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When we search for health-related information online we tend to opt for the search bar at the top of our screens. However, Google is not an expert in medicine: the content of the sites that Google displays is not necessarily to be trusted. There are alternatives that offer information genuinely trustworthy, going so far as to recruit healthcare professionals to share their specialist knowledge.
One of the most popular services is ZocDoc, a startup based in New York that, at the time of writing, has raised almost 100 million dollars in financing. ZocDoc offers users a quick and easy way to talk with the best doctors and experts from a range of specialities. They also allow you to arrange a medical appointment directly from their website or their apps; apps that incorporate geographic filters that allow patients to find the doctors operating closest to their location.
Even if, on first view, it might seem that the current level of doctor involvement in the service is minimal, ZocDoc is undoubtedly building momentum in terms of persuading doctors to participate directly with their app, whether it be responding to questions from patients or promoting their profiles.
Another great example of innovation in virtual patient-doctor relationships is HealthTap.
This American company is entirely built around mobile technology. From their smartphone, patients can use the HealthTap app to connect with one of a field of more than 67,000 doctors, day or night, without the need to travel to their offices. The app makes use of a videoconference system similar to FaceTime that allows patients and doctors to talk face-to-face, creating a closer relationship for both parties.
HealthTap is a subscriber service (their price plans can reach up to $99 a month) and also provides a platform for the user to share their medical information privately and securely with the doctor they elect.
The situation is Spain is quite different
Both ZocDoc and HealthTap operate primarily in the United States, one of the countries where the mHealth industry is most developed. Spain has a lot to do to catch up with countries like the U.S. in this regard.
That said, little by little, we are starting to see various initiatives in Spain being launched with the aim of using mobile technology to bring patients and doctors closer together. A good example of this is ClickDoctors, created by the Catalan companies Ideable and Liar i Salut. The app, which was on display at Mobile Word Congress 2015, is similar to HealthTap in terms of functionality. It also allows pharmacists and doctors to prepare and order medication for users in accordance with their medical prescriptions. And, as the ads say, if in doubt users can use video calls to talk directly with the doctors, in order ask last minute questions or in cases of emergency.
The doctor-patient relationship is changing, and as we have seen, there are all kinds of apps looking to play their part in the emerging new world of mHealth.