Doctor on Demand – Telehealth App to Video Call Your Doctor Now

doctor on demand Times magazine

excerpted from Time magazine

Doctor on Demand is one of a new breed of telehealth services such as MDLIVE, American Well, TeleDoc, and Google Helpouts that are beginning to dot the healthcare landscape.  They are designed to give you immediate access to a doctor so getting medical attention is more convenient and accessible for everybody. This means you no longer have to sit around an urgent care wait room full of germs and sick people just for a bad cold.  It also means you don’t have to take a big chunk of time out of work or haul a sick child down to an office to see a doctor.  Instead, you can get on your laptop or mobile device and easily talk to a doctor from the comfort of your home or office.  Depending on your needs, there is a range of telehealth and telemedicine options out there these days.

More Ways to Get Health Care Online

For a quick diagnoses and prescription for something like a cold or yeast infection, Zipnosis offers 5 minute online doctor diagnoses at $25 per illness.  You can also get fast answers for your health condition using popular smartphone health apps like AskMD and HealthTap which give you free access to instant doctor answers.  Full-fledged live doctor video consultations with primary care physicians, specialists, and therapists are also now available.  Virtual care platforms that have these services include MDLIVE ($45/consultation for doctor or therapist), American Well ($49/consultation), TeleDoc ($38/consultation + $150 annual membership fee), Google Helpouts for Health (price set by individual health providers), and of course, Doctor on Demand ($40/consultation).

Even Dr. Phil Recommends Doctor on Demand Video Visits

Doctor on Demand Dr. PhilAside from media exposure from TV personality Dr. Phillip McGraw, a.k.a. Dr. Phil, some of the differences with Doctor on Demand are that it allows you to see a doctor without being a part of a health plan or employer group.  It also charges based on time (like lawyers) rather than a simple per visit fee at a $40 per 15 minutes rate.  (However, Doctor on Demand notes that most video doctor consultations are resolved in 7 to 9 minutes.)  It also employs doctors to work scheduled shifts rather than have doctors subscribe to the service to see patients whenever they have some down time.  Its physicians get to take home $30, while Doctor on Demand gets a $10 cut.

As mentioned earlier, Doctor on Demand also gets an extra lot of love from the media.  Dr. Phil has evaluated the telehealth app on his own TV show as well as on The Doctors.  (Dr. Phil also sits on its advisory board and happens to be the father of one of the co-founders, Jay McGraw). In addition, Doctor on Demand has received $3 million in seed funding from an impressive list of investors including Venrock, Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, Athena Health CEO Jonathan Bush, and of course, Dr. Phil.

Doctor on Demand consultations are currently available in the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Video Visits With Your Doctor A Growing Frontier

Even without media hype, virtual doctor visits are a clearly growing healthcare option. Long touted as a solution to healthcare accessibility for patients in underserved and rural areas, telehealth is also seen as a way to help lower healthcare costs and improve effectiveness, cover doctor shortages anticipated with the Affordable Care Act, and to make healthcare more convenient overall.   Furthermore, video doctor visits are also benefiting doctors.  According to a recent study, 80% of doctors are using mobile devices in their day-to-day practice, and MedCity reports that ”many are choosing to work remotely and consult with patients on video chat services.”   

Are you ready for video chat visits with a doctor?

More Telemedicine Articles…

Business Insider breezy read – “There’s A New App That Will Let You Have A Real Doctor’s Appointment Using Video Chat On Your Smartphone

Modern Healthcare reports TeleDoc study – “RAND study cites telemedicine benefits: lowers costs, expands access

Fast Company on Google Helpouts, Google’s new marketplace for healthcare experts – “The Doctor, Veterinarian, and Lactation Specialist Will See You Now—On Video Chat”

Is WebRTC Video Conference Ready for Market?

webrtc video

WebRTC and the promise of video calls right from your web browser has captivated the media and businesses over the past few years. So it’s not unusual for us to get questions about how VSee compares with WebRTC video.  Recently, we got this interesting question from a customer:

From your expertise, how much dev time would VSee save me over building my own VC system utilizing Web-RTC with other supporting open-source technology?  I have a development team with 4 engineers.

Building your own video conferencing system using WebRTC with just 4 engineers is an impossible task – if you’re trying to go to market fast and if you want to achieve high performance.  With that many engineers, you can touch up the interface of WebRTC video, but you can’t improve its performance. When Google open sourced WebRTC technology, it opened up an exciting new world of possibilities for developers.  However, it’s also worth noting that Google also held back a number of WebRTC components when it purchased On2 (the source of WebRTC video) and GIPS (the source of WebRTC audio).  So the truth is that while WebRTC performs better than Flash, its raw open source performance still isn’t that great. This is why even Google uses Vidyo to run Google Hangouts instead of fully employing its own WebRTC technology.

