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Startups Vie to Build an Uber for Health Care

Melinda-Beck-WSJ

Are house calls better than ER visits?

Melinda Beck writes: Darren Gold had a stomach virus the first time he used an app called Heal to summon a doctor to his Beverly Hills home. He liked the Stanford-trained doctor who showed up so much that he called Heal again when his 2-year-old son had a fever, and again when the whole family had colds.

“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.”

The charges—$99 each for the first two visits; $200 for the family—weren’t covered by insurance, but Mr. Gold, who owns a corrugated-box company, says that was still a bargain compared with taking time off work to go to the doctor. “Now, whenever my son bumps himself, he says, ‘Daddy, we need to get the doctor here,’” Mr. Gold says.

“Many doctors and nurses who work for hospitals are eager for extra work in their off-hours, the companies say. The services carry malpractice insurance, but say overall low overhead keeps prices down.”

Heal is one of several startups putting a high-tech spin on old-fashioned house calls—or “in-person visits,” since they can take place anywhere. The services provide a range of nonemergency medical care—from giving flu shots to treating strep throats and stitching lacerations—much like a mobile urgent-care clinic.

“And thanks to the boom in mobile-medical technology, providers can carry key equipment with them, from portable blood analyzers to hand-held ultrasounds.”

The companies use slightly 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. (A medical assistant goes along to do the driving and parking.)

RetraceHealth, in Minneapolis, has a nurse practitioner consult with patients via video (for $50), and only comes to their homes if hands-on care like a throat swab or blood draw is necessary (for $150).

 uber-of-health-care-wsj

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

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. Several Atlanta practices use MedZed as a way to offer patients extended hours without having to keep their offices open.

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

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

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 who work for hospitals are eager for extra work in their off-hours, the companies say. The services carry malpractice insurance, but say overall low overhead keeps prices down.

And thanks to the boom in mobile-medical technology, providers can carry key equipment with them, from portable blood analyzers to hand-held ultrasounds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Leaving New York: The Great Migration Begins

Metro New York hemorrhaged $49 billion during the 2000s as residents sought opportunity elsewhere.

TINA FINEBERG/AP PHOTO Internal Revenue Service data show that the greater New York area suffered a net loss of 1.4 million domestic migrants from 2000 to 2010.

TINA FINEBERG/AP PHOTO
Internal Revenue Service data show that the greater New York area suffered a net loss of 1.4 million domestic migrants from 2000 to 2010.

The New York metropolitan region is losing people. Though the region and New York City itself continue to grow overall because they have more births than deaths, the Census Bureau estimates that the metro area lost almost 2 million net domestic migrants during the 2000s; that is, 2 million more people left the area for other parts of America than moved there from other parts of America. The region offset part of that loss with a nation-leading net gain of more than 1.1 million international immigrants over the same period. But it wasn’t enough: the region’s total net loss of people to migration amounted to 858,000. And the trend has continued into the new decade, with the New York metro area hemorrhaging another 254,000 net domestic migrants since 2010, even as the economic downturn has slowed migration generally within the United States. Read the rest of this entry »


Sorting the Real Sandy Photos From the Fakes

With Hurricane Sandy approaching the New York metro area, the nation’s eyes are turning to its largest city. Photos of storms and flooding are popping up all over Twitter, and while many are real, some of them — especially the really eye-popping ones — are fake.

This post, which will be updated over the next couple of days, is an effort to sort the real from the unreal. It’s a photograph verification service, you might say, or a pictorial investigation bureau. If you see a picture that looks fishy, send it to me at alexis.madrigal[at]gmail.com. If you like this sort of thing, you should also visit istwitterwrong.tumblr.com, which is just cataloging the fakes.

The fakes come in three varieties: 1) Real photos that were taken long ago, but that pranksters reintroduce as images of Sandy, 2) Photoshopped images that are straight up fake, and 3) The combination of the first two: old, Photoshopped pictures being trotted out again…

More via The Atlantic