FirstLine's app will send a doctor in person if call, text, video isn't enough

By Aditi Pai
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FirstLineSan Francisco-based FirstLine Medical has launched its doctor consultation service, called FirstLine, available via iPhone app. The offering allows patients to call, text, or video chat with a doctor, similar to other doctor consultation offerings, but FirstLine goes one step further -- if users choose, they can also request a doctor to make an in-person visit to their home or office.

FirstLine is backed by e.ventures and Great Oaks Venture Capital.

The app launched a beta in late 2014. FirstLine CEO Bryan O'Connell told MobiHealthNews that already the app has more than 20,000 users.

O'Connell said he wants the app to eliminate waiting rooms and added that for some patients, it could even take the place of a primary care doctor.

"We have two user groups," O'Connell explained. "One is generally aged 18 to 27, doesn’t have a primary care doc, might have an OBGYN if she’s female, but doesn’t have a primary care doc. We can absolutely be the full replacement. We can do labs, we can do referrals, we can do whatever you need. And then our next major group is moms and families aged 28 to 35 or 40. And those guys really just value the convenience and will probably have [the service] in addition to the regular primary care doc. The mom doesn’t want to drag two kids down to the waiting room. So for some people its supplemental and for some it can be a total replacement."

Labs that doctors can take when they visit the patient include blood work, urine analysis, and swabs. 

Patients pay a one-time initiation fee of $25 and after that, the service costs $15 per month, which includes access to phone, video chat, and text message consultations. The consultations are available between 8 am and 10 pm. If users want an in-person doctor visit, they are charged $199 and the wait time is about an hour. The company said they plan to reduce the fee to less than $100 for most consultations in the future.

The service, according to FirstLine, is ideal for non-emergency health issues, including the flu, a sore throat, food poisoning, constipation, STD treatment, travel medication, women’s health issues, and skin conditions.

The doctors are not employed by FirstLine. O'Connell explained that it’s similar to an Uber model and all the doctors are independent contractors.

"Some of them work at the ER which is a very high stress environment, in fact many of them do, so they really like the less stressful way to make incremental money with FirstLine," he said. "One of our providers, she just had a baby, and she wants to spend time at home with her child. Another provider, her kids are a little bit older, but she just left her full time job and now she is really only doing FirstLine for the next couple months with a couple of in person shifts here and there to stay sharp. But FirstLine is becoming her primary source of income. So we see people basically who value the flexibility that we offer."

The offering virtual and in-person services will be rolled out at different speeds. O'Connell said the company wants to offer FirstLine's virtual services to 50 percent of the US by the end of the year. The in-person services will expand at a slower rate -- starting with the Bay Area, then to Boston, and then to other major cities.