The Battle of On-Demand Online Doctors
Science, medicine and technology are progressing at breakneck speeds, but our models for providing healthcare seem stuck in the year 1969. Because the traditional primary care plus specialty doctors leaves so many people without the care they need, I’m always excited when I see companies working to give new models of providing healthcare.
Two companies that are driving innovation in healthcare today are Heal and PlushCare. Both offer unique models that bring “on-demand” to healthcare services. They also both have transparent pricing models. But they both offer a unique perspective on how to best deliver healthcare to consumers.
Should you choose Heal or PlushCare? The answer depends on what you want (and where you live). Here’s what you need to know about these online doctors.
Heal offers customers an in-home doctor visit. Patients can book appointments from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., 365 days a year. Doctors visit the patient in their home, and can do a variety of important tasks including pediatric care (including lactation consultations and well-child exams), urgent care (for acute illnesses, muscle pains and aches, rashes, etc.), and standard primary and preventive care (such as basic immunizations).
Doctors from Heal can administer basic care, refer you to a specialist, or prescribe medicine based on your needs.
Right now, Heal is available in Washington D.C. (and the surrounding area), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.
Since Heal requires in-person visits, it is expanding city by city.
PlushCare gives patients access to doctors via a Skype-like application. Patients can book appointments 24/7/365. Doctors with PlushCare can diagnose and prescribe medications for non-emergency medical needs such as flu, viruses, UTIs, and ear problems.
PlushCare doctors can also prescribe PrEP for HIV patients. The company has also partnered with local STD- and allergy-testing clinics, so the doctors can give advice on treatment for those conditions.
PlushCare is only available in certain states including: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. They may expand to your state soon.
If their services aren’t covered by your insurance company, you pay $99 per appointment. If these companies accept your health insurance, you just pay the required office co-pay.
Personally, I’ve used telemedicine (like PlushCare) to get a prescription for an infection. Since it wasn’t covered by insurance, I paid the full cost, but I saved money relative to going to a MinuteClinic. The experience was fast and convenient, especially because I was sick.
The 24/7/365 convenience of PlushCare makes it a great option if you or your child gets sick in the middle of the night.
If I lived in an area covered by Heal, I would be tempted to use it all the time. The fact that the doctors can administer well-child visits in our home would add a ton of convenience and comfort to an otherwise Herculean task. I also like that they can take basic vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure during the appointment.
Because doctors rely on all their senses to diagnose and recommend treatment, I would assume that doctors from Heal have an advantage over those from PlushCare. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to use either of these companies, especially if they are covered by your insurance company.
Just remember, neither company wants to replace your relationship with a primary care physician. Healthcare may be changing, but you still need an old-fashioned relationship with a physician.