One Medical: Revolutionizing Primary Care Using Technology

One Medical has leveraged digital technology to effectively deliver on its company mission to build a high quality primary care system that is affordable and accessible to all.

Reinventing Primary Care

Founded by Dr. Tom Lee in 2007, One Medical blends hospitality and healthcare through its patient-centric clinics. Currently they have clinics in eight cities across the U.S. One Medical promises shorter wait times, more time with a physician, same-day appointments, in-office lab testing, easy access to health records and a coordinated primary care team with 24/7 access. Patients pay a yearly membership fee (between $149 and $199 depending on location) to access the One Medical system and importantly, clinics work with most major health insurance carriers [1].

These customer promises are executed upon through an operating model that integrates technology with the company’s delivery platform. When speaking about technology-enabled primary care at a conference in July 2015, Lee noted, “We have to figure out how to make the economics work in addition to the design architecture so they work in concert, and for us, we use technology to do that. Technology is the game-changer.” [2] One Medical’s system is enabled by schedule and capacity algorithms, enterprise workflow and data capture, time-based protocol and automation, mobile and enterprise integration, and an electronic claims management system [3].

Rethinking a Doctor’s Visit with the Benefits of Technology

Not only does the use of technology allow for easier information flow from patients to healthcare providers at One Medical, but it also relays information in the way that patients are now used to receiving it – through a mobile app. (It is worth noting that One Medical uses multi-channel communication so patients can choose how they communicate with the office, i.e. mobile, website, phone or in-person). The app allows patients to book appointments and view availability across offices, which provides flexibility by, for example, allowing patients to choose locations close to work or home. The app also lets patients select physicians based on experience and specialties and specify the reason for the appointment. One Medical is then able to more accurately schedule physicians’ days and keep appointment wait times down. According to the company website, ninety-five percent of appointments at One Medical start on time and doctors are able to see one-third fewer patients, which increases patients’ time with providers. [4]

One Medical has also added virtual care functionality to their mobile app in order to deliver 24/7 access to patients. The “Treat Me Now” function allows patients to describe common issues (i.e. cold, flu and allergies) and get quick and easy feedback from a primary care team. In addition, patients can video chat with a provider about their symptoms and treatment options through “Video Visits”. Last year, they added a feature for digital dermatology, which allows patients to take pictures of skin conditions and get expert medical advice within twenty-four hours [5].

One Medical uses electronic prescriptions that can be sent directly to the pharmacy a patient chooses; the app also allows patients to renew prescriptions easily [6]. Medication non-adherence is a widespread problem in the industry; a Harvard Medical School study showed that over twenty percent of first time patient prescriptions are never filled [7]. Electronic prescriptions have been shown to increase the number of patients filling the initial prescription by ten percent [8]. Renewing the prescription via the mobile app is just one more step to ease the friction and increase medication adherence.

Realizing Challenges and Opportunities

One Medical’s focus on technology-enabled primary care has led to opportunities and challenges within virtual care, patient-provider communication and electronic health records. An industry-wide issue that One Medical is also facing is data security given the use of electronic health records (EHRs). While their use of EHRs is not unique, One Medical’s brand is built on technology as the enabler of better patient care and this could be significantly damaged by any breach.

One of One Medical’s opportunities includes expansion of virtual care into preventive medicine. In February, One Medical spent $20 million to acquire Rise, a mobile app that connects patients to licensed nutritionists for advice on diet and meal planning. Rise integrates well with the One Medical platform since the nutritionist’s advice can vary based on a user’s medical history on file with One Medical. [9]

One Medical can also take further advantage of their digital communications platform. Electronic prescriptions and refills allow them to facilitate greater provider-patient communication through automatic notifications of unfilled prescriptions. This can then trigger additional conversations that may help avoid gaps in medication usage, furthering the company’s objective of providing high quality care.

