This App Wants to Make It Easier and Faster to Get a Doctor’s Appointment
If you’ve ever found yourself trying (and failing) to quickly get a medical appointment in the Boston area, the results of a survey by Merritt Hawkins will come as no surprise. Out of 15 major cities, it found, Boston has the longest average new patient wait time, at a brutal 52.4 days.
Can’t wait 50-plus days? A new web-based app called Uberdoc is here to help. The program aims to get patients in to see specialists with minimal wait time and hassle, circumventing the need for a lengthy referral process.
Founder Paula Muto, one of the surgeons behind North Andover’s Mutosurgical, got the idea for Uberdoc after reading about a woman who needed surgery and was referred to an out-of-state provider. The woman wasn’t able to travel, so she Googled nearby orthopedic surgeons, paid a transparent price, and got the help she needed, all by going outside of her insurance.
“She was like, ‘That was great, that was easy, why can’t it be this way?'” Muto remembers. “And why can’t it? Why can’t we go back to a transparent, affordable option for patients to go directly to specialists? And that’s where Uberdoc came from: the idea of simplifying.”
The site currently works with 55 surgical specialists in fields such as neurosurgery, gynecology, pain management, general surgery, and more. They’re all available for express appointments at a flat rate of $300, which patients pay out-of-pocket with either a health savings account or a credit card.
The model is set up for initial appointments with a specialist; after that, all care can go through insurance. Primary care doctors are not part of the program at this point.
“I purposely set the price at a value price,” Muto explains. “I’m asking my doctors, ‘I want you to see this patient and I want you to take less money for this patient—but in exchange, they’ll pay you cash, and you’re going to provide direct access.’ And to a person, every surgeon said, ‘Great idea.'”
Muto says it’s because healthcare has become so complicated, dominated by paperwork and insurance and referrals, that the patient is “no longer the one that’s important.”
“I think that we have evolved a system that is so bureaucratic and cost conscious…that we’ve forgotten about the simple stuff,” Muto says. “I think that because we keep pushing the doctor and patient farther and father apart from one another, and we separate it by layers, that we’ve kind of lost sight of [the patient being important.]”
With Uberdoc—a name meant to evoke a surgeon who is always on call—Muto hopes there’s nothing breaking up doctor-patient access.
Muto says the soft launch has been successful thus far, but she plans to eventually lower the $300 price tag and pull back the curtain on medical expenses even further, as well as expand the area served by Uberdoc. As of now, most of the doctors are stationed in Haverhill, North Andover, Beverly, and North Chelmsford.
“My ultimate goal is that we lower the price for patients. We stop the nonsense. The whole system—make it transparent, stop the silliness,” Muto says. “Just do our job, you know?”