Getting non-emergency medical attention in the US can be surprisingly difficult for a person with a busy schedule. It can take weeks or even months to get an appointment. Then, you sit for too long in a room full of sick people, and the providers usually don’t stick to the appointment time (even though you’ll get penalized if you’re not there on time). In many cases, the level of care isn’t so great, and you’re lucky if your health insurance covers a good amount of your services.
These are all hassles—and even barriers—to medical care. How come someone can’t use technology to come up with a better way to see a doctor?
Good news! Direct-to-consumer companies are now finding workarounds to this standard procedure. They’re offering direct, convenient care from the comfort of your home without relying on the same old insurance system.
Alpha (HelloAlpha.com) is one of these DTC telemedicine companies that offers a better way. With the Alpha Medical service, women get treated within 24 hours instead of weeks to months, and the service comes with a convenient yearly fee that makes it a lot easier to manage your budget. Alpha is specifically focused on providing women with convenient access to high-quality care. This article reviews the ins and outs of Alpha’s online physician visit (and pharmacy) to help you decide if you might want to give it a try.
What is Hello Alpha?
Sort of concierge medicine platform for women, alpha works by having you paying an annual fee ($99) to receive direct medical services. In return, you get “access to all-inclusive visits.”
The site lets you give the service a try without an annual membership fee with single doctors visits for $30. As you can see, the yearly rate is a great value by comparison — Three visits and you’ve already paid the yearly rate. Another option is to pay $10 for a one-time online visit to get an Rx prescription.
While there are many D2C telemedicine startups focused on healthcare for men’s health issues such as erectile dysfunction or hair loss (we reviewed many such as Hims, Roman and Keeps), Alpha is focused on a range of healthcare specifically for women. The mission is to help women overcome barriers they face to getting their basic healthcare needs met. It’s widely understood that women have specific challenges in getting access to care in the US, as laid out in a report by the National Conference of State Legislators, and Alpha seeks to combat some of these problems.
The company offers a variety of treatment offerings in four, main focus areas: primary and urgent care, women’s health, skin and hair, and mental health. (Note that mental health isn’t included in the Alpha membership offerings. For its comprehensive, long-term, interactive nature, this care comes with a $120 flat fee for the year –separate from the Alpha membership).
Does Alpha Medical service your state?
Before you get too excited about this service, make sure it operates in your state. At the moment, Alpha is only available in these states:
But I recommend you check for your state because the company says it will be adding more.
A primer on modern telemedicine
Alpha falls squarely into the fairly new industry of telemedicine. It’s part of an elite group of companies that began to offer more affordable, accessible care as an alternative to an in-person doctors appointment or a trip to the pharmacy for a prescription.
Telehealth companies have made the process easier and more accessible through digital interactions with real doctors and prescriptions mailed to your doorstep. These kinds of services are now offered for a range of non-life-threatening health concerns. Adoption of telemedicine has recently accelerated, mainly due to the COVID crisis (read more in this CNBC article). The companies providing them are often specialized as to what they treat and offer, so you’ll find companies that focus on mental health or men’s health or skin care or other specialties. In this case, Alpha focuses on all of these different types of care, but specifically for women only.
What kind of conditions does Alpha provide treatment for?
Alpha has four areas of focus:
Primary and urgent care
Under this umbrella, the service provides treatment for 22 conditions, including allergies, cold sores, bladder infection and urinary tract infection. These are things you’d normally have to go to a primary care provider or urgent care center for, but now you can skip those visits and get direct online care and treatment.
Rather than visit an OB-GYN doctor for various women’s conditions, you can get treatment through Alpha. The site provides birth control, testing and counseling, as well as treatment for certain conditions like chlamydia, menstrual period issues and more. In some cases, it connects you with an in-person doctor visit and helps manage your care.
Skin and hair
Alpha can help women improve their skin and hair so they don’t have to visit a dermatologist in person. This branch of the service provides treatment for 14 areas, including acne, hair loss, anti-aging, rashes and other issues.
While separate from the membership fee, Alpha provides comprehensive mental health care rather than needing to have visits with a psychologist and/or psychiatrist (The first provides therapy while the latter provides prescription medications). The site can help with different categorizations of anxiety and depression. This separate yearly membership includes weekly therapy sessions, unlimited therapist texting, prescription medication (cost is separate) and advice on self-care. However, when you click on talk therapy, it says it offers the service through a partnership with a separate platform, BetterHelp, and that you have to pay BetterHelp’s fees for therapy. The generic prescription medications it prescribes range in price from $19 to $40 per month. What the yearly $120 fee for the service does cover is consultations with a provider, a personalized treatment plan that is updated and can include talk therapy referrals and medication prescriptions, an insurance coordinator and unlimited messaging with the Alpha care team.
