The US spends more on healthcare than any other economically comparable country, but its system is far from among the world’s most prosperous. Issues with the US health system range from a shortage of primary care physicians to old-fashioned health records. Some people in the country also have limited access to birth control and emergency contraception.
However, the emergence of new technologies has given rise to a number of startups attempting to solve the country’s healthcare issues. Smartphones and video calling, for example, are enabling people to speak to doctors remotely, reducing the need for expensive in-person appointments for minor medical issues. According to research by analysis company IHS Markit, doctors will perform an estimated 45.6 million virtual consultations in the US by 2020.
“Telemedicine has been touted as the next big thing for several years, and I think it’s finally getting to a stage where adoption is kicking in,” Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, told Time magazine. Ferguson’s startup is connecting more than 1 million patients with more than 1,000 healthcare professionals across the country.
Meanwhile, other startups are designing ways to democratize concierge medicine. For example, the “Uber for doctor house calls” company, Heal, enables people to arrange for a healthcare professional to visit them wherever they are. “Understanding the home environment and having more time with patients translates to savings for all,” Heal CEO and co-founder, Nick Desai, told Time magazine.
When it comes to minor or routine medical issues, technology may one day remove the need for a human doctor altogether. Seattle-based agency Artefact has created a concept for a self-driving medical clinic. Patients could summon Aim using an app on their smartphones, which would also track their vital health information. Within the roving clinic, an artificial intelligence assistant could perform tests on the patient and an on-board pharmacy would automatically dispense any medication required.