What happens when you combine the smartphone with a neighborhood health clinic?

In Portland, Ore., the result is called ZoomCare – an innovative approach to primary care services that seeks to optimize access, quality and affordability through technology. Now in 24 locations in the greater Portland area—as well as Seattle and Boise, Idaho—ZoomCare makes primary and specialty healthcare accessible in key locations. It also leverages mobile technology to make everything from appointment scheduling to lab results to pricing attractive to consumers.

David Sanders, M.D., co-founder and CEO of ZoomCare, says its goal is to reinvent the “bricks” of healthcare rather than just rearranging them to make the same wall.

“I want to define disruption of care as twice the health at half the cost and 10 times the delight,” Dr. Sanders says. “We need different people practicing in different places, different processes, different methods of payment.”

 “We need different people practicing in different places, different processes, different methods of payment.”

ZoomCare’s tagline is “Healthcare on Demand.” Patient services include primary care, mental health, pediatrics, physical therapy, chronic care management and specialists such as orthopedics, dermatology, podiatry and natural medicine. ZoomCare has a flat fee model, and most illness and injury visits cost $140 for self-paying patients.

The founders worked closely with IT specialists to develop a patient portal, analytics tools and financial software systems to enhance the patient experience – all with its own, custom operating system. For instance, ZoomCare embedded evidence-based practices into its clinical support system to ensure that is practitioners follow best practices in their care treatment plans. Today, ZoomCare serves about 250,000 patients.

Keeping “Sarah” in Mind

ZoomCare had humble beginnings but big aspirations. The company started in a small space on the second floor of a mall more than seven years ago. In the first few weeks of operation, not one customer came into the clinic.

“We were thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, are we just totally off base here?’” Dr. Sanders says. “Many of my colleagues in the industry—though well-meaning—said, ‘You guys have made a giant mistake here.’ But brick by brick we began working at it and perfecting our model.”

Sanders and his partners and staff keep their patients in mind with all decisions they make. They call their typical patient “Sarah.” She doesn’t want to travel far for care, wants convenient hours, wants to know the price of a service ahead of time and wants on-site access to ancillary services. The job to be done is improving the health status of the neighborhood by making it easy for patients, the Sarahs, to receive the primary care services they and their families need.

“Everyone in the company knows who she is, knows her needs and is very, very focused on serving her,” Dr. Sanders explains.

A consumer-centric approach has been key to ZoomCare’s success. For instance, a patient can go onto ZoomCare’s website, schedule an appointment with a provider and be guaranteed to see that provider at that time scheduled. Additionally, ZoomCare makes laboratory, pharmacy and imaging available in the same location to enable one-stop shopping for all primary healthcare needs.

Maximizing provider skill sets is also a focus to help keep ZoomCare running as lean as possible without sacrificing the quality or safety of patient care. ZoomCare has worked closely with Oregon lawmakers to clearly define clinicians’ scope of practice to make sure that all providers—physicians, physician assistants, nurses and pharmacists—work at the top of their license, meaning they’re doing everything the law allows them to do.

Sanders and his colleagues at ZoomCare are now leading an effort to expand telemedicine in Oregon. A pending bill supported by ZoomCare would allow providers and patients to connect one on one using video technology.

“It’s very difficult for folks to break through and say, ‘What is most important in healthcare?’” Sanders says. “It’s not me. It’s not my business. It’s not my company. It’s the patient.”

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