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Visit Your Doctor Virtually Thanks to Dr. Phil's New App

Television personality Dr. Phil McGraw leaves the Huffington Post Studios on Feb. 4, 2015 in New York. Ray Tamarra/GC Images/Getty Images


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Psychologist Phil McGraw from the television show “Dr. Phil” wants your next doctor visit to be as easy as ordering take-out on your smartphone. McGraw is backing a video-based app for virtual doctor visits that just got a major boost from a big health insurer.

Doctor on Demand, which recently raised $21 million, announced today that it is partnering with insurance provider UnitedHealthcare. The app connects patients with board-certified doctors, psychologists and lactation consultants 24 hours a day from a pool of about 11,000 professionals. McGraw, his son, Jay, and co-founder Andrew Jackson started the company in 2012 in San Francisco.

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McGraw said the app will let you bypass a lot of typical headaches when you need to see a doctor.

“You’ve got to get in your car, you might have to get your children covered with some kind of child care, you’ve got to take off work, you’ve got to drive down there — that’s gas, parking, all of this,” he said. “Or [with the app] … you can get on your smart phone, your tablet or your laptop, your desktop, hit a button and, usually within about 30 seconds, you’re face to face with a board-certified physician.”

Doctor On DemandPHOTO: In partnership with UpSpring Baby, Doctor on Demand offers video visits with board-certified lactation consultants.

The website lists conditions that Doctor on Demand doesn’t treat, including cancer and chronic conditions.

“For more serious or chronic conditions, a visit to a doctor or hospital is important and necessary,” the website states.

Arthur Caplan, head of NYU School of Medicine’s Division of Medical Ethics, cautioned that telemed apps are useful, “but not a substitute for primary care visits.”

“It isn’t clear if they can protect your privacy, liability for errors is murky, and quality control over providers remains uncertain,” Caplan told ABC News.

McGraw said the app has been described as a “disruptive force, which is apparently the highest praise,” upending what can be a wait to see a doctor.

UnitedHealthcare is also partnering with two other telemedicine companies, NowClinic and American Well, to provide the service to their 45 million customers with health benefits.

Unlike other virtual doctor services that require a monthly subscription or another upfront cost, users only pay for Doctor on Demand when they are connected to a health care provider. The app is available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play store for Android devices.

Doctor On DemandPHOTO: Patients pay per visit: $40 for medical and pediatrics; $50 for a 25-minute session with a psychologist or $95 for a 50-minute session; and lactation consultations start at $40 for 25-minutes.

After users download the app, they provide a list of their symptoms then start their “video visit.”

The cost of a video-based virtual visit starts at $40, which, according to UnitedHealthcare, is less than the price of minor medical needs treated at a doctor’s office visit ($80), urgent care visit ($160) or emergency-room visit ($650). The insurer said participants pay a portion of the visit cost, subject to deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses based on their health plans. A session with a psychologist starts at $50 for 25 minutes while the same amount of time with a lactation consultant is $40.

“Over 80 percent of doctor visits end without hospitalization, which means you didn’t need to go, because you weren’t going to be hospitalized,” McGraw said. “And most of those things can be handled with this virtual visit. And we have the ability for you to take a picture of your ear, or your throat, or your rash, or your finger, or your thumbs, and transmit it during the visit [to] where they can blow it up and take a look at it.”

Doctor On DemandPHOTO: Doctor On Demand connects you to healthcare providers from your home or on the go.

Source: ABC News Money

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