NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Startups Vie to Build an Uber for Health Care

August 12, 2015

Startups are putting a high-tech spin on old-fashioned house calls -- or "in-person visits," since they can take place anywhere. The services provide nonemergency medical care -- from giving flu shots to treating strep throats and stitching lacerations -- much like a mobile urgent-care clinic.

The companies use different models:

  • Pager, in New York City, dispatches doctors or nurse practitioners via Uber, for $200.
  • Heal, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County, Calif., promises to "get a doctor to your sofa in under an hour" for $99.
  • RetraceHealth, in Minneapolis, has a nurse practitioner consult with patients via video (for $50), and only comes to their homes if hands-on care is necessary (for $150).
  • Atlanta-based MedZed sends a nurse to a patient's home to do a preliminary exam. Then the nurse connects via laptop with a doctor who provides a treatment plan remotely.

Most of the services don't accept insurance, but they say patients can pay with health savings accounts or submit out-of-network claims.

Such ventures are fueled by a confluence of trends, including growing interest in the so-called sharing economy, where technology connects providers with excess capacity and consumers who want on-demand services. Many doctors and nurses are eager for extra work in their off-hours. The services carry malpractice insurance, but say overall low overhead keeps prices down.

Thanks to advances in mobile-medical technology, providers bring equipment with them, from portable blood analyzers to hand-held ultrasounds.

The companies are attracting venture-capital investment and partnerships with hospital systems, which see in-home care as a way to reduce unnecessary ERs visits.

Source: Melinda Beck, "Startups Vie to Build an Uber for Health Care," Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2015.


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