But there may be room for everyone, because the services are addressing a huge market. In 2013, the average wait time for a family physician was 19.5 days, with same-day appointments practically unattainable without an emergency room visit. And studies show that wait time is increasing.
A new entrant in the consumer telemedicine space launched today to deal with the problem. PlushCare says its “virtual health concierge” service is unique in that the appointments are conducted by a group of pedigreed Stanford- and UCSF-educated doctors.
The appointments can be done by phone or via video on desktop, they cost the patient $45, and appointments are available the same day the request is made. The user can pay with a credit card, or using an employer flexible spending account.
PlushCare can feed clinical data from the exams back into the records system of the patient’s primary care doctor. (This subject, by the way will be one of the issues discussed at VentureBeat’s HealthBeat conference October 27-28.)
The service is available only in California right now, but will spread to other states in 2015, PlushCare says.
The other distinguishing feature of PlushCare, CEO Ryan McQuaid tells VentureBeat, is that the service doesn’t end when the video call is over. There’s no real time limit on calls, and patients can call back for another appointment free of charge if the original problem couldn’t be fixed as a result of the original appointment. The service will also do follow-ups to the patient if a lab was ordered.
McQuaid spent five years working at AT&T’s health accelerator before helping start PlushCare.
What PlushCare does differently is build long-lasting relationships with patients, where the virtual examination is just the start of the journey — as opposed to simply sending a prescription, McQuaid says.
PlushCare is funded by executives from Kodak, Splunk, Apple, and Jeff Jorgenson, the director of telemedicine at UCSF.