HealthTap Taps Doctors for Virtual Video Visits

HealthTap doctor

photo credit: HealthTap

HealthTap, best known for its online health question and answer knowledge base curated by real doctors, is looking to join the ranks of real-time virtual doctor visit platforms such as MDLIVE, American Well, Teladoc, and Doctor on Demand. Actually, it’s looking to outrank these virtual health platforms to become the Amazon of virtual health care. It already offers physician-reviewed health news and health/wellness app recommendations, as well as creates a snapshot of your health profile based on your HealthTap use. Last week HealthTap announced a new Prime service that gives subscribers unlimited access to live videoconferences with doctors for $99 a month, plus $10 for every additional family member. HealthTap Prime could be great for some patients, especially those suffering from chronic conditions. But is HealthTap Prime good for doctors?

Should You Become a HealthTap Virtual Doctor?

If you’re a physician licensed to practice in two or more states, HealthTap wants to recruit you. But it’s not clear whether they expect you to close your practice and go completely online with them. Photos on their website’s homepage show doctors skydiving and playing with their children, presumably because they’re now liberated from having to keep office hours.

Like most employers, HealthTap doesn’t advertise how much they pay, except that it depends on the number of patients you see and how well you rate.  But in order to enjoy that kind of lifestyle, HealthTap doctors must be compensated very well. Otherwise, you would need to spend many long hours consulting patients by video before you could begin to earn nearly as much as a typical doctor’s income.

Before you rush to enlist in HealthTap’s army, consider what the job entails. You’ll be doing more than just consulting with patients online.The job description on HealthTap’s website calls for doctors who are willing to:

  • Identify and engage licensed, board certified physicians to join the Prime network (read: recruit your fellow physicians for HealthTap)
  • Partner with the Community and Social teams to drive enthusiastic word-of-mouth advocacy among our Prime and Network Experts (read: do some marketing for HealthTap)
  • Act as a resource for new Prime physicians (read: training new hires)

So in addition to working as a consulting physician, you will also be responsible for marketing, recruiting, and training.

Given what HealthTap has to offer, why would any doctor sign up with them?

HealthTap Alternatives

You might be better off working with Doctor on Demand, which charges patients only $40 for a 15-minute consultation. You would get to keep $30 of that, which adds up to $120 per hour.

Even better, consider working with AskMD, an online consultation service of ShareCare health and wellness social platform co-founded by Dr. Oz.  AskMD provides you with an online presence that you control. And rather than replace your practice, AskMD improves it by giving you a way to “meet” your patients before they arrive at your door.

Vidyo Gets Another $20M Investment to Explore the Wild West of Video Conferencing

Vidyo, VSee competitor, just raised another $20M to bring their total funding to $139M — well ahead of the typical $40M needed to reach IPO stage.  With 300 employees and a monthly burn rate of probably ~$4M, Vidyo’s $20M fundraising at this stage of the game is rather unconventional – companies positioning for IPO normally raise huge rounds. It’s highly likely that Vidyo’s current revenue can cover its expenses, but it needs extra cash to explore new markets.

An expansion into new markets isn’t too surprising considering that video conference companies valuations have been poor cousins to Instant Messaging companies, e.g. Instagram and WhatsApp.  It’s likely that Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $19B earlier this year has jolted Vidyo investors, pushing Vidyo to explore new markets.  According to Vidyo CEO Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo has its sight set on more than the enterprise video conferencing space – it’s going after consumer markets, and it wants to go big.

This includes going after the booming healthcare space to bring video chats to hospital beds or patients in their homes as well as to the online banking space. But even beyond that, it means taking video conferencing into the “Internet of Things.” We’re not talking smartphones but everyday technology from wearable devices to gaming consoles to household appliances — with the end goal of putting Vidyo technology directly into the hands of consumers.

Vidyo has already gotten a head start on this with Google+ Hangouts video chat which used a Vidyo plugin until recently.  Even now with Google Hangouts moved onto the VP8 video codec and getting ever closer to a completely WebRTC implementation, the Vidyo and Google partnership continues with deals such as Vidyo’s work to add its scalable video codec (SVC) into VP9 (which will eventually be used by Hangouts and all WebRTC platforms) and the VidyoH2O video conferencing bridge for Google Hangouts.

VSee, on the other hand, has taken the strategy of focusing exclusively on healthcare and developing workflows to make healthcare customers happy. The question is: Will VSee’s strategy will knock Vidyo out of healthcare market.  Is Vidyo spreading itself too thin to make you happy?

In any case, congratulations to Vidyo on the another round of successful fundraising!

Healthcare Helpouts Review – Google Hangouts for Health Providers

Google Helpouts health

Video chat visits with your doctor are no longer a thing of the future. A growing number of telehealth platforms like MDLIVE, American Well, Teladoc, and Doctor on Demand are offering online video consultations with a doctor anytime. As a health provider wanting to get a start on telehealth in your own practice, you may be considering video options such as Vidyo, American Well, VSee, and more recently, Google Helpouts–think Google Hangout HIPAA compliant. Hope you find this Google Helpouts review helpful.

Google Helpouts is yet another new Google product experiment. Based on Google’s popular Hangouts video chat tool, Helpouts is a way for experts to offer their services via live video consultation. (You may want to check out this general Helpouts review.) Healthcare Helpouts, in particular,  allow health providers meet specific HIPAA regulations for connecting to consumers over real-time video. Whether you’re a nutritionist, a midwife, speech therapist, or a physician, you can now provide your expertise online with Google Helpouts.

