House calls by a doctor may be the next service provided by on-demand apps like Heal, potentially opening a billion dollar business akin to Uber’s disruptive business model. Similar apps also provide “telemedicine,” or a consultation with a medical professional over the web. As more Americans age into Medicare and long waits to see a doctor makes people more willing to pay for the convenience of a house call these medical service apps could enjoy major growth.
Heal, which began in Los Angeles in February, uses doctors affiliated with programs like UCLA and Stanford and has already expanded to San Francisco and 15 other cities. For a flat fee users can have a same-day visit from a qualified doctor. Another app called “Doctors on Demand,” backed by Google and television personality Phil McGraw, has been downloaded several million times since 2013 and offers access to over 1,400 qualified physicians. The app allows users to consult a doctor via video, which is becoming increasingly popular; according to the American Telemedicine Association one million people will consult a doctor through a webcam in 2015.
Gaspard de Dreuzy, the co-founder of one on-demand doctor app, Pager, says most of his service’s customers are working mothers between 30 and 45 years of age who value their time but research shows that traditionally most patients who receive in-home care are 65 years or older. Given that Medicare has expanded to cover house calls and that the American senior population is expected to double to 72 million by 2030, this is potentially a huge market.
Success in the tech world isn’t a given, but with annual health care in the US costing $3.8 trillion there is a lot of money potentially to be made in the emerging market of concierge doctors. Homebound seniors are likely to be the largest market, but as the costs of ER visits rise and wait times to see doctors lengthen more people are likely to spring for the convenience of medical advice in their home.