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Podcast: the doctor is ready for you -- on your phone

Jun 21 2015

Podcast: the doctor is ready for you -- on your phone

USA Today

By Jefferson Graham 

In just two years, nearly 2.5 million apps have been downloaded to bring a doctor directly to your smartphone.

Telemedicine--allowing folks to pay less to see a doctor and skip out the pain of skipping work for daytime appointments, is clicking with consumers.

"Most patients won't stop their day, leave work and find child care, before they make the commitment to see a specialist," says Dr. Ian Tong, the medical director for Doctor of Demand, one of the two leading telemedicine apps, along with AmWell."Now I can take care of this right away."

Doctor on Demand, the company formed by TV's Dr. Phil and son Jay, this week raised $50 million in a second round of funding, following it's first investment of $24 million. The company competes with AmWell, Teladoc, MDLive and several others in trying to reach consumers who don't want the hassle of getting to see the doctor in-person. American Well, which works with huge healthcare providers like Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield, has raised much more, at $128 million, according to TechCrunch.

Telemedicine was the subject of this week's Talking Tech Roundtable podcast, featuring reps from AmWell, Doctor on Demand, insurance provider Anthem and Cleveland Clinic.

Our guests:

--Dr. Roy Schoenberg, MD, the founder and CEO of American Well, which operates the AmWell app.

--Dr. Tong from Doctor on Demand.

--Madhavi Kasinadhuni, a senior consultant with the Advisory Board Company, which consults with more hospitals on health care issues.

--John Jesser, vice-president with Anthem, the nation's largest health care provider. Anthem has its own digital app,LiveHealth Online.

--Dr. Peter Rasmussen, the medical director of distance health at the Cleveland Clinic.

We also had doctor Mia Finkelston, who sees patients digitally for AmWell from Boston, and Susan Raycroft, a retiree from Manhattan Beach, California, who has used the AmWell app.

The basic gist is that you download the app, register, input your insurance information (which may greatly lower the cost, or co-pay) and call up a host of doctors who are on call and ready to chat.

Full fare with AmWell is $50 for a 15 minute visit; Doctor on Demand charges $40.

The doctor will ask all sorts of questions about your health, and ask you to use the smartphone camera to show him or her parts of the body they would be inspecting in the office.

The doctor can even ask that you stick out your tongue, say `ahh' and hold the camera in front of your face.

"I can see in there and get information," says Dr. Finkelston.

"The smartphone is one of the best ways to get close," she says.

She says she likes doing digital visits because patients are in a better mood--they haven't had to wait in an office for a long time to see the doctor, "and I can really put people's minds at ease."

Most of the ailments that bring folks to emergency rooms can be dealt with via webcam, says Finkelston. She can't effectively look in the eardrum or really monitor the lungs, but she's confident that with more devices that can connect to a smartphone, that will change.

Cleveland is world renowned for its heart surgery specialists, and now, instead of flying to Ohio to meet with a potential physician, you can connect first via an app.

"A video visit is way better than a phone call," said Rasmussen. "If you don't have unlimited funds to come to Cleveland, see your local doctor first, connect with us on the app, and we can decide whether surgery is right for you."

Raycroft tried the Amwell app this week for a bunion on her foot, and was asked to stretch her leg to the camera to show it.

The doctor was "very thorough and very good," said Raycroft. In the end, she was advised to go see a podiatrist.

Raycroft, who doesn't drive, liked what she saw in the first digital visit, and has started recommending it to friends.

"Many were adverse to it, but they're coming around to it," she says.

It's not just patients like Raycroft who are rooting for telemedicine to thrive--Apple and Google are behind it too.

The tech giants host apps in their app stores, where they traditionally take 30% of the revenues brought to the app maker.

But in this case, Apple and Google "made a decision that healthcare has to happen over those channels," said Schoenberg. "This is not a game. This is an enabling technology that changes people's lives. They agreed to not take anything."

Read more on USA Today.

 

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