Telescope Health combines telehealth with a concierge service to help patients manage health care and costs.
Physicians Matthew Thompson and Matthew Rill founded the Jacksonville company in 2018. Now they have 500 doctors, physician assistants, nurses and paramedics on call to answer health questions, make diagnoses and provide prescriptions over a computer, tablet or cellphone.
There also is a hub of about 30 navigators who facilitate a patient’s needs for obtaining X-rays, blood tests and other lab work, and arrange for treatment by specialists.
“Virtual care is a component of what we do,” said Thompson, Telescope Health CEO.
“But we are really a health care company that specializes in removing barriers.”
Telescope Health works with individual patients as well as companies to be an auxiliary health service for insured employees. Companies range from Baptist Health, which has 19,000 employees, to Manifest Distilling, which has 14.
Telescope Health is an affordable option for a small business like Manifest, said President David Cowen.
“It keeps people out of the ER. You can do it from home and get needed prescriptions for the family and kids,” Cowen said.
The 7-year-old distillery signed on with Telescope Health in 2020. Employees pay $12 weekly and Manifest Distilling pays $288 per enrolled employee annually.
Those patients not affiliated with Telescope Health through an insurance plan can download the app and use it to see a health provider anytime from home. The patient cost is $69 per use.
Soon Telescope Health will offer individual and family memberships. Pricing and details are being developed, Thompson said.
Cost savings come from a patient’s ability to receive care and advice over the app rather than at a hospital emergency room. Even if the patient is insured, such visits can be costly. Thompson said a full emergency room visit in Duval County can cost $5,000.
Urgent care centers are less expensive and most often more appropriate for illnesses and less serious accidents.
Telescope Health navigators will suggest urgent care centers, doctors or specialists in a patient’s area. Working with the patient’s insurance, they may suggest options and quote a price. The patient, not the navigator, decides where the treatment will take place.
“Hey, I found these three different places for you. It’s going to cost less here but it’s a 15-minute longer drive, which one do you want to go to? And then you can make the decision for yourself,” Thompson said.
Like a hotel concierge who can make guest reservations at a busy restaurant or find tickets to a sold-out show, the navigators can work some scheduling miracles, he said.
As an example, Thompson shared the story of a patient who was told a spot detected on a lung during a chest CT scan could be cancerous and there would a three-month wait for a biopsy.
The patient called Telescope Health and navigators arranged the test for that week.
“The biopsy was negative. It was a pneumonia that was residual and just looked like it was cancer,” Thompson said.
“So we saved that person a three-month time period of thinking that they had cancer, and they were able to get on with their life.”
If a patient does not have transportation to medical treatment, navigators will arrange for a taxi, bus or ride-sharing service to take the client to the doctor’s office.
Telescope Health’s services are varied and continue to expand.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Telescope Health teamed with the city of Jacksonville to operate its COVID testing centers. That helped the company grow through Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.
Manifest Distilling became aware of the company because it supplied hand sanitizer to the test sites.
For the past two years, Telescope Health has received Amazon Web Services Imagine grants. The funds are available to those using technology to solve the world’s most pressing health care challenges.
It also partners with elderly care centers. Nursing homes often have a limited medical staff. When that staff is off-duty or on vacation, other staffers can use the app to contact a Telescope Health physician. The savings can amount to thousands of dollars by eliminating the need for transportation and an emergency room visit.
The company is also working with nonprofits and homeless shelters to provide care.
Telescope Health will also reach out to employees who have coverage, but haven’t seen a doctor in several years. Navigators explain costs and why a regular checkup is a good idea.
“A patient may say that they haven’t had a checkup in two years and they’ve been trying to get to (their) doctor and they can’t see him. We will put them on with one of our doctors who will do that complete preventative exam,” Thompson said.
“We will identify that you haven’t had a colonoscopy yet. We want to schedule that colonoscopy for you. We identified that you are off your blood pressure medication. We’re going to refill that for you and we want you to do this bloodwork.”
Such preventative care has revealed that the patient has undiagnosed diabetes or is near the onset of a chronic ailment, Thompson said.
“That’s direct to consumer. You know, we have always offered that, but it’s not our focus. There are a lot of big players out there that offer direct-to-consumer telehealth, you know, Teladoc and Doctor on Demand,” he said.
It has recently teamed with Accresa, which will serve as the enrollment, eligibility and processing platform. Plans are to start with Florida companies and expand as an option for more than 55,000 employer groups, Telescope Health said in an Aug. 29 news release.
“We wanted to be much more targeted and specific and focus on improving outcomes for large groups, and that’s kind of why we focused on the (business-to-business) side,” Thompson said.