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Physician at your fingertips? There’s an app for that!

logo for Health Tap ExpressAs noted on the iMedicalApps blog, the folks at healthTap.com have released a pair of apps — one for patients, the other for physicians — that will allow patients to directly contact an expert physician right from their smartphone for free. As the healthTap website describes this two-flavored HealthTap Express puts

“5,000 doctors at your fingertips”­– with no waiting room, no copay, anytime, anywhere – for free! It lets people get answers to any health question from thousands of America’s best doctors, at home or on the go, and gives doctors a Virtual Practice, where they answer real patient questions in real time, helping build their reputation, attract new patients and improve the quality of care.

What’s in it for doctors participating in this network? iMedicalApps points out that physicians

participate on HealthTap to better serve existing patients and connect with potential new patients, all whilst demonstrating their expertise and commitment to helping people everywhere. In addition, they can build a social media presence – something many current physicians struggle with, yet is going to be increasingly important to building and maintaining patient panels.

What about the issue of liability? The terms of service clearly state:

While HealthTap Medical Experts do not practice medicine on or through HealthTap, they can be a resource for reliable, relevant general health information.

And:

HealthTap is not a doctor and the use of HealthTap does not create a doctor-patient relationship. HealthTap contains content, and may help you identify services or may offer services. Everything on the Site, including Content accessed or Services provided through HealthTap, are for your information, and should be used for informational purposes only. This means that Content and Services are not a substitute for medical advice from your physician (from the Terms of Use page).

While the concept is appealing, it remains to be seen if HealthTap Express will meet its lofty goals. If physicians want to “build a social media presence,” it is not clear how this app will interact with Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites. And will physicians remain available 24/7 on an ongoing basis without clear financial compensation?

Healthcare consumers (i.e. patients) would do better to bookmark the mobile version of MedlinePlus, and use it to search for information on their condition first, in order to be more fully informed when speaking to a medical professional.

Are you a patient or physician who has tried HealthTap Express? What are your experiences with this app & service? Tell us!

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