File this one under “doctor/physician competition.” It’s no surprise that, for most providers, the competitive landscape has shifted. But what’s unusual here is the emerging trend of online medical advice—live, immediate and direct from doctor—for a fee.
This relatively new healthcare delivery channel has not only taken root, but it’s likely to continue to grow as a competitive factor for medical practice marketing. The evolution of marketing online medical advice (not just information, but a physician consultation) seems to have grown, in part, from consumer searches.
Many estimates have it that 60 percent, or more, of the general public looks online for medical information. What’s more, satisfaction surveys say that many patients and prospective patients would welcome more digital interaction with their physician by email, online lab results, post-visit questions, etc. (Some, but not many, physician offices are beginning to respond to this demand.)
Consulting a physician online.
These and other factors have created a fertile ground for the patient-in-need to find fast medical answers from a doctor as close as the webcam, computer, smart phone, tablet or video conference. Each of the following examples presents slightly different features, benefits and fee structure. But all are platforms for immediate, private and confidential connectivity with a physician.
- InteractiveMD: Healthcare On-Demand The self-description: “InteractiveMD (iMD) is an affordable solution to the challenge of healthcare access. We provide our users with round-the-clock access to licensed physicians via phone, video or secure email. Regardless of your location, you can connect with a doctor in real-time for the treatment or diagnosis of common conditions.”
- HealthTap: Answers from 12,000 U.S.-licensed physicians. The self-description: “HealthTap is here to help you. Our Interactive Health Network and mobile apps connect doctors with patients in smarter ways, provide education to those who seek it and disseminate trusted, vetted, peer-reviewed health information far and wide. For members, we connect you directly with the best health information and the best doctors, from your mobile device or on the web.”
- MeMD: Healthcare Virtually Anywhere The self-description: “MeMD helps you get better faster, no matter where you are or what time of day. All you need is a webcam. With MeMD, you can consult a medical provider online and receive personalized treatment. When medically appropriate, our providers can submit an e-prescription to your local pharmacy. MeMD is not a replacement for your primary care physician or annual office check-ups.”
- Ringadoc: Instantly Connects You to a Licensed Doctor The self-description: “Ringadoc gives you direct access to doctors. During your call, the doctor you speak with will be able to provide medical advice, diagnose an illness, advise you on treatment, and when necessary, prescribe medication. Our service is now available with complete video conferencing for smartphones and tablets. Ringadoc does not replace traditional primary care consultations…”
For these platforms, the physician-direct medical consultation is as close and convenient as the home computer. And if you track the evolutionary stages from the nearly extinct “house calls,” through the present day virtual visits, could “health holograms” be just beyond the horizon? By whatever equipment, the virtual doc channel for patients is already part of your marketing competition.