The technology company Medicast is offering patients in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego access to traditional doctor house calls with a modern application on their smartphones.
“Long wait times are frustrating for everyone,” said Sam Zebarjadi, co-founder and CEO of Medicast, in news reports. “With the proliferation of technology and increasing levels of education, we knew there were alternate ways to get amazing healthcare.”
In the 1930s, physician house calls accounted for 40% of medical visits, according to a 2011 article in the journal American Academy of Family Physicians. By the 1980s, that number had dropped to 1%, due in part to a lack of funding by insurance carriers, according to an article in CNN.com.
The American Medical Association (AMA) says that telemedicine, including house call services, is useful for patients and the healthcare industry.
According to its June Report on the Council of Medical Service, the AMA reported that “telemedicine, a key innovation in support of healthcare delivery reform, is being used in initiatives to improve access to care, care coordination and quality, as well as reduce the rate of growth in healthcare spending.”
Medicast’s house call app starts off with a brief video conference where the doctor assesses the patient’s need for a home visit. If no visit is needed or the doctor refers the patient to the emergency room, the patient will not be charged.
The house calls are comparable to urgent care visits, but the costs are lower.
Medicast charges a flat rate of $199 for a house call. Clients have the option to sign up for a monthly plan that allows them two to four annual visits.
The company does not accept insurance but reportedly is in talks with health insurers to make that option available in the future. Reimbursement is among the biggest hurdles for telehealth providers.
The app is also only currently available for iPhone users, but Medicast is actively working on an Android app. Non-iPhone users can use the service via phone or by going onto the Medicast website.
Another app, called Pager, co-founded by Oscar Salazar, who was an engineer at Uber Technologies, also offers house calls for clients in Manhattan and most recently in Brooklyn, according to CNN.
Pager’s doctors are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 365 days a year, with an additional after-hour fee for nights and weekends.
The house call is also $199 during the day shift and $299 during evenings and weekends. According to published reports, doctors keep 80% of the fees.