New startup Better has developed an app to provide real-time health monitoring and access to higher-end personal medical services – which come at a price.
Cisco recently revealed survey findings showing that demand for the latest telehealth services continues to rise in the United States, and that trust relationships between doctor and patient can be forged through new ways of communicating and performing diagnosis. In France, leading polling firm TNS Sofres has found that 58% of all patients believe that consultations with their physician are more effective if they check out some information on their condition on the Internet prior to the doctor’s appointment. However, it is no secret that if you use a search engine to look for guidance on an illness, you may get erroneous or misleading results. Now new San Francisco-based startup Better has developed a smartphone app designed to address the twin demands for basic telehealth services and for a reliable contact with a healthcare provider at need on a 24/7 basis.
Connected patients linking with connected doctors
Better founder Geoff Clapp intends the new service to be “the best way to get healthcare directly on your mobile device, wherever you are.” The app will offer some basic services free of charge, including storing and updating your electronic medical records; enabling access to software that can diagnose your symptoms and suggest what disease you might be suffering from; and providing detailed information on the disease. However, it’s the paid-for options which catch the eye. They range from personalised coaching to help lose weight or stop smoking to total access to a full range of health services. One of the options offers the user phone access anytime, from anywhere, to a physician or qualified nurse from the Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group based in Minnesota which is partnering with Better. Staff there can provide diagnosis and advice and will even undertake to arrange médical appointments with doctors or coordinate emergency services in a foreign country, if the Better customer should happen to fall ill there.
High-end healthcare services
On 16 April Geoff Clapp demonstrated the concept at the D: Dive into Mobile event, a conference held in New York City that explored the impact of the ‘mobile first’ revolution. The Better app, currently in beta, is due to launch this summer, but it won’t fall within everyone’s budget. Paid subscriptions will start at $90 a month, with the high-end options costing thousands of dollars. Aside from the steep cost of this type of on-demand medical care, one might well ask how the services provided by an app such as Better could work outside the United States, as falling ill in a foreign country would be likely to incur extra expenses. The service appears to be designed for connected patients who travel on business or may require treatment while on vacation, and who lead a largely urban existence.