Gaspard de Dreuzy grew up in a France where home visits from the doctor were the rule rather than the exception. Unsurprisingly, sick patients are better off sitting comfortably in bed rather than spreading germs around a busy waiting room.
So, in 2013, de Dreuzy teamed up with Oscar Salazar, the designer of Uber, to try to revive the home doctor visit for the 21st century. Along with early stage investor Philip Eytan, the trio founded Pager, the doctor on demand app, that promises to have a medical expert at your doorstep within two hours anywhere in the five boroughs of New York.
“Ultimately it’s all about using technology to create better access to healthcare for everybody”, Toby Hervey (pictuered left), Pager’s VP for Expansion told Built In NYC.
Users sign in to the iOS or web app and input their symptoms (an Android app is planned but not in the immediate future). They’re then matched with one of Pager’s doctors and nurses who will call them. Twenty percent of the time the problem can be solved over the phone, but if not the doctor will be on the user’s doorstep within two hours.
Patients pay the healthcare professional and get a full itemized receipt which they can then submit to their healthcare provider for reimbursement. The core business is for urgent care, but not in need of emergency care.
There is a flat fee of $200, whether you get 10 stitches or a strep test. This pricing is very competitive with urgent care centers in New York which typically charge $130 or $140 for walking in the door and then add on for every treatments after that. The first appointment costs just $50 and if a phone call is sufficient you’ll only ever be charged $25.
A partnership with Zipdrug also means that prescriptions can be delivered free of charge — you pay the same price as you would at your local pharmacy and the drugs will come to you.
“The goal is to get patients the most clinically effective care, but in the most cost effective setting, without exacerbating all of the massive problems with spending in healthcare in this country," Hervey said.
Currently Pager operates as an out of network provider, but the plan is to eventually go in network so patients will only be charged the same copay as they would incur at their doctors’s office.
Hervey was the first employee to join the three founders and said there were a number of reasons for setting up in New York.
All the founders were living in the city and were entrenched in the NYC tech scene through previous companies (Hervey had been an early employee at Gilt).
But more importantly, New York was the perfect testing ground for the service. “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere,” Hervey said. “The regulatory environment is one of the things that kills digital healthcare startups more than anything else.” The team knew that if they could prove the model worked with New York’s strict regulation, then the model could be easily transferred to other cities.
The app launched in May 2014, has treated more than 5,000 patients in its first year and is on course to smash that number next year.
Pager raised a $14 million series A funding round in July, which included the backing of Ashton Kutcher, and the company has grown to around 40 people.
Last week, a partnership was announced which will steer every visitor to a Duane Reads or Walgreens website or app towards Pager. Pager is also partnering with Evolution, the on-demand arm of healthcare giant EnVision.
Pager currently operates with about 40 doctors in New York and 20 in San Francisco, but this deal could bring Evolution’s 31,000 healthcare professionals across the country into the service. The new doctors will be start coming on board in Q1 2016 and Hervey couldn’t have been more understated when he said: “The implications for scale are very exciting.”
Images via Pager