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Summary:

San Francisco-based Ringadoc, a startup that helps consumers connect with physicians virtually, has launched a new service that helps doctors take after-hours patient calls.

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photo: Skovoroda

Ringadoc, a startup that provides on-demand telephone access to doctors, is trying on a slightly different strategy on for size. Since its launch in 2010, the company has charged consumers a flat fee (about $40) to speak with a physician anytime, day or night. But in an effort to bring more doctors on to the network, it has started targeting physicians with an after-hours messaging and phone service.

“What we realized from the [initial] offering is that physicians were demanding a better way to answer their patients’ after-hours calls,” said founder and CEO Jordan Michaels. “We saw this as an opportunity to harmonize those two services.”

The company also said that it raised an additional $45o,ooo in a round led by Founders Fund, and including Ryan Howard, co-founder and CEO of electronic medical records company Practice Fusion, and Sharon Knight, former president of concierge-style health provider One Medical Group. In June, Ringadoc said it had raised $750,000 from Founders Fund and Howard.

When patients currently try to reach their physicians after hours, they usually leave a message with a non-medically trained operator, who then looks up an on-call doctor and relays the message on. “It’s kind of like the game of telephone you played when you were younger,” Michaels said. When the doctor finally calls back, patients need to recount their symptoms all over again.

With Ringadoc’s new service, patients can leave a secure message with an answering service, which then automatically finds the appropriate doctor. Patients only need to explain their experience once, and it costs the doctors $50 a month (and the first three months are free), as opposed to the hundreds of dollars a month they might pay to other systems.

Competitors, such as PerfectServe, offer similar services, but Michaels said Ringadoc is built for a smaller practice, with a feature set that provides more control over what physicians can do with inbound messages. What’s more interesting is that it could give doctors the opportunity to make incremental revenue from non-patients interested in connecting with a doctor virtually.

For now, Ringadoc’s on-demand consumer service only applies to California residents. The company said about 2,500 people have used that service, although it has scaled back promotion to focus on physician recruitment. But as its new product adds more doctors to its network – and familiarizes them with the technology – the company hopes to make a bigger push among consumers this year.

As we’ve reported, telemedicine and remote care are becoming more of a reality as technology improves, broadband access expands and mobile devices become more ubiquitous. According to the American Telemedicine Association, 400,000 consumers used an online service in the past year to receive remote health care. And as more patients come on line, telehealth services like Ringadoc could continue to help fewer doctors reach more patients. Most services, like American Well or Sherpaa, currently work through employers or insurance companies. But more startups, from those offering virtual counseling to online dermatology services, are going straight to consumers.

Image by Skovoroda via Shutterstock.

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  1. Jordan Michaels Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Thanks for the awesome article, was really great speaking with you!

  2. Thanks gigaom for so much recent reporting on virtual healthcare. Our service is similar to ringadocs in that we are a 24/7 on-demand service. The difference is we offer phone and webcam visits with doctors and nurse practitioners (webcam makes it possible diagnose and treat significantly more and has the added benefit of allow the provider and patient to read each others body and facial expressions) – and our providers actually work for our company.

    We’ve launched in California and Washington and first time patients can try it out for just $10.

    Keep up the interesting healthcare + technology reporting!

    James
    http://www.caresimple.com

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