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Prime Surgeons launches online concierge service for on-demand surgical care

Prime Surgeons called its surgical staff "elite," with patients ranging from athletes to celebrities and professionals, touts transparent pricing.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Digital health company Prime Surgeons will be launching an online network of surgeons to provide patients with access to surgical care on-demand, the group announced this week.

In its announcement, Prime Surgeons called its surgical staff "elite," with patients ranging from athletes to celebrities and professionals, and touted the transparent pricing of its platform.

As one of the features of the portal, patients will have direct access to a surgeon of their choice, with rapid response times; each surgeon is picked based on a proprietary selection process, the group said. Patients will be able to book appointments online, and in some cases will have 24/7 email and text access to their surgeon, depending on their membership level. Prime Surgeons said exact costs of procedures will be given upfront.

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The number of surgeries in the United States is growing rapidly and is expected to increase to 6.5 million in 2016, up from 5.3 million in 2010, according to data analysis company Datamonitor. At the same time, there will be 46,000 fewer surgeons by 2020. It is that statistic that Prime Surgeons cited as rationale behind the launch of its on-demand approach, which it hopes will consistently provide patients with better care and outcomes.

A growing number of primary care doctors, spurred by the federal health law and frustrations with insurance requirements, are bringing similar services -- called direct care, or "concierge" care -- to middle-income, Medicaid and Medicare populations. They typically feature doctors bypassing insurance companies to provide personalized healthcare while charging a flat fee on a monthly or yearly basis.

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In direct primary care, patients pay about $100 a month or less directly to the physician for comprehensive primary care, including basic medication, lab tests and follow-up visits in person, over email and by phone. The idea is that doctors, who no longer have to wade through heaps of insurance paperwork, can focus on treating patients. They spend less on overhead, driving costs down. In turn, physicians say they can give care that's more personal and convenient than in traditional practices.

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The 2010 health law, which requires that most people have insurance, identifies direct primary care as an acceptable option. Because it doesn't cover specialists or emergencies, consumers need a high-deductible health plan as well. Still, the combined cost of the monthly fee and that plan is often still cheaper than traditional insurance, according to information published in Kaiser Health News.

The American College of Physicians advises doctors to consider whether direct primary care can work within their practices, but also urges physicians to recognize how it could affect poorer patients and look for ways to keep care affordable.

Twitter: @JELagasse