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October 17, 2016

Proliferation of smartphone brings back house call by the doctor

A general practitioner making housecalls on-demand: its made possible by the proliferation of smartphones and mobile apps. Easier for people who don’t have to sit in a waiting room, instead receiving their treatment and even medication at home. As always however, there are downsides an limitations, such as coverage by insurance companies.

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Smartphones and mobile apps are being used for everything from ordering pizza to ordering a doctor, NBC News writes. Dozens of new medical provider on-demand apps are popping up everywhere in the US. One of them is Nashville, Tenn. based Dose Healthcare, co-founded by Dr. Ed Hadley, an emergency medicine physician turned doctor-on-demand.

The company uses a smartphone app that lets patients order a doctor right to their doorstep. Hadley wasn’t sure at first whether this new way of providing health care was going to work. But he quickly learned that patients truly enjoy it. “As a provider, I get to spend time with them and answer their questions. Being in their home, you just get more of a connection."

According to NBC, having a health-care provider meet you at home or work is as simple as downloading the app, entering your address and credit card information, and requesting the time you want a doctor to visit. Services like Dose are becoming available by the dozens. Like Mend in Dallas, Heal in San Francisco and Pager in New York City, all offering at-home visits. In the case of Dose there is a flat fee of 99 dollar. The GP will diagnose and treat you and dispense medications right at home — even saving people time from going to the pharmacy.

Limitations

Of course one possible limitation – as is the case often with new forms of healtcare, is Insurance. Not all house calls are covered by Insurance, Critics also worry that the level of care isn’t comparable to being treated at doctor’s office. Not everything can be treated at home. Major broken bones, chest pain and situations involving controlled substances for chronic pain for example.

In cases like these – e.g. if someone breaks their femur  – they really need to go to an emergency room.  Cole Hawkins, co-founder and chief executive of Dose Healthcare: “We typically assess the patient and can wrap and stabilize for you, but if it is broken, we will refer you to an emergency room."

Perks

Aside from these very real limitations, for doctors themselves the doctor-on-demand lifestyle has perks as well.  "If I want to take the afternoon off and play with my dog or hang out with my wife ,I’m free to do that, which also makes it really nice, because there’s always a provider on call," says Hadley. Also this his 21st-century version of the country doctor seems to have appeal for patients of all ages. Dubbed the Uber for doctors with the younger generation, for the older generation, it’s like bringing old fashioned but fondly remembered house calls back.

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