HealthTap adds app suite, doctor consults via text

HealthTap, which has built a network of 12,000 U.S.-licensed physicians to answer patients' online medical questions for free, has released a new suite of apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and the web.

While co-founder and CEO Ron Gutman said in a statement that the focus of the improvements--which include private consultations with doctors via text messaging for a fee--is not to provide healthcare online, but rather to educate patients, he also told GigaOM that the company was  "bringing the house call back."

"We're connecting you with a real person who's knowledgeable and accessible," he said.

The site allows physicians to create their online brand, and also rates participating doctors based on publicly available information and reviews from other doctors rating their expertise in specific areas.

Patients also can securely store their private personal health record on the site to share as they choose.

Physicians, according to Gutman, won't make diagnoses or write prescriptions.

The company, joining an incredibly hot field for medical questions including startups like Meddik and Symcat, has raised $14 million in venture funding. That includes $11.5 million in December from investors Mayfield Fund, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors.

Patients are incredibly frustrated with the long waits involved in making an appointment or getting general questions answered. A recent Accenture consumer survey found that patients would like more efficient ways to refill prescriptions and manager other aspects of their healthcare themselves.

As Ken Terry pointed out last week, however, face time with physicians is not optional in this high-tech world. Eighty-five percent told Accenture they still want to have face-to-face interactions with their doctors when needed.

To learn more:
- read the press release
- here's the GigaOM article