Dish-owned Boost Mobile is looking to enhance its value proposition for wireless customers by adding access to doctors and telemedicine through a new partnership with mobile platform K Health.
Starting early this summer Boost is offering K Health healthcare services for free to new subscribers of its Unlimited Plus plan. Users on other Boost service plans can get access at a discounted cost of $7.99 per month.
K Health is provided via an app and on its own costs $9 per month for membership, or $19 for a one-time virtual visit with a clinician. It offers free access to a symptom checker and users can get prescriptions, diagnoses and treatment plans. According to its website, K Health has more than 4 million users and is the number one most downloaded medical app.
Access to healthcare key for Boost users
In a world where voice, text and data are going to continue to become more and more commoditized Boost Mobile EVP Stephen Stokols said the prepaid brand is targeting macro verticals to deliver on needs that are especially key, and often not met, for its customer base. Healthcare is one of them.
“Boost has a massively underinsured population,” Stokols told Fierce, noting the brand serves the lower end of the market and 30% to 40% of its base is without sufficient health coverage. With telemedicine taking off in a major way during the pandemic, Boost sees the bundle as a great convergence to easily deliver telemedicine via mobile phones to customers that don’t have health insurance and may not be able to afford expensive doctor visits.
“We looked at it and said look, from a Boost phone you should be able to access a doctor, you should be able to diagnose what’s going on with you, your family, your kids,” he said, adding customers can easily pick up a phone and access doctors 24/7. “It’s a very compelling service for our users.”
In choosing K Health, Boost looked at a variety of telehealth players and Stokols said the service was by far the most sophisticated from an artificial intelligence (AI) perspective, along with its access to hundreds of doctors.
As for data and what Boost Mobile obtains, Stokols declined to comment further on the nature of the relationship with K Health other to say that it’s a real partnership, which comes with some exchange of information.
Aiming to ‘un-carrier the Un-carrier’
For Boost Mobile, the move is part of its strategy to both gain new subscribers and keep them with the brand. But within that aim, healthcare is a new way to differentiate and bring a unique kind of value-add in the wireless world.
Carriers have focused on wireless bundles such as entertainment, like T-Mobile’s introduction of Netflix on Us, followed by moves like Verizon’s Disney+ bundle. However, Boost Mobile customers that may be more financially constrained could have different priorities.
“For our users…it’s not about Netflix, it’s about basic health services, so we’re offering that free,” Stokols said. Bundling into wireless makes it easier, as he noted K Health doesn’t do a lot of direct-to-consumer itself.
In addition to attracting and retaining customers with the foray into non-telecom services via healthcare access, Stokols indicated Boost is aiming to go beyond the successful moves that T-Mobile made in the early days of its “Un-carrier” movement.
Boost Mobile's roughly 9 million subscribers (acquired from Sprint as a remedy for T-Mobile's merger approval) ride on T-Mobile's network under an MVNO agreement while Dish works to build out its own wireless network. Notably, Dish Network and T-Mobile are involved in their own scuffle over the shutdown of the latter's CDMA network, which Dish argues hurts its Boost Mobile base and is anticompetitive.
“We want to take it one step further and sort of ‘un-carrier the Un-Carrier’ and really take it to next-generation services that really provide real value, not just add-on value,” Stokols said. That means services (like healthcare) people aren’t getting today, either because they’re not accessible, users don’t know about them or they’re cost prohibitive. He pointed to CVS, which offers telehealth visits for $59 to those without insurance. Other verticals Boost is looking at include financial services, privacy and sports.
Broadly, it’s about making the Dish-owned prepaid brand a place that consumers come to for more than just voice, text and data. Over the last 10 years, Stokols said the basic value proposition for carriers has remained relatively the same.
“When we look ahead to the next 10 years, we’re trying to change that,” he said. “We’re trying to have the carrier be a much more important part of the consumer value proposition.”