Healthtap is a startup in Palo Alto that does something I’d been hoping for: it connects patients and doctors directly, via an iPad app, instead of indirectly through layers of receptionists, offices, schedules, and insurance policies.
They are still young, and the functionality they offer is very limited, but one can see where this is going:
- I don’t feel so well today, or my kid is sick, so I pull out my iPad.
- I describe my symptoms, and Quora-style, it shows me previously asked questions and answers from other patients and doctors nationwide on related subjects. (Obviously, it could be global, and I hope they will make it global, but I understand that limiting it to US-licensed physicians is a smart first move) Which may solve my problem already, at a cost to the healthcare system of $0.
- Like any other Q&A site (Quora, stackoverflow.com etc.) I can ask my question, and have others respond to it in minutes. Which now may have solved my problem already, again at $0 for the healthcare system, and often even faster than calling the 800 number of my health provider’s advice line. Even better, having second and third opinions is inherently part of the process: not only do I learn more that way, I’m sure doctors will learn a lot from each other, too!
- I can now add supporting information. Right now, I apparently can take pictures and upload them (I have not tried this myself), but in principle I could attach anything: a link to my blood pressure or weight log that I might have on-line; a link into a on-line personal health record etc. And it instantaneously is available to everybody interested in helping me out. None of this I can do in the traditional healthcare system at all (… at least at a speed that is in the same order of magnitude)
- An instant video chat with a provider is an obvious possibility. Beats making an in-person appointment for next Tuesday. And the pool of possible providers is national (later hopefully global), instead of my local doctor’s offices: you can bet I can find somebody more qualified, a better listener, somebody cheaper etc. than I have at my disposal today.
- And I can keep the relationship with updates flowing both ways: from my doctor to me (“there’s a new allergy treatment on the market”) and from me to my doctor (say, ongoing blood sugar measurements).
- All while chilling out on my couch with an iPad.
I don’t know these guys at HealthTAP, I only found out about their app today, but I wish them best of luck:
You are prying the door open to internet-enabled healthcare that is dramatically different from today’s bureaucracy-stifled healthcare: much more responsive to the customer/patient, much more information-rich and thus more driven by data than hearsay, much higher quality, and, not the least, much cheaper: competition will see to it, and the elimination of layers and layers of historically grown cruft that the US healthcare system — and that of many other countries — is so full off.
I’m sure that even many doctors will appreciate that.
Way to go! I’ll follow with interest.