Unlike Skype and Google Hangouts, which have security issues, Healthcare Helpouts is a bit more conscious of HIPAA privacy concerns and requirements. Helpouts offers you a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with Google, email and text notifications cleaned of personal information. It also automatically records video chat sessions and sends the recording to both you and your patient for any required record-keeping (which you also have the option to disable).

Google Helpouts also fits well into a clinical workflow. It includes patient scheduling, provider calendar, email and text notifications, and online payment all in one package. Of course, all these features have to be enabled through a Google account, and require using Google’s Calendar and Wallet products. However, this may not be a big deal, since most of us are already part of the Google mafia in some way. The bigger problem you’ll face is whether this Google service will stick around.

Google Helpouts healthcare

Google Helpouts scheduling

You should also know that Helpouts comes with a few limitations. First, you’re out of luck if you need to do a group call – Helpouts is strictly for one-on-one video calls. Compare that to VSee OneClick, which allows you to add multiple users into a video call and also for a user to leave the video call at will.

It’s also good to know that while Google is willing to sign a HIPAA BAA with you, it does store and retain rights to access to your data including recorded video chat sessions. VSee video chat sessions, on the other hand, are just between you and your patient. VSee does not store or have access to any data passed during your video chat.

On the up side, probably the biggest draw of Helpouts for health providers at the moment is the pricing. While other Helpouts users are charged a 20% commission fee from each of their Helpouts sessions, healthcare providers currently get to use Helpouts for free. (Apparently it’s against the law to charge a percent commission from healthcare services.) But don’t be fooled. Google is out there to make some money, and it will either come up with a profitable pricing model or the Helpouts product may fold as with the failed Google Health portal and many other promising Google products.

In short, Helpouts could be a great way to test the video telehealth and telemedicine waters, but make sure to keep your other options open.  Helpouts is most definitely a work in progress, and it’s still very much up in the air whether it will survive the wilds of virtual care.

MDLIVE – Favorite Telehealth Product at Innovation HealthJam

MDLIVE reviewMDLIVE’s virtual doctor visit platform received some great reviews at the recent Innovation HealthJam, a 3-day virtual brainstorming session on hot healthcare issues.  Hosted by Panasonic, HealthJam topics ranged from genomic mapping, connected aging, patient engagement to telemedicine and telehealth. MDLIVE along with other virtual doctor visit services Zipnosis and American Well showed up several times in a “My Favorite Telehealth Products” forum. I was a little surprised at how popular online doctor services like MDLIVE have become.  Here are some MDLIVE reviews that were posted:

“I’m a fan of MDLive. I’ve used this telemedicine service twice with great success. I even used it from Dublin!” – John Nosta, Jam host

“I also like MDLive (http://bit.ly/1n9GgCt) and, for simple conditions (you know the ones Gramma used to treat), I like Zipnosis (http://bit.ly/1p69BSL) – its Minute Clinic on Your Mobile.” – Patricia Salba, Jam host

“I have found MDLive to be an excellent solution for simple stuff. It is FAST (10-15 min), immediate, and cheap $35. Customer service was excellent, much better than traditional care models.” – Christopher Wasden, academia

There was also a plug for MDLIVE competitor American Well:

“I tried out American Well at a conference. The MD was terrific, I received a recording of the visit, and it was affordable -less than my urgicare co-pay.. I’m looking forward to their nutritional services, launching in July. This saved me a trek to an urgicare center. The recommendation was also appropriate –no prescription was supplied.” – Ellen Cohn, academia

Looks like the next time I have a sinus infection I’ll have to try out MDLIVE’s telemedicine service – definitely cheaper than trying to meet my deductible!

What has been your experience with online virtual care?

AddLive WebRTC Video Chat Stealth Acquisition by SnapChat Leaves Citrix and Big Guys in the Dust

addlive snapchat acquisitionAddLive, a small WebRTC voice and video chat company early this week announced its secret acquisition by popular private photo messaging app, SnapChat.  Its blog post notes that while there are “no immediate plans to add new customers to the platform, we intend to continue providing our ongoing video chat services.” This includes telehealth video doctor visit app Doctor on Demand and social health management platform WellTok as well as big boy Citrix (one of the losers in the bidding war for AddLive along with LogMeIn and Cisco.)  While the amount for the acquisition remains undisclosed, blogger Chris Kranky notes that an 8 digit figure wouldn’t be out of the ballpark.

While Snapchat holds a fairly small share of the instant messaging market among popular applications such as WhatsApp, BBM Chat and Facebook Messenger, it has managed to raise over $120 million in funding.  It also had the balls to turn down a $3B acquisition offer from Facebook last October.  The Verge reports that the AddLive acquisition occurred several months ago, which makes sense considering Snapchat’s newly released “serendipitous” video chat which its CEO Evan Spiegel said is designed to capture the “essence of conversation.”  The app is available in both Google’s PlayStore and Apple’s AppStore.

AddLive also gets kudos from WebRTC blogger Tsahi Levent-Levi for being an excellent product and proving that WebRTC is a working reality on the market today. (AddLive has won the WebRTC Conference & Expo 2013 “Best WebRTC Tool” Award and also offers screen-sharing, multi-party conferencing, and support for browser-based video chat via WebRTC.) However, his concern is that current clients will eventually lose AddLive as their WebRTC API provider once its contracts are up.  Furthermore, this will cause companies looking to use WebRTC API in their products will be cautious of contracting with small WebRTC vendors such as Weemo, Layer, vLine, TenHands, and the likes.  Of course, there is always OpenTok and Twilio.