In the US, only 20% of all patients pay their hospital bills in full. A staggering minority. Ultimately, it isn’t a matter of willingness to pay but the patients’ ability to pay upfront that causes chronic defaults. It becomes glaringly obvious that there are clear inequities and inefficiencies in terms of healthcare pricing. A solution that addresses this issue is to break down the costs incrementally over a variable period of time through an interest-free installment plan.
We’ve seen proof of concept in the retail space with market leaders like AfterPay and Klarna which have been heavily integrated with eCommerce stores like Forever 21, Gamestop, and LG. Plus, the "Buy Now, Pay Later" structure has taken off, especially for individuals in our age demographic. Being ‘broke college students,’ we’ve been asked by our university to pay multiple upfront fees related to our health insurance. This is simply unfeasible for many students, illuminating an overarching issue.
You shouldn’t have to go into debt in exchange for your health being taken care of.
On a larger scale, medical debt plagues much of society and one of the leading causes of medical debt is diagnostics, accounting for 65% according to Kaiser. We aspire to take this widespread struggle and change the world of healthcare by starting in our own backyard: San Francisco. Specifically, we will initially launch in Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, closest to Tenderloin Heights in San Francisco, which is one of the most low-income areas in the city where incremental installment payments will offer the largest impact.
How we built it
Our prototype appears as a pop-up when patients reach the hospital’s final payment page. We manually coded this application using HTML, CSS, and Python languages. Using a python-framework called fast API, we put all the HTML pages together for our prototype! This created an efficient workflow that allows patients financial equity in how they pay for their diagnostic therapeutics!
Challenges we ran into
Due to patient privacy regulations like HIPAA, our predominant challenge was finding reliable data sets that illuminated disease areas contributing heavily to American medical debt and also pricing information for various treatments. Because of the large variation in medical pricing, depending on the type of insurance coverage that patients have, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly the costs of treatments and thus, the type of medical care that the launch of our platform should initially cover. We ultimately landed upon diagnostics because it is one of the leading causes of American medical debt according to Kaiser Family Foundation 2016.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We’re very proud of the code. As college students, building applications is not emphasized in our class coursework so being able to discuss BIG ideas that revolutionize systems and networks like this is HUGE. This will be a FRACTION of our contribution to the world. Cheers to further innovation! :D
What we learned
Hackathons are a very new concept for our group, especially in attempting to change the large-scale infrastructure for overall patient care. This weekend, we learned how to channel our inexperience into curiosity. While we may not collectively have decades in the industry, we allowed ourselves to freely traverse new paths, exploring new methods for old problems.
Being healthy isn’t just for the wealthy.
Another obstacle for us was that much of the medical infrastructure in the United States is regulated by governmental legislation so a lot of our solutions weren’t as feasible (ie. price caps for drugs, altering payer networks). To keep the focus on directly impacting patient care via our product, FRACTION, we decided to bypass insurance networks, utilizing the BNPL “Buy Now, Pay Later” framework and directing patient payment methods towards equitable, credit-based access.
What's next for FRACTION
Our beachhead market is going to be diagnostic testing, and we plan to target diagnostic tests specifically at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. We chose to start off in diagnostics due to the high percentage of defaults amongst patients and the range in cost for various upfront testing. Since we need to provide the hospital up front with the total bill payment and later collect it back via installments from the patient, we can only offer our services for less expensive tests to start off with. However, diagnostic tests have an incredibly large range in terms of cost - giving us the opportunity to grow exponentially within our niche. Additionally, since Saint Francis Memorial Hospital is a part of Dignity Health, we have access to expand to over 80 other centers in the United States.