With the Affordable Care Act scheduled to launch on New Year’s Day, those currently uninsured are about to head to the doctor – and there aren’t a whole lot of new doctors available for them.
That’s where Stanford-born startup HealthTap plans to step into the breach.
Founded in 2010, HealthTap’s online medical information service lets patients get answers to some of their most vexing healthcare questions without having to wait weeks for an appointment with a doctor.
So far, nearly 47,000 physicians have served up more than 1 billion medical answers to the 7 million people who surf over to HealthTap’s site every month.
While the company currently looks like a simple question-and-answer site, it’s building up to being far more than that, said Head of Product Sean Mehra. Currently, users ask “natural language” questions of around 150 characters. HealthTap’s proprietary ontology, or knowledge structure, then sorts out which medical specialties would have the best answers, and refers the questions to those doctors. At the moment, there is usually at least one answer for each question, but multiple answers often are available within two or three hours.
Beyond that simple, free-of-charge service, however, HealthTap is gearing up to offer finely tuned personalized services to both its network of doctors and to their patients, said HealthTap CEO Ron Gutman. Consumers can tailor their profiles and include personal health records to receive more relevant answers. HealthTap’s DocScore system helps physicians build their online reputation and attract new patients to their practices, while a networked referral system keeps doctors accountable for every answer they provide.
The startup has been using $39 million in venture funding to build up its network, and expects to ramp up revenues significantly beginning early next year. Gutman believes that insurance company wellness programs, group clinics and hospitals will want to purchase services from HealthTap to manage their growing patient pools more efficiently.
“It’s not just a huge business in healthcare,” Gutman said, “but also a great company to change the world.”