The Road to Great Video Performance

To develop great video performance, you have to do deep video work, and there are only a few companies out there who have successfully done this - VidyoLifeSizeZoom, VSee and of course, the big guys such as PolycomMicrosoftCisco / Tandberg…. Every one of these companies have two things in common 1) they have spent years working on video, and 2) they have large engineering teams devoted to video work. Working on video is like an arms race – either you commit a lot of engineers to constantly upgrade or you quickly fall behind on the performance curve.

Furthermore, developing great raw video performance isn’t going to be your only issue.  Keeping your servers operational 24×7 under a heavy load will be another big chunk of engineering time that is more than enough work to keep your developers busy. People expect video to work like the phone—when you need to use it, it works. Since everybody starts with SIP or XMPP server open source stack, you will need to do a lot of hands-on engineering to fix and improve what’s needed.  We have 4 engineers alone dedicated just to improving our server performance.

To Use or Not To Use WebRTC Video?

So your choices are:

  1. Stay on the WebRTC video performance curve. In that case, using 1 engineer to keep up with its interfaces would be more than enough.  You could also use OpenTok video API, which gives you a nice wrapper over WebRTC.

  2. Go native yourself. This would require investing in a large team of engineers and years of work – as VSee and our competitors have done.

  3. License video conference from VSee or one of our competitors and get the highest video quality out there.

WebRTC is a fantastic technology, and is definitely the direction to go.  In fact, VSee uses the WebRTC audio echo cancellation code in our audio pipeline.  However, at this point in time, WebRTC video is still immature, and companies betting on WebRTC will probably still have to wait 2-3 years before it is ready…or at least wait until Google starts uses WebRTC in its own products.

Milton, VSee CEO

OpenTok Drops Free 1-on-1 Video Calls

OpenTok by Tokbox
It may be time to give VSee group video chat a whirl now that OpenTok (WebRTC version) 1-on-1 calls are no longer free.  Not only are VSee 1-on-1 calls always free, even group video calls are always free.
OpenTok is now requiring everyone to pay at least 50 bucks a month for their service. This does get you unlimited 1-1 minutes, but only if you always make a direct peer-to-peer connection, according to a recent Quora answer post by TokBox Developer Evangelist Ankur Oberoi.
The caveat, he notes is
“You should also be aware that for ~8% of connections around the world, peer-to-peer is not possible because of symmetric NATs and firewalls. If you want to support everyone, even in a 1:1 scenario, you will need to rely on using minutes. You get 10K minutes a month at the minimum $50 level.”  If you think you’ll need more minutes, you might want to check out all the other OpenTok price tiers here. Note that for group video calls, you do get charged for the minutes used on each video stream (i.e. each caller) during the call.
So why not give VSee free videoconference a try – after all, it’s no money out of your pocket :)

Finding the SBR Health and VSee Link

SBR Health video solutions

Just for the record, while SBR Health (secure video-based solutions for the creation of virtual healthcare delivery networks) did come out of VSee (secure video conference + screen share for telehealth), they are two separate companies without any business ties.  I get asked about the relationship between SBR Health and VSee all the time – so I wanted to write this blog to clarify – because there is a small story behind it :)

SBR Health and VSee – What’s the Link?

When VSee was started, telemedicine and telehealth weren’t anywhere on our horizon.  We were purely focused on building a video collaboration tool that would provide an awesome user experience. However, as the VSee product matured, we started seeing numerous medical and healthcare-related sales leads, so I asked Chris Herot, our then Chief Product Officer, to focus on VSee healthcare customers.

Chris, as you may know, is now the CEO of SBR Health.  When I first met Chris, he had just ended his previous venture, Convoq (a WebEx alternative platform for web conferencing) and had written an insightful article on his experience.  I was a struggling first time entrepreneur, so I took the initiative to reach out to him and ended up hiring him for VSee.  It’s a decision I will never regret – Chris is one of the smartest and most talented people I know, and I learned a lot from him about running a startup, for which I’m extremely grateful.

But getting back to how SBR Health was born – we were getting so many healthcare-related leads that the SBR Health idea was formed to allow VSee to have a better product-market fit for these leads.  The initial idea was to help hospitals manage their video calls more effectively.  For example, if Stanford Hospital required a Spanish translator, the system would route the VSee video call to a translator matching the requirement. Unfortunately, at that time, VSee didn’t have the engineering resources to serve SBR Health and its general medical requirements, so today SBR Health and VSee are two separate entities, each on its own business trajectory.

