Telehealth providers grapple with sexual harassment

While mobile apps that directly connect healthcare consumers with physicians via video consultation improve access to care, they've also created a whole new problem: flashing.

Here are four things to know.

1. As telehealth apps gain mainstream recognition, providers have seen an influx of male patients exposing their genitalia to physicians. Bob Kocher, an investor in Doctor on Demand, told CNBC: "There was a period where it was happening to some of our doctors once a week."

Other telehealth providers, like American Well and MDLive, have witnessed similar issues. "It's the internet," Jay Parkinson, MD, CEO of Sherpaa, told CNBC. When Dr. Parkinson launched a partnership with Vice, in which Vice visitors were able to anonymously text questions to a physician via phone number, more than 30 participants sent photos of men's genitals.

2. Mr. Kocher told CNBC this form of sexual harassment does not impact female physicians more heavily, since users don't know which Doctor on Demand provider they will match with prior to the virtual visit.

3. Ian Tong, MD, CMO at Doctor on Demand, said the company cancels the accounts of those who misuse the service. He also said Doctor on Demand tries to connect these users to mental health support, and that the company closed free trials, which "tended to attract this kind of behavior," according to CNBC.

Likewise, American Well closes the accounts of offenders and seeks to verify their ID through credit card authorization, so users cannot create a second login.

4. However, those who misuse the telehealth service will often sign up for accounts under an alias to mask their identity. To create an account, most apps ask for basic personal and health insurance information. A virtual visit also costs a user between $40 and $50.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated Sherpaa had received inappropriate messages. Becker's Hospital Review updated the article on April 24 to reflect that a physician associated with Dr. Parkinson's partnership with Vice received these messages, not physicians associated with Sherpaa.

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