Startups

How Messenger could save us a trip to the doctor

The startup HealthTap will allow users to connect directly with a physician using Messenger. We share how it works.

02 Mai. 2016 Kim Rixecker

HealthTap: Facebook Messenger replaces the waiting room

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Using Facebook Messenger to ask a doctor questions: A US startup makes it possible. (Illustration: HealthTap)

No one likes to sit in the doctor's waiting room – not if there's any way to avoid it. But what can you do when googling information about a skin rash or some other health concern doesn't give you a definitive answer? More cautious individuals may take the risk of wasting their precious time in the waiting room, while people who are less anxious gamble even more by simply ignoring whatever it is.

This is exactly the type of situation in which healthcare startup HealthTap can come into play. Patients can get free advice from a real doctor using their web and mobile apps. And it also works with Facebook Messenger. The process is simple: First the user describes their symptoms. Then a bot displays similar questions along with the answers from real physicians.

If the user isn't helped by an automated answer, they can choose to submit their question to a real doctor, who the creators say will generally reply within a few minutes. In the worst-case scenario it should take no more than 24 hours to receive an answer. The kicker: It doesn't cost a penny. This is a particularly convincing argument in the startup's US homeland, where medical insurance is still not as widespread as here in Germany.

No diagnosis via Messenger: HealthTap cannot replace a visit to the doctor

You can ask all kinds of questions about symptoms you're experiencing or medications you're taking, but a reliable diagnosis cannot be made via an Internet chat. However, HealthTap offers its users the possibility of speaking with a doctor via videochat for a monthly fee of US$99. This requires users to switch from Messenger to the HealthTap app – and they shouldn't expect to eliminate every visit to the doctor this way.

The integration with Facebook Messenger is an interesting example of how services can work well in a messaging app. Particularly as even the HealthTap app itself is based on the principle of first providing the user with automated answers that match their question. The Messenger integration spares users from needing to install the app, which lowers the entry barriers for new users. Whether a similar offer will appear in Germany remains to be seen.

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