Can telemedicine visits reduce ER visits by mothers with new babies?
Snap.md, a Los Angeles-based startup, is targeting this market with a new application that will link “worried moms” with pediatricians who work in the emergency departments of well-known children’s hospitals.
Dave Skibinski, a veteran business and marketing strategist for life science companies, described his new company at a November 9 meeting of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) Healthcare Forum. He said the company is planning to go live in early 2013.
Skibinski said his company (which uses the .md domain name) is similar to another successful start-up, DirectDermatology.com, but is targeting a different niche. The typical mother with a new baby visits a physician an average of eight times within the first 12 months of the infant’s birth, he said. Some of these visits are emergency room visits that could be avoided.
He cited a separate study that found that 53 percent of young children who presented at an ER did not actually need emergency services, but could have been treated by a physician or a telemedicine visit.
The unique promise of Snap.md is that users will be connected to a pediatrician who works at a regional children’s hospital ER within 10 minutes on a 24-hour basis.
Skibinski said that during the consultation, the ER doctor will determine whether the parent should take the child to an ER, see their own physician, or treat the child themselves. “Our goal is not to direct the care. If the patient wants to see their own physician or go to a different ER, that’s fine. The point is to avoid an unnecessary visit to an ER,” he noted.
The company is gearing up to enable Internet video consultations, although the service will be available also on an audio-only basis to consumers who don’t have a camera on their computer or mobile device.
The new company will target three categories of parents: those who have no health insurance, those with private insurance, and families on Medicaid. Those with no insurance can pay for an online consultation by credit card, with the fee estimated at $59 to $69. The company is negotiating with health plans and state agencies to be included in their networks. Skibinski noted that a number of CVS walk-in clinics are now included in many private health plans.
Skibinski said his company has already negotiated contracts with children’s hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange County in California and expects to soon add a number of hospitals in other states.
“The challenge is to scale up,” he said, adding that he is hopeful of eventually including some 200 major children’s hospitals around the country in his network.
He noted that currently the majority of most urban children’s hospital patients are on Medicaid. Many of the hospitals are interested in his service because it could provide them with new patients with private insurance, he added.
James Harris is president of WestsidePR.com, a healthcare technology marketing agency.