‘Uber-Like’ Health Apps Aim To Bring Back House Calls

July 25, 2015 in News

Over the past few years, several new “Uber-like” applications have launched that let sick individuals call a doctor to their home, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Although house calls were common in the U.S. in the past, about 90% of general practitioners no longer visit patients in their homes. However, several new companies are seeking to change that.

Pager employs 40 practitioners in New York City and soon is expanding to San Francisco. Heal operates in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco.

Medicast — which was founded in 2013 and is the oldest of these doctor-on-demand companies — recently moved away from a model where it directly employs physicians.

Medicast CEO Sam Zebarjadi said the company discovered that potential users had “a really big issue around trust.” The company now is partnering with hospitals and health systems. For example, Medicast recently developed an app for Providence Health Services to serve the Seattle area.

The services are not yet covered under insurance. For example, Pager users pay $50 for a first visit and $200 for subsequent visits. According to the AP/Inquirer, that often is less costly for uninsured individual than a trip to a hospital’s emergency department

Further, Medicast expects its services will be covered within a few months.

Skepticism From Physicians

Physician Robert Wergin said a doctor summoned by smartphone might not know a patient’s medical history in the same level of detail. In addition, Wergin noted the model is not conducive for long-term care.

Jonah Feldman, a specialist at Winthrop University Hospital, said the “transactional” nature of apps such as these “exposes patients to the risks of overtreatment” (Perrone, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/22).

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