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Taking Colorado health care back to its roots

Health care has gone from a personalized touch to a big system approach


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I come from a family of physicians, and I’m an emergency room doctor who has been practicing in the Denver metro area for more than 10 years. I’ve seen how medical care has changed over time. In general, health care has gone from a personalized touch – the days of yore when you knew the doctor and he or she came to the house – to people feeling like they’re part of a big system that’s not designed for them, and in many ways, treats them like a number.

I don’t have to tell you that people are searching for something better. They are looking for simpler ways to take care of their families. Ways that make sense for busy and active Coloradans. Smarter, more accessible ways that don’t break the bank.

We recently launched Hippo Health with the goal of filling an important need for Coloradans: On-demand medical care from a team of expert, board-certified emergency physicians. Think of Hippo like having a doctor friend who you can text when the need arises.

The idea behind Hippo is simple: Technology makes it easy and secure to access our team of local doctors from your smartphone or desktop. From 8am to midnight, Hippo docs are on-call, offering unlimited access to subscribers.

The idea that became Hippo was tested over a 2-year pilot program here in Colorado with 200,000 people. What we found was astonishing: Thirty-two percent of encounters were able to avoid an emergency room or urgent care visit. (Approximately 1.8 million Coloradans visit the emergency room every year, and the average cost of a single emergency room visit ranges from $1,000 to $3,000). Ninety percent of encounters received total care through the system – diagnoses, a treatment plan, prescriptions. And we’re proud to note that we had a 97 percent patient satisfaction score.

Sure, that patient satisfaction score might make us feel good. But what it told us was that Coloradans really want to trust the doctor on the other end of the smartphone. A call center in some far off place doesn’t work. That’s why we’re focused on serving Colorado with a team of local doctors. We live here with our families, and most of us have been practicing in Colorado for years if not decades.  

There are many things that we can do to improve health care for Coloradans. But taking health care back to its roots with a hometown feel is an important part of it. With technology and some new thinking, we can make health care affordable and accessible for all. 

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