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[1] Kia Kokalitcheva, “One Medical Raises $65 Million for Its Affordable High-End Doctor’s Offices,” Fortune, December 8, 2015, http://fortune.com/2015/12/08/one-medical-65-million/, accessed November 2016.

[2] Global Innovation Summit, “Keynote Tom Lee, Founder & CEO, One Medical Group,” published July 1, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KagVFHIw6SY, accessed November 2016.

[3] Ibid.

[4] One Medical company website. http://www.onemedical.com/chi/doctors/, accessed November 2016.

[5] Aditi Pai, “One Medical now offers patients app-based dermatology treatment,” Mobi Health News, May 19, 2015, http://www.mobihealthnews.com/43623/one-medical-now-offers-patients-app-based-dermatology-treatment, accessed November 2016.

[6] One Medical company website. http://www.onemedical.com/sf/help/prescriptions/, accessed November 2016.

[7] Pauline Chen, “When Patients Don’t Fill Prescriptions,” The New York Times, May 20, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/health/20chen.html, accessed November 2016.

[8] The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, “Issue Brief: Medication Adherence and Health IT,” January 9, 2014,

https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/medicationadherence_and_hit_issue_brief.pdf, accessed November 2016.

[9] Douglas Macmillan, “One Medical Buys Virtual Nutritionist App Rise,” The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2016, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2016/02/05/one-medical-buys-virtual-nutritionist-app-rise/, accessed November 2016.

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3 thoughts on “One Medical: Revolutionizing Primary Care Using Technology

  1. I have been a member of One Medical since 2013, and I’ve had such a positive experience working with them over the past few years that I’m willing to continue paying the $149 annual fee despite having access to the Harvard student health clinic. The author is spot on in describing how One Medical uses technology to improve the patient experience; I have always been able to schedule an appoint with a doctor within ~24 hours of my request, I have never had a doctor’s appointment start late, and all communication is done electronically.

    In addition to the technology aspect, the One Medical team does a great job at creating a pleasant environment. I’ve visited four One Medical locations, and all have felt like an upscale office building — clean, neat, bright, and spacious.

    The one thing the One Medical team could do better is advertise new features of their platform. For example, prior to reading this article, I did not realize they offered the treat me now, video visits, or digital dermatology services, and I would not be surprised if other long time members were also unaware. Fortunately, this problem has an easy solution as receptionists could quickly highlight new features of the platform when patients check in.

    Thanks for writing about such a great company!

  2. Ashkad, thanks for this informative post! I actually remember looking into One Medical, but their membership fee deterred me, like many of my friends, who were rather healthy and saw the doctor only once a year and scheduled months in advance.

    It’s great to see such an app-friendly medical practice, although I was surprised they don’t advertise this more. In fact, although this feature could be appealing to millennials, I can see it acting as a deterrent to the older, non-tech savvy, non tech trusting demographic.

    One thing I would like to see medical centers such as One Medical start to do, is increase transparency around health insurance. It’s often hard for a patient to figure out why they receive the bill they did, and so a simple interactive online walk through for each patient – think how turbotax walks you through each step of the tax calculation – could be very beneficial.

  3. Thank you for this post, Ashwini!

    You mention that “Electronic prescriptions and refills allow them to facilitate greater provider-patient communication through automatic notifications of unfilled prescriptions. This can then trigger additional conversations that may help avoid gaps in medication usage, furthering the company’s objective of providing high quality care.” I understand that patient compliance can be a critical challenge (I saw it across populations while I was working for a pharma company) and One Medical’s digital platform can probably help solve that in a significant manner. Two thoughts though:

    1. Would it help to develop multiple language versions (if they don’t already exist) so that more people could be reached, esp those who don’t communicate in English and therefore, have a perhaps higher chance of not being compliant given English as the mode of communication?
    2. Can this be rolled out to developing countries in a basic smartphone app mode? I believe that it would be very helpful to the efforts of organizations such as Gates and PHFI in India but not sure whether it would yield monetary benefits. What do you think?

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