Free Enterprise Staff  | July 27, 2016

Doc On Demand: Meet the Uber for Pediatricians

In New York City, there’s not much you can’t have delivered to your doorstep on demand. Dinner, wine, limos, cleaners, chefs, barbers, dog walkers, drones… they’re all just an app click away if you live in the Big Apple.

Add pediatricians to the list.

Baby Doctor, a new doctor-on-demand application, delivers licensed pediatricians and nurse practitioners to parents’ front doors, day or night. The objective: No more wasted nights in an overcrowded emergency room with a sick child for routine ails like stomach bugs and minor coughs.

The healthcare app connects parents with a doctor or nurse practitioner who specializes in treating infants and children in 60 minutes or less.

“When you have a screaming child, you don’t have the luxury of waiting hours in an ER department until he or she feels better,” Shachar Golan, the startup’s CEO, said in an interview.

Golan and his wife, Dr. Dania Rumbak, launched the company in 2015. The duo created the app after witnessing a friend struggle to find after-hours medical care for his young child.

“He told me that his regular pediatrician’s office closes at 5 p.m., but he found himself always going to the emergency room with his baby for simple things like an ear infection and waiting hours” to be seen by a doctor, Golan said. “I thought to myself, ‘If this is happening to you then it must be happening to other parents.’”

The startup currently has 50 healthcare providers on staff, and Golan says he plans to grow that number and expand outside of New York City to other major urban centers like Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C in the near future. Parents who signup are charged $40 per visit as part of special program that ends August 31, with fees increasing to what is the $200 regular rate afterwards.

Baby Doctor works like a digital doctor’s appointment book. Parents book a vetted professional through the app, who then calls to discuss the child’s symptoms and give an estimated time of arrival. If the health issue sounds like an emergency, the doctor or nurse practitioner will advise the patient to hang up and call 911 immediately.

Once on site, the first thing providers do is check vital signs. If they cross into “emergency territory” they immediately stop the house call, dial 911 and wait for EMTs to arrive, Golan explained.

“We make it clear on our site that we’re not emergency services—we’re not 911 or an ambulance service,” he added.

In addition to providing parents and legal guardians with more convenient pediatric care, the app also deflects unnecessary traffic away from local hospitals, which saves the healthcare system money and frees up doctors to focus on other emergencies. That’s a big win for a health care system that is currently straining to keep up with demand from patients.

A 2010 study published in Health Affairs found that between 13.7 and 27.1 percent of all emergency department visits could be managed at urgent care centers or by urgent care providers. If they were, America’s health care system could save approximately $4.4 billion a year.

“The emergency system in America is really overtaxed,” Golan said. “You have people come to the emergency room unnecessarily, which is what creates the four hours you have to wait when you need help. We have people coming for tummy aches and ear infections, and that’s not what the emergency room is for.”

Baby Doctor has five pediatricians from local children’s hospitals on its board. And while the company is still an infant itself, it has already attracted an impressive group of business investors, including Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman, Anthem CFO John Gallina, and Kirk Kinsell, CEO and president of Loews Hotels.

“It was old-school hustle, perseverance and persistence,” he said of the company’s high-profile investor list. “I didn’t have any personal connection with the CFO of Yahoo. Old-school cold-calling really does work—if you’re really dedicated to your business, you can get other people to believe in your vision.”

While the business is designed to make money by providing urgent care to children he also emphasizes that he’s committed to helping parents feel more comfortable with caring for their children at home.

“Our goal really is to make Baby Doctor the equivalent of the Uber for pediatric care,” he said. “We want to help parents better care for their children in a speedy manner.”