New Mobile Apps Take On the Health Care Crisis

Some new mobile apps promise to give users access to real live doctors — anytime, anywhere – for a fee. Others are perfectly free to use, and can act as a dynamic database of users’ healthcare.

One of the former type of app, called Doctor on Demand, launched in 15 U.S. states this year. Using the app, consumers can see a licensed physician via video chat. The price is $40 per visit of up to 15 minutes in length.

The company that makes Doctor on Demand said its 1,000 member physicians are all fully licensed and highly qualified. They can even write prescriptions and offer specialist referral.

Another app, Hello Doctor, was inspired by its founder’s experience in dealing with a serious illness. As a centerpiece of its capabilities, the app makes all of a patient’s health records quickly available by aggregating patient data, and making it easily searchable.

This app keeps track of every little piece of information that might impact a person’s health, or treatment. For instance, it can help alert patients to possible drug interactions that a doctor might miss. The app will also predict the health outcomes of certain lifestyle changes, such as exercise.

In a more serious mode, Hello Doctor can help patients to see road ahead once they are diagnosed with a serious illness. They can see the possible outcomes – or side effects – of every new drug or therapy they are prescribed.

Hello Doctor can be downloaded for free from the iTunes Store.

Charting a middle ground — cost-wise – is a new app, called Babylon, which was developed to serve a global audience. It was designed specifically to address the difficulty that people around the world have in accessing healthcare.

Babylon users can send a text message or photo to a doctor for a basic query about their health. They can also set up a consultation via a secure video connection and order prescriptions.

The final version of the app will have an in-house symptom checker and health monitoring system using tracking sensors are being developed for the final version.

Available currently in Britain, Babylon costs £7.99 or more a month, depending on how often a patient uses it. The developers say they plan to introduce the app in developing countries at a lower cost of $1 to $2 a month.

These apps will no doubt be joined by other, similar ones in the near future. Such are the problems we face in trying to provide access to quality healthcare at affordable cost.

However, the potential users of these apps should be very careful to make sure that a given app is legit, that it’s endorsed by health authorities and that its limitations are clearly explained. While the power and convenience of these tools is truly extraordinary so, too, is their potential for abuse by unscrupulous people.


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