iPhone

Ask a Doctor Anything, Anytime, With HealthTap

February 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm , by

When you’re not feeling so well, the first thing to do is call the doctor… right? Maybe in a perfect world, but we all know that getting an appointment with a physician can be time-consuming and a lot more difficult than it should be. Enter HealthTap, a web site and mobile app that lets you pose questions to real doctors and get answers fast.

“In our research, we found that 25 percent of doctor visits in this country are just question and answer,” says Ron Gutman, founder and CEO of HealthTap. “But on average, it takes 20 days to get an appointment. We saw a huge opportunity there to help people save time and money.”

The service first launched almost two years ago as a resource for new moms (who famously have endless questions for their pediatricians). Now HealthTap boasts a network of 32,000 doctors in 128 different specialties. All you have to do is go to HealthTap.com and register or download the app on your iPhone or Android smartphone. Then you can search by topic or ask a question, which will be matched to an appropriate physician. You will get an e-mail or notification on your phone when a doctor has answered.

When we first heard about HealthTap, we were intrigued but thought for sure there must be a catch. But after meeting Gutman, I’m sold. The physicians are all screened for credentials via each state’s licensing boards. In addition to the Q&A feature, you can access a directory of doctors in your area, all ranked by quality based on other users’ experiences, and schedule in-person appointments right through the app. Another cool feature is “TipTaps,” which are short, doctor-written tips in areas like beauty, diet, exercise or parenting that are delivered by text message or e-mail. All these tools are free to use, but you can also pay for premium services, which include virtual, private consultations and the ability to ask longer questions. (There’s a 150-character limit for the free service, which I guess counts as a catch, albeit a small one in the age of Twitter.)

So while it’s no replacement for an in-person visit with a doctor who knows your medical history, HealthTap is great for when you just need quick, reliable medical information or advice. I used it recently to sleuth out whether the annoying itchiness I was experiencing in my left eye was pinkeye or just allergies. I got my answer within 24 hours (who knew one eye can be more allergic than the other) and bought some OTC eye drops, which saved me a trip to my doctor.