In this day and age of advancing technology, it seems like you are able to get a hold of anybody by sending a simple text or instant message. So why not to your doctor?
A team of doctors and engineers from Pocatello say they have done just that with a new app for your smartphone and tablet. They're calling this a product that will revolutionize the health care industry.
It's called "IM Your Doc" (Instant Message Your Doc), and it's already available in Android Marketplace and the App Store. They hope you won't have to ask if the doctor is ready to see you now, but rather, if they have the app.
Ali Khan, the chief technical officer for IM Your Doc, along with Drs Naeem and Fahim Rahim have been working on the app for about two years and testing it for the past eight months.
Khan said this app will help patients by saving them time, money and giving them peace of mind. He said the idea came from chronic illness patients. Those patients see their doctors more often than most others, incurring a heavy burden of time, waiting and expense.
Khan said if there is something wrong, and your doctor is not available, many patients head to the emergency room, incurring even more costs.
"They don't have to end up in the emergency room every time they are having an issue because of a lack of communication between the physician and patients,” Khan said. "Now they can use our communication system and talk to their own doctors to solve their health issues."
Khan explained that the way the app is set up, IM Your Doc cannot store any medical information and is 100 percent in accordance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws.
Khan also talked about the upcoming years and what they expect to happen with the doctor to patient ratio. Khan said there will be fewer doctors taking care of more patients, and this app will give physicians an opportunity to better serve those patients who do not need immediate medical attention, while responding to those non-emergency patients in a faster time frame.
"In the beta testing that we've been doing for eight months now, physicians have been actually picking up the phone and calling the patient straightaway,” Khan said.
The result usually is saving both you and your insurance company money from a doctor's office visit.
Khan also says this app will be helpful to stay-at-home parents. Those with several children at home know it can be a bit stressful to try and bring all the children along to the doctor, as well as waiting around all day for the doctor to return your call.
The studies they conducted showed patients who used the app waited an average of 15 to 20 minutes to hear back from their doctor. Khan says many people spend that time in the waiting room alone. He also said many people can wait all day to hear back from a busy physician.
"For example, if you call at 8 o'clock in the morning when you're getting ready for work, and you're not feeling well,” Khan said, “your physician may not be able to call you back until 5 o'clock in the evening. By that time, the chances are you've ended up in the emergency room or urgent care."
The app will have a monthly subscription fee of $29.99, and is limited to 10 sessions of chat with your doctor. The chat now is through simple messaging, but they are working to expand it to voice and photo. The idea is that your doctor can tell by your cough or rash what your ailment is, and advise a solution.
They say the money is simply for maintenance and expansion, because they're really providing a priceless service - peace of mind.
"The idea is to help patients attain a better lifestyle and to give them the peace of mind they deserve," Khan said.
The app is currently being tested at the Urgent Care providers in Pocatello and Chubbuck, the Kidney Institute in Pocatello, and Family First Medical Center in Idaho Falls.