NIU Health Urgent Care
Providing online support to revolutionize medical delivery options
NIU Health founder Dr. Tony Trpkovski, fondly known as Dr. T in Hawaii, has been a doctor for the last thirty years, with twenty spent in Hawaii. He knows all too well the effects the high cost of healthcare can have on people and communities.
“A good number of people in Hawaii either don’t have health insurance or have Medicaid, which limits their healthcare options,” he says. “Most opt to go to the ER because it’s the only place they can get medical care, which is not always necessary.”
With technological advances accelerating and transforming various industries, Dr. T wondered how to deploy technologies already in use in social media and other sectors to the healthcare industry to lower costs while simultaneously increasing accessibility.
That is when he decided to start NIU Health.
“I wanted to establish a care presence in the local community and globally to focus on urgent care and the cost of care,” Dr. T explains.
“Since cost is the main obstacle in delivering health care, we are utilizing current technologies in the Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 space to decrease the cost of care.”
Currently, the company is using Web 2.0 technologies.
Dr. T explains how it works.
“NIU Health is a subscription-based online and offline healthcare provider. When you access our online clinic, you get a waiting room wait time to see the provider. During this wait, you watch five minutes of local advertising, with a portion of the ad revenue subsidizing the cost of your visit.”
The next step in the plan is to integrate Web 3.0 features, specifically the blockchain and gamification, to engage patients further and accelerate adoption as well as revenues that go towards further subsidizing healthcare at the NIU Health facilities.
“Next year, we will start giving patients total ownership of their medical data using NFT and blockchain technology. When you sign up for the service, we issue you an NFT with all your medical data like X-rays, scans, lab work, and medications stored on the blockchain.”
“The NFT will give subscribers total ownership of their medical records, which they can easily access anywhere and give access to anyone, even without access to their electronic health records (EHR).”
Providing patients with an NFT will increase EHR portability and guarantee the security of the records due to the immutable nature of ledger records on the blockchain.
“Next, we will gamify the platform by providing actions that subscribers can complete to earn tokens or coins that go towards healthcare services or goods and services,” Dr. T adds.
“When you sign up to NIU Health, you will automatically get a crypto wallet where you can store your earned tokens, or what we are calling NIU Health Coins.”
As part of the platform’s gamification, subscribers can earn NIU Health Coins by posting to social media about the platform, reposting NIU Health content, or joining an NIU Health social media group.
“Another area we want to gamify is education,” Dr. T says. “Watching educational videos on healthcare topics like coronary artery disease, STDs, or whatever they are interested in will earn more coins, which a subscriber can put towards paying for healthcare at our clinics or buying goods and services from any of our partners.”
NIU Health has four clinics spread across Hawaii, with a fifth underway. Each clinic has a full-time physician that patients can walk in and see, while the online service has more doctors that patients can request to see on demand.
“The NIU Health service has two subscription tiers: a free one for people who have health insurance and a paid service that charges $9.99 per month for those without insurance,” explains Dr. T.
“Whichever tier you choose, when you engage with our services and earn tokens, you can apply those earnings towards offsetting your bill, whether a cash payment or a copay. You can even apply those earnings towards paying your NIU Health subscription.”
Dr. T plans to design and build the NIU Health platform as a global solution so people can access it from anywhere.
As NIU Health rolls out its services, one of its challenges is the tendency for people to visit a clinic rather than use a virtual clinic online.
“Currently, around 80% come in, and 20% are online,” says Dr. T. “Which is mostly attributable to the notion people have that they must physically see a doctor.”
“Our physical clinics capture this market of people who want to visit a physical clinic as we continue to build out our virtual clinic and try to steer our patients in that direction.”
NIU Health’s target market is individuals without health insurance and those with government health insurance, two demographics that typically do not have access to private clinics and hospitals.
“About ten percent of the population in Hawaii doesn’t have insurance, and thirty percent have Medicaid,” says Dr. T, “which most clinics don’t take because it doesn’t pay very well.”
“NIU Health offsets healthcare costs for this cohort using the various sponsorship methods we have, both Web 2.0 paid waiting rooms and, later on, Web 3.0 elements like NFTs and NIU Health Coins,” he adds.
For the sponsorships to work, NIU Health must attract advertisers for its patient waiting room ads, something Dr. T says is well underway.
“We go to local businesses and say, hey, we have this company, and we are developing this. Would you be interested in being an advertiser?
“It is not expensive currently because we are only in Hawaii, so we can develop a bigger package for them. If they like, we can put their ads on the Internet and make a TV commercial for them as a whole package that fits into our five-minute waiting time.”
Dr. T currently holds a patent for the five-minute waiting time advertisement concept.
Although NIU Health’s primary focus is helping patients get cheaper healthcare and healthcare record access and portability, it is also filling a crucial gap in the broader healthcare system in Hawaii.
“People end up going to the ER, which is costly, time-consuming, and largely unnecessary ninety percent of the time,” says Dr. T.
“They do this mostly because they do not have insurance, or nobody wants to take their (Medicaid) insurance. So, they end up in the emergency room for simple coughs, colds, UTIs, and other things addressable in an urgent care setting or through an e-medicine consultation.”
“For every hundred patients we see, only two or three require a visit to the ER, which can be a major drain for ERs when considering the high costs of operating an ER. NIU Health’s 24/7 availability online plus the physical clinics are helping offset that emergency room flow, which is not necessary, helping lower ER costs for ERs.”
NIU Health is using various means to get the word out about its services, one of which is working with trade unions to help onboard members.
“We are working with trade unions like carpenters, masons, electricians, and transportation because most of their members typically fall under the Medicaid bracket,” says Dr. T.
“By working with them, we can help open a new healthcare frontier for their members, which can help solve access to healthcare.”
As NIU Health pioneers a new frontier in healthcare service provision, it is keen on riding on advancing technologies to lower the cost of healthcare.
“The biggest stop-gap in healthcare is cost,” says Dr. T “We need to use alternative monetization methods besides the current linear one, which is either you pay, insurance pays, or government pays. By adding different monetization methods like sponsored wait times, we can grow revenues and increase access to care.”
For Dr. T, NIU Health is more than just an idea; it is a passion project that he feels can impact people’s lives in Hawaii and worldwide.
“NIU means coconut in Polynesian,” he says. “I picked the name because the coconut has great significance in the Polynesian and Pacific Island community.”
“Long ago, Hawaiians traveled from different islands using the coconut as their main source of hydration and food. Upon arriving on an island, they would plant the coconut and use the coconut tree for clothing and housing. It was an important, sustainable tool for various purposes.”
“Like the Polynesians, I want to spread NIU Health throughout Hawaii, the nation, and the globe and deliver low-cost healthcare care everywhere sustainably and practically.”
AT A GLANCE
NIU Health Urgent Care
What: an online medical service that puts the patient in the driving seat
Where:Honolulu, Hawaii with other branches throughout the islands