Medical Advice For Free Or Cheap, Via An App

HealthTap allows users to pose questions to a network containing thousands of physicians. In addition to providing affordable advice, the service gives doctors a way to grow their online reputation.

What's the Latest Development?

In the almost-two years since HealthTap launched, the service has grown to offer its users affordable medical advice from thousands of physicians via its mobile app or its Web site. Questions that are 150 characters or less are answered for free, while longer questions cost only 99 cents, which goes to charity. Answers to many questions already reside in a database, which is also free to use. The service also helps doctors who want to grow their practice and take better advantage of online technology. A built-in ratings system, Docscore, can boost a doctor's online reputation with users as well as with peers.

What's the Big Idea?

CEO Ron Gutman says that HealthTap helps bring doctors into the digital age while they continue to fulfill their mission of serving patients. As for the users themselves, he believes HealthTap's real moment will come "when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act comes online and up to 40 million previously uninsured Americans -- now able to get insurance from health insurance exchanges -- start searching for doctors." Despite its success, the service has yet to turn a profit, and part of that has to do with avoiding ads. "We decided not to [include ads] to preserve an excellent user experience and doctor experience," Gutman says.

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