Viewpoint: 'Uberization' of healthcare could hurt physicians

Tech companies are trying to take the hassle out of healthcare, but Rahul Parikh, MD, questions in an opinion article for Slate whether applying gig economy-style apps directly to healthcare is the most efficient strategy.

In the article, Dr. Parikh, a San Francisco-based physician and writer, discusses the effectiveness of apps like Lemonaid or HealthTap, which allow users to connect with physicians for diagnoses via video or phone. While he is onboard for disruption, several aspects of these freelance physician apps are concerning to him. First, similar to Uber's self-driving cars, he worries the apps will eventually be able to leverage data and artificial intelligence to make diagnoses independent of physicians — which not only displaces their work, but also opens up the issue of missing a larger, more serious condition.

Second, he is concerned the apps won't be financially sustainable — most people need Uber rides more frequently than a physician's visit, and so few patients spread among many physicians offers little payout. Third, the model may not even reduce healthcare costs because studies show people often do not use virtual care apps as a substitute for office visits. Instead, they often use them for minor issues, like colds, when they may not have even visited a physician at all and the symptoms would have cleared up on their own.

These apps would be much better applied to enhance existing physician practices and relationships with patients, rather than randomly assigning patients to physicians, according to Dr. Parikh.

"It's hard to quantify, but trust and familiarity between a patient and her physician, someone who knows her and her health problems, is one of the greatest efficiencies in healthcare," he writes. "There's less time and effort getting to know all the nitty-gritty details of that patient’s health history and more time to focus on the problem at hand."

Read the full article here.


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