You can have a VIP emergency room doctor on call, for a price

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The promise of concierge medical practices is to provide round-the-clock access to doctors when patients need it. For New York start-up Priority Private Care, that means going to where their members are this summer — the Hamptons.

“We have an emergency physician out there during the summer (and) we are providing house calls,” said Ben Kruger, PPC co-founder. “We have also paired with a private ambulance company, and we have a portable x-ray … so it’s more than your average house call.”

PPC also sends physicians to patients’ homes in New York City, but the 18-month old start-up focuses on providing on-demand urgent care services at its 24-hour facility in Manhattan for an annual membership fee that starts at $3,000 per person.

For members like Olympic skater Evan Lysacek, it has meant being able to get treatment with no waiting when he’s suffered a debilitating migraine in the middle of the night.

“Historically I would go to the ER, because I had nowhere else to go,” the gold medalist explained, “and waited hours and hours to be seen by a doctor … and then spent days recuperating.”

When he had an attack last month, he was able to see a doctor at PPC 15 minutes after he called for an appointment.

“They saw me and gave me the attention that I needed, right away … and within four hours I already starting to feel better,” the gold medalist said.

Beyond 24-hour staffing, PPC’s private emergency room offers immediate access to a full suite of imaging machines, including a MRI machine and CT scanner.

“The only places that have a CT scan in the city are the hospitals — but the problem is that if you there in the middle of the night, you’re going to wait,” said Kruger.

Hospital emergency rooms are required by law to take all patients who walk in the door, and to treat the most dire cases first. The result is that patients with non life-threatening issues can wait hours for care.

It was Kruger’s father’s who came up with the idea of creating an emergency concierge service for patients willing to pay for better access. Dr. Bernard Kruger already had a primary care concierge practice, but he had no place to send his patients when they needed care in the middle of the night.

The younger Kruger teamed with his father and former health-care analyst Andrew Olanow to launch the service nearly two years ago. To make it financially viable, they avoided trying to build out their own ER.

“The radiology industry has been under severe pressure so there are radiology centers that are basically available to be taken over,” said Olanow. “We found a radiology center that had all of the imaging that we wanted, were able to partner into it and that’s enabled us to get access to that equipment without have to put a severe amount of capex.”

PPC says it now has 1,300 members who pay up to $5,000 per person for 24/7 access to its doctors and imaging as well as coordinated access to a network of specialists and area hospitals. That fee comes on top of health insurance. PPC also helps coordinate billing for its members, and imaging services done at PPC overnight are generally billed out-of-network.

For Evan Lysacek the math works. He says his past ER bills often ran into thousands of dollars.

“The membership is a few thousand. So, it covers one ER visit, without the four-hour wait,” he said.

PPC executives say they are planning to expand their service in New York over the next year, with a second office in Manhattan and a facility in the Hamptons. They hope to launch in other major cities in the next two years, which will allow them to offer members something close to a national network of VIP emergency care.

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