Have you ever been sick and wished you could summon a doctor to your home with the tap of a button? Pager, a personal healthcare company, is making this dream a reality with the release of a new app. The Pager app premiered in New York City last May and the company is now eyeing expansion to Boston in 2015. Instead of facing increasing wait times for primary care appointments, patients can use Pager to summon a doctor to their house within a guaranteed window of two hours from the time of their request.
“What we’re really looking to do is create the most seamless way for people to access high quality personal care anytime, anywhere,” said Toby Hervey, the marketing director and a founding team member at Pager. “Along the way, we’re looking to remove a lot of stress from the equation.”
Currently live in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Pager presents users with a streamlined interface that simplifies every step of the medical process. “[As a user] I just tap a button that says ‘I feel sick’ or ‘I’m injured’ and then I input my symptoms painlessly and I’m shown the doctors that are nearby,” said Hervey. “From there, I can see the doctor’s qualifications and choose the doctor that’s right for me.”
Pager has been called the “Uber of medicine,” and it works with a team of doctors that are board certified “leaders in their field” to treat a wide range of patient conditions – everything from the flu to eye infections to suturing. In addition to writing prescriptions, doctors can dispense common medications during a house visit, providing some patients with immediate treatment. After the visit is over, patients can follow up with their doctor within the app and even send pictures for doctors to assess the healing of ailments like cuts and rashes remotely.
In New York, visits are priced at $199 during daytime hours and $299 in the evening all-in, no matter what the treatments in the visit are. Specific services, like flu shots, are priced discretely. This cost is actually lower than urgent care costs, according to Hervey. Patients pay up-front out of pocket and can later be reimbursed by their insurance.
This personalized and flexible approach to healthcare resulted in Pager’s early success in its debut last spring. “We launched in May only on weekends, only offering service on Manhattan. Faster than we ever could have anticipated, we’ve expanded to daytime hours and reduced our pricing for daytime visits. We’re adding new cities earlier than expected. We’re adding new services,” Hervey said. “People are really excited about what we’re doing. The value to them is pretty clear in terms of the level of personal quality and convenient care.”
Hervey credits this convenience and personal attention as one factor for the app’s success. “It’s this direct access between patients and doctors with this technology that makes Pager novel,” he said. “What’s really cool is that we’re facilitating this direct connection between a patient and a doctor that most people don’t usually experience.”
Yet this personal approach to care in the form of house calls was initially a challenge for the startup to overcome. At-home treatment is a novel concept to many patients. “We’re educating people on why a house call is a great way to get care,” said Hervey. “Whereas house calls were a dominant form of treatment fifty years ago, most of us have never had a house call and don’t know that we can have a house call.”
Hervey notes that in their house call system, Pager users have access to more meaningful and longer interactions with their doctors. In fact, early data shows that patients using the Pager app spend an average of 26 minutes with their doctor per visit, which trumps the national average of eight minutes. Hervey believes larger healthcare systems can take advantage of Pager to improve existing care across cities nationwide.
“Many aspects of healthcare are antiquated and we’re trying to introduce efficiency across a broad spectrum,” said Hervey. “Pager can really add value and create efficiency for lots of players in the space. Health systems can use us to launch a new healthcare delivery system, to really deliver community care to their patients, and to complement the other services and specialists that they have.”
In addition to these long-term goals, Pager is focusing on concrete expansions in the coming months. Recent and upcoming additions include a back to school physical service along with on-demand flu shots. Pager is also planning to expand service to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago in addition to Boston.
Lea is a PhD student at MIT studying molecular and cellular neuroscience. She is interested in translational disease research and is currently examining the role of neuronal identity in Huntington's Disease. Lea graduated from Harvard with an AB in neurobiology and has interned with biotech startups in neuropharmacology and biomedical engineering.
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