An Uber for health care? New app brings docs to your door

Medical treatment at home for about the same cost as an urgent care visit

Taking a hint from on-demand car service Uber, several companies have developed smartphone apps that bring physicians directly to patients—often for less that it would cost to receive treatment elsewhere.

In the 1930s, house calls accounted for about 40% of medical visits, but that number dropped to just 1% in the 1980s, according to a 2011 article in the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians. However, thanks to smartphone app developers, those numbers could soon rebound.

The house call is 'making a comeback'

According to CNN, before making a house call, physicians will confer with patients via a no-cost video consultation and determine whether he or she requires a home visit or a trip to the emergency room.  If the physician deems a house call necessary, he or she can offer medical treatment at a patient's home and more easily make observations about other potential health concerns and a patient's lifestyle choices. 

Such visits typically last about 45 minutes, as opposed to a 10-minute visit at a clinic, and cost about $199—less than an average ED visit ($630) but more costly than a typical urgent care visit ($175), according to the Healthcare Bluebook.

'Hospital at home': How house calls are cutting hospitalizations

The two most popular apps are:

  • Pager, which offers house calls from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year and additional services on nights and weekends for an additional fee. It was developed by Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar and is currently available for Manhattan residents; and
  • Medicast, available in South Florida, Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Both apps are available for iPhones, but developers say an Android app is expected son.

Verizon unveils new 'Virtual Visits' platform

Pager physician Kimberly Henderson, who works at the Beth Israel Medical Center ED, says, "I believe we will see a shift away from medical practice exclusively in the brick and mortar model," adding, "Medicine will become, or return to being, more mobile."

However, some providers caution that some conditions—including chest pain, shortness of breath, or a head injury—still require immediate visits to the ED (Schmidt, CNN, 7/31).

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