Online prescriptions for birth control and UTI, bladder infections. Glimpse into future health care.
Women can get online prescriptions for birth control and antibiotics for urinary tract infections (UTIs) or bladder infections from board-certified US doctors as easily as they can reserve time at a restaurant via OpenTable, purchase books via Amazon, or hail a car via Uber. That is what we aim to do with our Lemonaid app (Apple iOS and Android) and website. This kind of hassle-free, worry-free, convenience that we’ve come to expect in travel, banking, and other aspects of our busy lives has finally come to health care.
If we build it, will they come?
That was the question I had when I left my primary care practice at Kaiser Permanente. I had a great time as a practicing primary care doctor building long-term relationships with my patients and working alongside doctors and staff all focused on ensuring that patients get the right care at the right time. During my fifteen years, we witnessed how an integrated prepaid healthcare system using advanced information technology could be the model for the nation. Kaiser patients routinely had the ability to schedule same day appointments with primary care or specialty care doctors as well as the ability to refill prescriptions, book appointments, and email their doctors online. By transforming how care was delivered, Kaiser Permanente became the quality and service leader in California and among the elite in the nation as confirmed by Consumer Reports and JD Power.
Would it be possible to replicate some of the convenience in getting care quickly and easily for simple medical problems?
For most Americans accessing medical care is still a hassle and inconvenient: appointment times that don’t fit their schedule, doctors booked out for weeks and busier than ever, and an inability to email their doctors. Would patients prefer care done in a very different way, on their schedule, whenever and wherever they want it? Could we start with services that focused on simple medical problems which were safe to do? By the time I joined my friend Dr. Jason Hwang, co-author of The Innovator’s Prescription – A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, and colleague Dr. Bonnie Zell, physician leader, health policy expert, IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) fellow, they were completing the two services which would launch: birth control and urinary tract infection (UTI).
Women love getting their birth control and treatment for bladder infections online
Can we provide women the same type of care which is safe and appropriate and yet done in a very different way than a traditional office visit? It turns out for both birth control and treatment of bladder infections the answer is yes. We reviewed various medical references doctors rely on like UpToDate, Dynamed, Prescriber’s Letter, and the American Family Physician to get the latest scientific evidence and updates. We combined that knowledge with the over 30 years of clinical experience of our doctor team to create an app and website that asks the patients the right questions to determine if they can be treated online safely and if we have the right diagnosis. If the answer to both is yes, then we provide a prescription to the pharmacy of the patient’s choosing. If we feel a patient is too ill, has medical issues or symptoms that complicate an accurate diagnosis, we recommend that she seek medical attention with a doctor in person.
So far, the reviews have been stellar. Women love having the ability to refill their birth control medicine online or be treated for a bladder infection online with antibiotics as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so. We check in on patients 3 days after getting antibiotics via HIPAA secure messaging to make sure they are getting better. They can message us anytime if there are questions. All of the messages are handled by the medical team. Women love the convenience and personalized attention.
The future of health care – convenient, hassle-free, worry-free, where you want it, when you want it
As Lemonaid moves beyond the California and Pennsylvania and becomes available to the public in Michigan and New York, the future of health care is increasingly clear. People value convenience and ease of getting care. They know if they have to see a doctor in person to get a cortisone injection in the knee, an abdominal exam to evaluate for appendicitis, or to have a skin spot biopsied, they will do so. But based on the feedback so far, they are very eager and enthusiastic to have other visits done in a different way.
Can we do it?
We certainly have a dedicated team of software, app, and website designers and developers led by an experienced leadership team, which did something similar in England.
As doctors, the challenge for us is to determine what services can be done safely and appropriately online. If you have suggestions, we would love to hear them. Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we are successful over the next few years, how Americans routinely get care will be no different than how they shop, bank, and travel.
We will be all better off for it. What do you think?