HealthTap Positions Itself for Rush of Obamacare Patients in 2014

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lower the costs of those interactions by two-thirds, saving $80 billion a year. That’s enough to support HealthTap and a lot of other startups.

“If you reduce those costs by 66 per cent, you make the insurance companies happier, the government happier, the taxpayer happier, the doctor happier because they can manage more patients efficiently, and most importantly you make the patient happier,” since they’ll presumably get their question answered faster, Gutman says.

It’s not clear which players in the complex world of healthcare and healthcare payments will be the first to see the wisdom of investing in a new digital platform for doctor-patient communication. “Who exactly will pay for it, I agree, is to be determined,” Gutman says. “But what we are saying is that HealthTap will let them pay less than they would otherwise pay.”

A few big healthcare providers—including Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, the two largest non-profit health systems in Northern California—already have their own online patient portals where doctors can post lab results and exchange messages with patients securely.

But while these companies “have the vision,” in Gutman’s view, “they don’t execute well….they don’t know software.” Healthcare providers should “concentrate on what they do really well, which is providing care and making patients better, and we need to focus on building software that will enable interactions between doctors and patients,” he says.

HealthTap is betting that if it can win the trust and loyalty of enough doctors and consumers now, health systems will be willing to pay for its services in their hour of need—which could come in about 300 days.

“We need to think of how we are going to take care of 30 million more people, when we cannot build more hospitals or open more medical schools that fast,” says Gutman. “Technology has traditionally been good at creating a pressure valve to take care of some of the extra demand.”

Below: I couldn’t resist including a video of this fish-shaped, remote-controlled mini-dirigible, which adds a bit of levity to HealthTap’s bustling Palo Alto office.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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