A new company called Pager, an Uber-like service sends doctors to patients' homes. Companies like Pager, Heal and Medicast aim to streamline medical care by excluding waiting rooms, receptionists and trips to doctor's office.
"It's a completely different experience when you're sick and able to stay in your pajamas," says Sheehan. "Someone comes to your home, they're kind to you, they answer all your questions and give you all the time you need."
AdvertisementAccording to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 9 out of 10 general practitioners do not typically make house calls. But new phone apps maybe a sign for comeback of house calls.
Pager services' typical customers are working mothers ages 30 to 45 said, Gaspard de Dreuzy, one of Pager's three co-founders. "It's really an urban population that is busy and values its time," he adds.
As Pager is not covered by insurance, customers pay a $50 fee for their first visit and $200 for subsequent visits from one of the company's 40 health practitioners, including doctors, nurses and physician assistants.
The typical fee is $15 to $25 doctor co-pay for patients with insurance which is 10 times lesser than Pager. But there are situations where a Pager visit might be cheaper than conventional care. For example, $200 is significantly cheaper than the median cost of an emergency room visit: $505, according to federal figures. The ER is often the only medical option for people without insurance.
"We're trying to move forward to a model where the Pager service will be as affordable as any other care option for people who are insured or not," de Dreuzy says. Pager is currently only available in New York City but it will expand to San Francisco in coming weeks. A competing company on the West Coast, Heal, already operates in San Francisco, Orange County and L.A.
These kind of on-call medical services can be useful only for one-time visits whereas treating chronic conditions like like diabetes, arthritis or Alzheimer's requires careful, consistent attention over many years. a patient's family history, medications, allergies and other critical details may not be known by the doctor who is visiting through this app, says Dr. Robert Wergin of Milford, Nebraska. "If these apps develop and they further fragment care it's not going to help the health care delivery system. We'll get more of what we already have: higher costs and lower quality," says Wergin, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
The on-demand doctor business is still in its infancy and these concerns are still premature. Moreover there are signs which show that they are converging with traditional medicine, not breaking away from it.
Medicast, the sector's oldest company founded in 2013, deserted its direct-to-consumer model in favor of collaborating with large hospital networks. The company recently helped a medical system in the Pacific Northwest launch its own house call app for the Seattle area.
The company is working with a dozen other hospital systems on similar offerings, said Sam Zebarjadi, Medicast CEO and co-Founder. Previously the company operated its own doctor networks in Miami, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. But Zebarjadi says he found that consumers have "a really big issue around trust, which is one of the reasons we decided to start partnering with hospitals and health systems."
These collaborations may also aid in obtaining getting insurance coverage. Like Pager, Medicast is currently a cash service. The company offers to file the bill for a house call with a patient's insurance provider, to see if they are willing to cover it.
"Why should patients face challenges -- especially when they're sick -- having to deal with all the inconveniences that come with getting health care traditionally, versus getting that care in the comfort of their own homes?" said Zebarjadi.