As someone who, by day, works in the healthcare industry, stories about how we use our Android devices to enhance our medical and physical well being hit a little closer to home for me. During my daily perusal of Google Reader this morning, I found a story that may help shape the future of healthcare in the United States and beyond.
HealthTap has launched a beta service to the public that allows users of its Android and iOS application to engage in a question and answer session with real-life physicians virtually anytime and anywhere. As an added benefit, the service is completely free, though likely only for the duration of the beta. You know, until they figure out a way to capitalize on the service.
So, how does it work?
HealthTap has built a network of over 5,000 US-licensed physicians who are ready to answer questions at a moment’s notice. You can use either the Android application or their web interface to ask whatever questions you may have. Whichever physician happens to be available at that time will provide some guidance and information to help you make medical decisions.
This can be extremely helpful for those in situations where you’re not sure you (or your children) are feeling bad enough to go to the urgent care or your primary care physician to get something checked out.
Is it safe/reliable?
What really sets HealthTap apart is that there is essentially a checks and balances system in place that ensures you will receive the best advice possible. When a physician responds to your question, other physicians are able to see and agree/disagree with the advice of the first physician. If that answer gets enough “agrees,” it becomes a trusted answer that other users will be able to see when they search for already-answered questions on HealthTap.
How to Get Started
If you’re interested in what HealthTap has to offer, you’ll need to do two things.
- Head over to HealthTap’s website and sign up for a free account. You’ll have to answer some basic questions about your current medical condition (height, weight, pre-existing conditions, etc.).
- (Optional) Download the HealthTap Android application on your phone.
Yes, the answers provided will probably be pretty basic at first, and physicians will more often than not advise you to go in and see a doctor to get your condition properly diagnosed. That being said, e-medicine and tele-medicine are growing trends in the health care industry, and it will be interesting to see whether services such as HealthTap take off in the future. Perhaps, as our physicians’ willingness to embrace these new, alternative avenues for providing care to patients grows, we will see more conditions being better managed by these services.
Then again, perhaps that’s just my pipedream. What do you guys think? Are services such as HealthTap beneficial to the population? Will they help to bolster our healthcare system, which will soon represent more than 20% of our federal spending? Sound off by dropping a comment below. I look forward to the discussion.