nightmare,” Melnick said. “If One Medical can continue to deliver on this, they will become successful.”

One Medical’s services are available in nine metropolitan areas, including New York and Los Angeles. The company has plans to expand into Atlanta and Orange County soon.

One Medical did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Why pay extra?

The annual membership comes out to around $16.50 per month — around the cost of a streaming service subscription. The time saved in the waiting room alone may be worth it for some.

Malcolm Ethridge, a certified financial planner and vice president at CIC Wealth, said the added cost is worth it for him.

“The location I go to offers any lab work needs on site, instead of me having to drive to another facility to get blood drawn,” he said. “They are also really great about scheduling. I’m never waiting longer than five minutes past my appointment time.”

Just remember: Your health insurance covers a lot of these features for free. We have an explainer on how to get free preventive care here.

Image: Michele Constantini