Evolving Scope of Subscription-Based Healthcare: From Contraceptives to Comprehensive Care

by Sophia Chen
Subscription Healthcare Services

The landscape of online subscription healthcare services is rapidly expanding, encompassing more than just treatments for hair loss, acne, or contraception. Companies like Hims & Hers, Ro, and Lemonaid Health are now providing easier access to specialists and ongoing medication deliveries for an increasingly diverse array of health issues.

Hims recently unveiled a weight-loss program, priced at $79 monthly without insurance coverage. Meanwhile, Lemonaid introduced a treatment plan for seasonal affective disorder last winter, costing $95 per month. Ro continues to offer birth control but has broadened its scope to include ovulation test deliveries and prenatal vitamins for those trying to conceive.

This model, akin to Netflix, addresses two major challenges in the U.S. healthcare system: obtaining healthcare access and managing prescription refills. However, it raises concerns about the quality of care provided.

Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University, an expert in pharmaceutical marketing, criticizes this trend as mere drug selling. In contrast, online providers claim they rigorously screen patients and refer them elsewhere if necessary. They believe they are meeting a healthcare approach in high demand.

Khobi Brooklyn, a spokesperson for Hims, attributes their platform’s growth to the public’s desire for accessible care. Hims, a publicly traded company, has surpassed 1.4 million subscribers and projects revenue of at least $1.2 billion by 2025, a significant increase from its early years.

Subscription-based care is not new, especially in primary care where patients pay monthly for better doctor access. Amazon has entered this market with a plan offering both virtual and in-person care to some customers.

The rise of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled growth in online subscription-based care, attracting considerable investment. Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, a Harvard researcher, notes the appeal of these services lies in their simplicity and similarity to other subscription services like Netflix.

Hims expanded its offerings to include weight loss and heart health programs, while Ro diversified its services to address conditions like eczema and excessive sweating. Lemonaid offers plans for insomnia and high blood pressure, along with a yearly cholesterol management program.

While these companies continue to promote sexual health on social media, they are focusing on broader healthcare issues, targeting conditions such as menopause, PTSD, and diabetes.

Ro’s CEO, Zach Reitano, emphasizes the importance of treating obesity as a precursor to other chronic diseases. He believes that the healthcare system fails to align with patient needs, a gap these subscription services aim to fill.

However, Jason Goldberg of Publicis Groupe cautions that the allure of these subscriptions can wane over time, potentially pressuring companies to continually seek new markets. Customers, like RobRoy Chalmers, have expressed dissatisfaction with the subscription model, especially when facing billing and customer service issues.

Dr. Fugh-Berman highlights the need for quality care, stressing that for some mental health conditions, talk therapy can be as effective as medication. She also underscores the importance of regular monitoring for patients on long-term medications.

Lemonaid Health, according to Dr. Matthew Walvick, follows up with patients to monitor side effects and update medical histories. Hims also incorporates psychiatry and talk therapy in its mental health program. Both companies encourage in-person consultations when necessary.

Dr. Mehrotra expresses concern that these services might overlook comprehensive patient health by focusing on specific conditions or medications. He points out that traditional primary care includes screenings for multiple health issues.

Lemonaid claims to offer comprehensive care by collecting detailed patient histories, while Hims & Hers emphasizes their role in providing safe care for various issues, but not as a replacement for primary care doctors. The companies argue for improving access across the entire healthcare system, adapting to the evolving needs of society.

This article is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group, with The Big Big News and the AP responsible for the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Subscription Healthcare Services

What are subscription-based healthcare services?

Subscription-based healthcare services are online platforms where patients can access healthcare and regular prescription deliveries for various health issues through a monthly subscription model. These services have expanded beyond treating just hair loss, acne, or birth control, to include areas like weight loss, mental health, and chronic disease management.

How do subscription-based healthcare services work?

These services typically involve an online subscription model where patients pay a monthly fee to access healthcare services. This fee often covers consultations with specialists, prescription deliveries, and regular follow-ups. Companies like Hims & Hers, Ro, and Lemonaid Health are key players in this field, offering a range of treatments for different health issues.

What types of health issues do subscription-based services cover?

Initially focused on hair loss, acne, and birth control, these services now cover a broader range of health issues including weight loss, mental health disorders like depression and seasonal affective disorder, heart health, sexual health, and more.

Are subscription-based healthcare services replacing traditional healthcare?

While these services are expanding and becoming popular, they are not intended to replace traditional healthcare systems. They offer an alternative for those seeking convenience and accessibility, especially for non-emergency health issues, but they recommend in-person consultations for comprehensive care.

What concerns are raised about subscription-based healthcare services?

Concerns include the quality of care provided, the potential for misdiagnosis, and the adequacy of treatment for complex health issues. Critics argue that while convenient, these services might not offer the comprehensive care that traditional healthcare systems provide. Additionally, issues with billing and customer service have been noted by some users.

More about Subscription Healthcare Services

  • Subscription-Based Healthcare Overview
  • Understanding Online Healthcare Services
  • Trends in Telemedicine
  • The Rise of Digital Health Subscriptions
  • Evaluating the Impact of Healthcare Subscription Models
  • The Future of Online Medical Services
  • Navigating the World of Subscription Health Care
  • Telehealth and Subscription Services: Pros and Cons
  • Online Healthcare Platforms: A New Era
  • The Evolution of Subscription-Based Medical Care

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Emily R December 26, 2023 - 10:50 pm

Good overview but what about the costs? these services can get pricey especially if you dont have insurance

Mike Johnson December 27, 2023 - 10:14 am

interesting read but are these services really reliable? seems like there’s a risk of misdiagnosis with online consults

Sarah K December 27, 2023 - 12:49 pm

Just tried one of these subscription services, not bad for minor issues but i wouldn’t rely on it for serious health problems. good article btw

John D December 27, 2023 - 9:14 pm

I’m skeptical about replacing traditional doc visits with online subs. Good to see both sides in the article though.

Alex T December 27, 2023 - 9:53 pm

this is the future guys, healthcare at our fingertips! but yeah, quality of care is a big question mark…


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