Your Smartphone Doctor

Healthcare, or perhaps the lack of it, affects us all. If the last few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that healthcare issues in this country are far from settled. There are many tough questions that we will need to answer in the coming months and years. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of how much the government should be involved in healthcare, one thing is clear: we are entering a new era of healthcare. In this new era, we will each be responsible, to a greater extent than in the past, for managing our own care and the care of those we love.

The good news is that technology is beginning to provide tools that can help us manage our care. We have more choices than ever before. We are no longer at the mercy of a single provider or large institution.

The shape of this new era may vary from individual to individual, but to get started we have identified five types of software applications that will go a long way to helping you manage your care: Remote Medical Advice Apps, Health Tracking Apps, Medical Record Apps, Medication Managers and Medical Resources.

In this first part of a five part series, we will be looking at resources that are available to help us connect with medical professionals remotely. If you live in a remote or rural area, these apps can be a lifesaver. These tools are not only for people who don’t have easy access to medical providers. Video diagnostic tools are reaching widespread use as a way to cut costs and increase the speed and convenience of care.

There are now many options for a remote video consultation with a medical professional. The following are popular apps that will run within a web browser or on a mobile device such as your Android or iOS smartphone/tablet.

There is typically a charge for these services, but it is usually less than it would cost to visit your doctor’s office, and you have the added convenience of not having to leave your home. How often have you avoided going to the doctor when you were sick, even when you knew you should? There have been many times that I put off getting the care I needed because I didn’t “feel like” getting cleaned up and dressed just to go to the doctor’s office. That’s in the same category, by the way, of cleaning your house before the maid comes because you are embarrassed by the mess. Now there is no need to go out when you are sick. You can get your diagnosis and your prescription medication delivered almost as seamlessly as ordering takeout. These applications also prove to be a nice alternative to the 3:00 AM trip to the emergency room with your kids.

Regarding cost, you should check with your insurance provider. Many insurance providers are now offering similar online services for initial diagnosis. Some policies even have an online diagnostic co-pay and some of these services will accept your insurance. Be sure to ask that question when you are setting up your initial visit to avoid any surprises.

I would also recommend researching these apps before you need them. Some services do not work in all states. Others may be able to offer online diagnostics in your state but will not be able to offer prescription services. Laws vary by state. Setting up the app and the account before you need it will help reduce the stress of trying to figure out which app will work for you when either you or someone in your family is sick.

Also, before sending your health data to any online service, ask if they are HIPAA compliant. That means that your data and privacy will be protected. The ones listed below advertise that they are, but it never hurts to ask.

Most of these sites contain a FAQ page that outlines the details of the service and can answer most questions you might have when determining if the service will be a good match for you.

Here are some recommendations to get you started on your research:

Doctor on Demand
Doctor on Demand is a quick way to connect with a physician and in most cases can send a prescription to your local CVS. You will be connected to a physician who is board certified in your state and you have the ability to rate the physician after the visit. A typical visit will cost around $49 or less. In addition to physicians, DoD also has the ability to provide psychologists in some states.

Health Tap
Health Tap states that they have a network of over 100,000 doctors ready to help you. In addition, they have also created an AI interface and much of the interaction with the doctors appears to be text based rather than video. I don’t think I would choose this service for the 3:00 AM emergency, but it does appear to be a good resource for diagnosis of initial symptoms in a non-emergency scenario.

Much of the site appears to be free to use. Their business model seems to be centered around selling a monthly subscription of $99 to individuals and enterprises wanting to bundle these services with their existing benefit plan.

Online Dermatologists

We looked at two popular sites for online dermatologists. Both sites indicated that many treatments can be handled with over the counter medication; and, if necessary, they can refer you to a local dermatologist for follow-up.

First Derm
The initial First Derm online visit is $40 and most responses are sent within 24 hours of your inquiry.

In addition to online access to its team of nationwide dermatologists, First Derm offers an HUD Smart Mole Scanner which works with a smartphone app to photograph and track skin spots.

Dermatologist on Call
Dermatologist on Call allows you to set up a free account and get started fast. The cost of the initial online visit is $59 and includes a diagnosis and treatment plan that you receive, usually within 24 hours.

Live Health Online
Live Health Online links you to doctors and psychologists in most states. There is varying coverage for prescriptions in 46 of the 48 continuous states. They do not currently offer any service in Texas or Arkansas.

Hello MD
First and foremost, Hello MD attempts to link you to the right doctor or specialist in your area and then helps you set up an appointment to see that doctor in person. It’s a great service when you know you are looking for a particular specialist or when you need a second opinion regarding a diagnosis you have already been given.

These represent a tiny fraction of the online services that are available to connect you with a medical professional. If none of these fit your exact needs, don’t give up. A quick Google search will probably reveal many other sites that will meet your specific needs. If you don’t find what you are looking for, leave a note in the comments below and we will see if we can help match you with an appropriate service. After all, if you need it, there are probably many more out there who are looking for the same solution.

Over the next months, we will be exploring more options. One thing is for sure: The face of medical care is changing. No one can say for sure exactly what it will look like in the future. I, for one, am betting that the front line of non-emergency care will soon begin to look like a friendly and sympathetic AI interface displayed on our smartphone screens.

This article was written by Malcolm Coon.

For more information, visit his website for Technology and Business Solutions at

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