Differences Between SBR Health and VSee Telehealth

So how does SBR Health differ from the VSee telemedicine / telehealth eVisit offering? SBR Health aims to simplify the work flow of major hospitals – specifically – through skill-based video call routing, as described in the Stanford Hospital medical interpreter example. These skills were later expanded beyond just languages and  interpretation services. Other companies that aim to optimize complex medical work flows include a booming Eceptionist, which is doing quite well. It offers a platform that “supports scheduling, telemedicine, e-referral and triage management, wait list and wait time management, case management, care pathways, protocols and reporting” for hospitals and healthcare facilities.

VSee telemedicine eVisit takes a holistic approach to providing our telehealth platform as a service. We have developed the entire stack from low level video and medical device sharing to calendaring, virtual waiting room, doctor dashboard, etc. to HIPAA-compliant data hosting. By developing the entire software stack and modules – VSee is able to customize design and provide a simpler virtual visit experience for both patients and doctors.

You can learn more about VSee telemedicine eVisit at


Milton, CEO

VSee vs. Skype: Three Key Differences

One of the most common questions we get asked is “What’s the difference between VSee and Skype video chat?” Let me assure you that there is a difference, especially if you’re wanting to do telemedicine. Even if you aren’t, VSee’s group video conference beats Skype’s video performance by a mile, especially when you need to cross continents — plus it’s free. While I’ll do my best to give you a fair overview of VSee and Skype, the best thing to do is just to give VSee a try.  As I mentioned before, group video calling is always free and if you want to try out our fast screen sharing features, VSee Pro is free for 30-days. So here are some of the main differences between VSee and Skype:

#1 Network Friendly and Low Bandwidth Video Chat

  • VSee uses less than 50% of the bandwidth of Skype at the same video quality.
  • VSee network-sensing technology will back off when it senses network congestion, which is ideal for wireless networks like 3G, satellite, or congested intranets.

In 2009 and 2010 the United Nation’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) needed to stream high quality live video link to Darfurian refugee camps in Chad for Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton. Initially the UNHCR wanted to use Skype but found that the video quality was too grainy and poor due to the bandwidth limitations at the camp. They ended up using VSee because when using that same weak network, VSee was able to deliver clear, high quality video to the refugee camps, which made the event special.  For your everyday video calls, this means VSee will not freeze and stutter on you nearly as much as Skype video chat.

#2 Rich Collaboration

  • one-click application sharing with annotation
  • drag and drop file transfer
  • multi-camera support and remote PTZ camera control

Skype’s sharing capabilities are fairly limited and not that easy to use. For example, when I share my desktop, the remote person cannot see me. This makes it hard to build trust in situations where face is critical, such as for sales and getting to know new coworkers I may never meet in person.  It also doesn’t let you annotate on a shared screen, making collaboration inconvenient. For telemedicine, Skype doesn’t let you simply plug in and stream an extra camera or medical device so the doctor can see you and the medical device image at the same time.

With VSee all parties can see each other for the duration of the call.  VSee is the only video chat that allows you to send up to 4 video streams simultaneously from a single device. VSee design is all about simplicity and minimizing clicks. That means when you call someone, all you get is his or her face without being surrounded by menus, buttons, or frames. You can choose exactly what window you want to share or unshare with one simple click – no need for pop-up menus or directories.

#3 Privacy, Security, and API

  • VSee uses 256 bit FIPS 140-2 AES for all traffic
  • VSee provides a simple, rich API that supports secure medical workflows

While Skype does provide encryption, it uses its own proprietary method which means that no one knows if they keep the decryption keys (although the Edward Snowden divulgences confirm that it’s more than likely that Skype does.)   Indeed, Skype itself acknowledges “spying” on customers–that is, when you agree to use Skype products, you are allowing Skype to collect information about you, your account, and even your communications.  Moreover, Skype is also often attacked through its various vulnerabilities. Here is a PC World article about Skype security for doing business.

VSee is designed to be secure from the start. It uses open industry standard, FIPS 140-2 compliant 256-bit AES encryption on all control and media traffic. Everything is always encrypted. VSee uses RSA public/private key to exchange the AES session key such that the VSee servers do not have access to the AES session key. This means only the people in your conversation can decrypt data passed through VSee. Moreover, VSee API and eVisit platform allows for easy integration into a health portal or the creation of a secure web-based telehealth portal including support for virtual waiting room, doctor dashboard, etc.

I hope you find this VSee vs. Skype comparison useful. As I mentioned right at the beginning, the best thing to do is to sign up for VSee and give it a try yourself! You can also learn more about VSee telemedicine here or check out this third-party comparison of VSee vs. Skype for HIPAA-compliant telehealth.

Updated 10-2013

photo courtesy: Claudio Gennari …”Cogli l’attimo ferma il tempo”‘s

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