What’s it like to get online treatment via Alpha Medical?
Your Alpha membership gives you access to:
- All-inclusive coordinated care with licensed, board-certified providers
- Convenient online visits that cover more than 70 percent of health conditions
- Unlimited doctor messaging
- FDA-approved medication prescriptions
- Free shipping on prescriptions
- Insurance support
- 20% discount to the Alpha Shop
To use Alpha, here’s what you do. You connect online on the website and answer some questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing. You give some background info, including a photo ID and medical history over an encrypted platform.
Your answers are reviewed by a licensed medical provider through the service, who will provide a treatment plan for you within 24 hours or within 8 hours for urgent care. If a lab test or in-person doctor visit is needed for a certain treatment, the service will help you schedule an appointment with a local provider.
Prescriptions will be delivered to your door for free. Can’t wait for treatment? The urgent care option provides same-day prescriptions sent to your pharmacy for pickup so you can get treated for those urgent problems as soon as possible. Long-term prescriptions are auto-shipped so you don’t forget to renew or possibly run out.
Costs are transparent. You pay the flat fee, and the service informs you of the cost of a prescription before you pay for it. You won’t be charged copays or deductibles like you usually are with a health insurance plan.
Because the service tries to break down barriers to healthcare for women, it also helps coordinate care. If the service can’t provide you with an online service, it will refund you and help you book an in-person appointment. Also, the service sends reminders so you keep up with annual exams and preventative health.
What’s the scoop on HelloAlpha.com?
This chart gives you a quick look at the main things you’ll want to know about Alpha.
Review of HelloAlpha.com
|Cost of service||$99 yearly membership (or $35 every 3 months on quarterly plan) with $0 online visits for up to 24 visits per year;$30 single visit (if not part of the yearly membership); $10 online visit for prescription treatments (with free shipping); $120 yearly fee for mental health treatment + separate fees for talk therapy and prescription medication costs;Treatment costs vary|
|Primary and urgent care treatments||Acid reflux, allergies, asthma, bladder infection, cold & flu, cold sores, cystitis, cough, fever, genital herpes, GER/GERD, hay fever, heartburn, migraine, sinus infection, sore throat, STI testing, urinary tract infection (UTI), vaginitis, vaginal discharge, vaginal burning, yeast infection|
|Women’s health treatments||Birth control, breast cancer screening & counseling, cervical cancer screening & counseling, chlamydia, endometriosis, gonorrhea, heavy menstrual bleeding, HIV screening & counseling, irregular periods, labs tests scheduling & counseling, mammogram scheduling & counseling, menstrual period issues, pap smear scheduling & counseling, postpartum depression, preconception counseling, STI testing|
|Skin and hair treatments||Acne, alopecia, anti-aging, contact dermatitis, dandruff, eczema, hair loss, inadequate eyelashes, Latisse, psoriasis, rash, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, skincare|
|Mental health treatments||Anxiety: anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxietyDepression: depression, major depressive disorders, postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder|
|Accepts health insurance for medication?||Yes|
|Health insurance required?||No|
|Population served||Women aged 18+ in states where the service is offered|
|Where available?||13 states and growing|
|How are prescriptions delivered||Home delivery and pharmacy pickups|
The Verdict: Should women try Alpha Medical for online doctors visits and prescriptions?
Alpha Medical offers a convenient way to get a lot of health issues taken care of without dealing with the traditional medical system. It’s a great option for straightforward issues that don’t necessarily require an in-person visit to a doctor every time, such as acne, birth control, a yeast infection or other common reasons for visits.
In other cases, you have to consider whether the service would be worth it. For example, if you need a pap smear or a mammogram, the membership simply helps set you up with an in-person doctor visit.
As for mental health services, it seems worth it to compare this service to other online options like Betterhelp, Talkspace, Cerebral or Lemonaid for counseling and/or prescription anxiety or depression medications. It doesn’t necessarily seem worth the extra cost of paying Alpha to connect you to Betterhelp for counseling, requiring a separate fee for Betterhelp. Yet Alpha can prescribe medication if needed and offer other support, so think about whether it works for you in comparison to other, more specialized telemedicine platforms, like those mentioned above.
Overall, the decision to subscribe to Alpha rests on whether or not you’ll request enough online doctor’s visits to warrant the yearly fee. Ultimately if you’re trying new prescriptions regularly, I can see how Alpha’s more convenient access to your doctor via telemedicine would be worth $99/year.
Ultimately we love Alpha’s mission to improve access to basic healthcare for women everywhere. We think their platform does a fantastic job of lowering the barrier between patients and doctors who can prescribe basic treatment for a wide range of female health conditions. If you’re a woman who hates going to the doctor, don’t have insurance, or want to maximize convenience, Alpha could be just the platform for you!