If you’ve ever tried to call your doctor with an impromptu medical question, you know that a single call can quickly turn into non-stop game of phone tag that may or may not have a productive ending.
PingMD, a New York startup, initially launched a few years ago as an app to help digitally-savvy parents communicate with their kids’ pediatricians. But after analyzing how tens of thousands of patients and doctors were communicating during their pilot, they decided to expand their scope. This month, they relaunched their app for iOS and Android as a service that enables doctors to securely communicate with their patient, as well as peers. And on Wednesday, the company said it had raised $2.5 million from angel investors, including Matthew & Stewart Greenfield, Ernest Pomerantz and Jessica Nagle. The round follows $1.33 million raised last year.
According to a 2010 New England Journal of Medicine study analyzing communication in a Philadelphia doctor’s practice, the average doctor in that practice took 24 phone calls a day and wrote 17 emails on top of seeing a full load of patients, processing their prescriptions, reviewing lab reports and completing all the other tasks that come with the territory.
“There’s a lot of call volume going on,” said CEO Dr. Gopal Chopra, who co-founded PingMD with his wife Dr. Manju Chopra. “And the indirect cost is the time spent trying to get you [the patient] an answer.”
Even though electronic medical records and digital practice management tools can enable doctors to look up patient information and history more efficiently, Chopra said the call volume can be difficult for doctors. And that’s especially true for those doctors who are open to emailing or messaging with patients through mobile phones or other more secure services.
Through PingMD, doctors can enable patients to securely message them with text, as well as relevant pictures and video, and they can easily loop in other doctors and nurses in their practices as well as other specialists.
For example, if you have a weird rash on your arm, you could send a note and picture to your doctor and then she could reply with her feedback, as well as add a dermatologist to the circle.
While Chopra estimates that response times on email and other secure messaging systems tends to average 72 hours because the message is routed through an administrator and then the doctor, the average response time on PingMD is an hour (although it can take from a few seconds to several hours depending on the severity of the case).
To make money, PingMD takes a software-as-a-service approach, billing itself to hospitals and physician networks as a way to gather data about how doctors are communicating and spending their time and how the hospital should allocate their resources. At the moment, Chopra said they’re piloting PingMD with several institutions and physician networks.
The startup is one of several companies attempting to help doctors improve their productivity and prepare for an influx of new Obamacare patients. American Well and Sherpaa, for example, work with employers to help patients and doctors connect via video chats and phone calls. HealthTap targets consumers with a service for messaging and querying a network of doctors. And Ringadoc offers doctors a simple service for handling after-hours calls and streamlining patient communication.