Health apps are exploding in use. Smart Phone users download and use apps to track and monitor their health. A PwC report reported in 2015 that about 1 out of 3 smart phone users have a healthcare app on their phone. Think beyond the fitness tracking and toward EKG monitors, glucose trackers, and other medical monitoring which will help patients obtain more information about their health. I see this as an opportunity for patients/parents to share Health information with their local PCP that they know and trust.
Some companies are trying to create apps and engagement that can conflict with the operation of a traditional primary care provider (PCP). PCPs provide care to patients in the areas of Pediatrics, Family Practice and Internal Medicine. A few of these relatively new companies are trying to provide patients an option to engage with a physician that is not their primary care provider via an App. One of the theories is that the PCP is available when the patient needs the advice. Is this creation of an app that charges for PCP time/use a ‘disruptive’ change in the healthcare delivery or ‘disruptive’ to the quality of patient care? Is this the Uber of Healthcare? Some of these companies include telemedicine app teladoc (TDOC) are trying to provide service to patients of employers (via the employer paying a fee each month for the access).
Let’s evaluate access to a local PCP from a patient’s and/or parent’s perspective:
Many Primary Care Pediatric groups today provide solid access for their patients and/or parents to speak to someone from the office six days a week as well as an on-call provider after hours (in effect, this provides access to speak with a PCP 7-days a week, 365-days a year). If the patient is unable to call the office during working hours and engages the on-call provider after hours, they will usually obtain the advice they need (e.g. be seen in the office the next day) for no extra charge while an app service might bill the patient for each interaction. Additionally, due to the Affordable Care Act, many insurances have no costs for routine check-ups/well visits with a patient’s primary care provider. The local PCP has more history of the engagements with the patient and knows the total picture of the health of the patient. How does a practice level these strengths as well as today’s technology to further meet the needs of patients and/or parents?
A Pediatric Practice can improve engagement with patients/parents via investing in a customized Practice App.
Every practice should have a web site and invest in the development of a customized App that parents/patients can download from the Apple store or Android Marketplace. For starters, the customized Medical practice App should provide the office hours, directions, easy calling and a linkage to the practice patient portal. From a patient’s/parents perspective, they only need to download the App on their phone then access the App when they want to engage with the office (e.g. call the office, access the patient portal, obtain directions, schedule a routine appointment).
Primary Care Practices need strong operations to compete in today’s environment:
An App will further enhance a well-run Primary Care Practice that meets the needs of Patients/parents. The practice should have sufficient hours to support the needs of patients/parents as well as solid availability of providers after hours. Additionally, the group needs to be both efficient and effective in how they operate each day. This includes operation of the front desk check-in, Medical Assistant/Nursing team and providers as well as backend Medical Billing Operations.
So, if you operate a well-run Pediatric group combined with a customized App for your practice, why would a patient/parent ever use an App service that engages an ‘unknown’ PCP?