You wake up in the morning with a sore throat and a bad headache. You call your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment, but they tell you that the doctor is all booked-up for the next two days. You spend two miserable days with over-the-counter medications, and when you finally get to the clinic, you end up waiting for two hours. It takes the doctor less than five minutes to examine you and confirm that you need an antibiotic. You run to the pharmacy, pick up the prescription and start your antibiotic course. The second day, you start feeling better and go back to your normal life.
That is what the majority of us go through when we need to see a doctor for a minor condition.
Now imagine the same scenario, but a bit different: You wake up in the morning with a sore throat and a bad headache. You send an Instant Message (IM) to your doctor. Half-an-hour later the doctor pops up on your computer screen and asks you several specific questions. He confirms that you need an antibiotic and have your prescription phoned in to a nearby pharmacy. Ten minutes later you pick up the prescription. The second day, you start feeling better and go back to your normal life. Sounds like a sci-fi movie? Not at Hello Health, a new small primary care practice in Brooklyn, New York.
Hello Health is a boutique (also called concierge) practice. That means that members pay a flat-fee of $35 per month. A quick e-mail to the doctor is free, but a chat, IM session or video session cost $50-$100. And an in-person visit to the office or a physician house-call (guaranteed within 24 hours) cost $150-$200. No insurance is accepted, but patients can submit their medical bills to their insurance company on their own.
The main medium where these interactions happen is a Facebook-like platform in which the patient is at the center of everything. It allows plenty of time for patients to interact with their doctors, while using the same Internet-based technology that they typically use to book their flights, access their bank accounts, or buy stuff from Amazon. When patients are in control, they save time and feel better.
Hello Health and other social media-based services represent a revolution in patient-doctor communication, where most interactions are still conducted through inconvenient, time-consuming and outdated practices.
But not everyone is a big fan. In my next post, I will discuss why some people do not believe that this is the best way to deliver health care.