The House Call is Back: Apps Provide Doctors On Demand
Scheduling a doctor’s appointment can be challenging the traditional way. The average wait time to see a physician is three weeks. Even if you can see a doctor, it can take 2-3 hours from the time you leave your home or office to the time you get back home. Telemedicine, the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using telecommunications technology, is becoming an increasingly popular solution for these issues and many more.
Pager is an app available in New York City that allows people to summon a doctor to their own home. If it sounds like Uber for doctors, that’s no coincidence; one of the company’s founders, Oscar Salazar, was also on Uber’s founding team. Pager has plans to expand to San Francisco within the next few months.
Using the Pager app on a smartphone or desktop, you can get medical care from a board-certified doctor or a nurse practitioner at home within two hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Services include evaluation and diagnosis for common infections and illnesses, first aid care for minor injuries, treatment for minor skin conditions, physical exams, and urgent care treating illnesses and injuries for children 6 months and older. The pricing model ranges from $50 for a first-time urgent care visit to $100 for physicals and $200 for a regular urgent care visit, plus insurance fees. At this time Pager does not directly accept insurance, but can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement on your behalf as an out-of-network provider.
It’s all about you sitting back while you’re sick or keeping your kid at home resting while the health care comes to you,” Pager general manager Toby Hervery told CBS news, “What Pager is going to be is healthcare in your pocket.”
Heal is a similar app that brings a doctor to your doorstep with a few simple clicks. After adding a credit card and a request for a family doctor or a pediatrician, and including the address and reason for the visit, a physician arrives in 20 to 60 minutes for a flat fee of $99 between 8 a.m and 8 p.m. Heal began in Los Angeles in February, expanded to San Francisco recently and is set to roll out in another 15 major cities this year. Heal is available for free download on the App Store and Google Play.
Another popular medical app is San Francisco-based Doctor on Demand. It offers access to 1,400 board-certified physicians and has been downloaded a few million times since it was introduced in late 2013. A physician or pediatrician will consult with you via a video chat for $40. The company recently added psychology webcam visits ($50 for 25 minutes; $95 for 50 minutes) and lactation consulting ($40 to $70) to its list of services. Doctor on Demand is available for free download on the App Store and Google Play.
The American Telemedicine Association estimates that about 450,000 patients will see a doctor through the Internet this year for a primary care consultation. That’s a small slice of the roughly 15 million people who will have care delivered by telemedicine, which has mostly been used by specialist doctors. Also, last month, the nation’s largest insurer, United HealthCare, announced plans to cover video-based doctor visits. Telemedicine is a solution that is helping both patients and doctors, and is beginning to change our health care system as a whole.