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Tokyo-based medical ISV (independent service vendor) ShareMedical announced on Thursday their partnership with Fast Doctor, a company that provides night time in-home doctors visits, to begin offering a smart house call service in central Tokyo and its adjacent Chiba prefecture. ShareMedical is developing an mobile app geared for patients who wish to use this service, and plans to make it available from August.
ShareMedical was founded in September of 2014 by Yoshimasa Mine. Prior to it he was involved in launching Japanese hospital search portal QLife before. The company has released mobile apps such as a messaging tool called MediLine and a medical term-optimized IME (input method editor) called Ikotoba. The MediLine app supports efficient and safe communication among physicians of medical institutions focused on house calls, as electronic medical record systems and portable medical examination machines are spreading owing to the development of various technologies including communication. It is easy to use via a smartphone, so perhaps describing it as the “Medical Version of Line” is most understandable.
For regular workers it is most common to take a day off from work to be examined by a doctor at a hospital. When it is impossible to take time off, people seek medical institutions that offer nighttime treatment or rely on hospitals that have an emergency outpatient clinic; but, it is important to keep in mind the limited number of human resources in medical care when visiting the emergency room for issues that are not urgent. The accounting departments of hospitals are often closed at night, and it is sometimes necessary to pay extra cash in advance with the return to be settled at a later date; and, if there is no medical institution open in your neighborhood, it would be also difficult to secure transportation.
ShareMedical is aiming to begin, in a sense, the “Medical Version of Uber”. Users can register their credit card and health insurance information in advance on the app and request a doctor to visit when necessary. A driver takes the doctor on the house call so if first aid is necessary, the patient can communicate with the doctor until their arrival.
In this partnership, Fast Doctor will provide a network of house call doctors while ShareMedical will be responsible for providing a user experience that attracts prospective patients. According to the law, doctors are permitted to visit areas within a 16-kilometer radius from where the hospital is located; and to start with, ShareMedical’s service area will be a part of the central Tokyo and its adjacent Chiba prefecture centering on the offices of Fast Doctor. In the future, they are planning to increase the medical institutions and related facilities participating in this network, and to expand both ShareMedical and Fast Doctor’s services nationwide.
ShareMedical plans to undertake the reception processes of calculating the payments for medical services, as well as keeping track of medical fees and expenses, in addition to taking the medical clerical work off the hands of doctors. Due to the limitations of the law, it is not possible to put the data or processing related to the reception in the cloud, making it necessary to set up a server containing medical information at the medical institution. In the future, ShareMedical has plans to set up a BPO (business process outsourcing) center with qualified medical coding specialists and make it possible to respond by remote login. In fact, medical institutions and related facilities that participate in the above-mentioned network would not each have to have qualified individuals for medical affairs, so (even if they have medical equipment) they are not medical institutions with installed facilities, thus the birth of the “freelance house call specialists”.
This new business opportunity is convenient for doctors working in public hospitals and trainees that do not necessarily have a large income. In the daytime, they can work their day job at the university hospital or clinic, and at night they can adopt an on-call work style, so their degree of freedom is higher than doctors who work the night shift. A subsequent income is another merit. Because they are limiting the provision of services to only night visits, the risk of competing with the traditional medical institutions and practitioners in the market has also been minimized. This also eliminates the concern of being labeled a “threat” by the medical association and other stakeholders.
A glance at companies in the field of smart house call services in the US includes Stat in Philadelphia, Heal in Los Angeles, and Pager in New York. At last month’s World Health Day, Uber announced UberHEALTH which allows users to conduct a diabetes examination and thyroid function test during a house call.
ShareMedical raised funds in December of 2015 from Slogan Coent (amount undisclosed), and in November of 2016 raised 50 million yen (about $440K US) from leading medical and nursing HR matching company Tsme.
Translated by Amanda Imasaka
Edited by Masaru Ikeda