A ‘disruptive’ US primary care delivery app with UK roots

This past week, this Editor spoke with Jason Hwang, MD, one of the three co-authors of The Innovator’s Prescription and noted here recently [TTA 31 Mar]. Since leaving the executive director spot at Innosight Institute (now The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), he and a team have been developing a smartphone app, PolkaDoc, that may bring a little disruptive innovation to simple primary care. The intent is to make remote primary care for basic needs far more accessible to the general public 24/7, helping to alleviate the shortage (and workload) of US primary care physicians (GPs). The individual first installs the free app from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, answers a simple questionnaire, records a short video to confirm name and date of birth as a verifier/signature, and pays the exam fee via debit or credit card. A doctor then evaluates and prescribes, if appropriate, with prescription pickup at your local pharmacy. According to Dr. Hwang, the first use of this app will be for birth control, charging a modest $10 exam fee, exclusive of the prescription. Technically, the 24/7 coverage is achieved via asynchronous store and forward, which enables significant scalability; any participating physician may ‘see’ thousands of patients a day if desired. The app is fully HIPAA-compliant and on US-based secure servers. The ‘soft’ launch of the PolkaDoc service will start in about two to three weeks.

For our UK readers, this may sound like a variation on something familiar. The ur-model is ‘DrThom‘ acquired by Lloyds Pharmacy in 2011. The eponymous service was developed by one of the partners of PolkaDoc, UK-based OB/GYN Dr. Thom Van Every, to provide sexual health services first by mail and later online. In the UK, this was a premium service at £50. According to Dr. Hwang, the objective is to adapt for the US what has been successfully done in the UK, Australia and other countries, learning from the lessons of its predecessors. With the idea that “simple things are taken care of as simply as possible”, it also matches that concept with low price to be affordable for nearly all women.

My discussion with Dr. Hwang also ranged on the app’s potential use in other healthcare areas and plausible partnerships. More to come on this, certainly.

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