DialNurse Gives Public New Medical Choice – Arizona Republic
By Maria Polletta | On November 19, 2013: As a father of twin girls who arrived 15 weeks prematurely, there’s not much Mesa tech guru Gunjan Goel hasn’t seen when it comes to dealing with pediatricians, doctors and health insurance.
“The first thing is the quality of health care here in the U.S. is much more reliable than it is in other parts of the world, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “But the affordability of health care is not something we do well.
“The second thing is accessibility. … If you get sick at strange hours at night or on weekends, usually your only options are emergency rooms,” he said. “The third thing is coverage. When you’re a traveler, what do you do? Not get sick outside of state boundaries? Typically, coverage is only for emergencies. Those are the missing links in the chain.”
A little more than a year ago, Goel combined his technology background with a desire to address those missing links and co-founded DialNurse. The east Mesa-based company launched its service in June and now has registered nurses in 43 states providing medical consultations over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in English and Spanish.
The consultations, which cost $27.99 each, focus on non-emergency conditions that can be treated with over-the-counter drugs or at-home remedies.
“We don’t want to replace a PCP (primary-care provider), a specialist or an ER,” Goel said. “That infrastructure has value for the right reasons. The thing is, you don’t necessarily have to go to an ER every time something happens. In a lot of cases, people already have the right medications in their homes. They just don’t know what to take or what combination to take.”
Customers have to pay before receiving advice, but DialNurse typically refunds the charge if the triage desk that directs the call determines the person should go straight to an ER, Goel said.
If the customer speaks to a nurse who decides the caller should see a primary-care provider or specialist the next day, the money is not refunded.
Goel and his wife, the company’s chief financial officer, considered several factors when deciding on the $27.99 fee, which applies regardless of whether a caller has insurance.
“When it comes to speaking to a doctor, people still often want to see someone face-to-face, so if I offer a service like this and then charge $50 or $60, (a customer) might choose to bite the bullet, wait until the next day, go to a minute clinic,” Goel said. “We priced it where people should be able to afford it and it becomes a no-brainer. Even if you’ve got good insurance, your co-pays are going to be around $30, $35, $40 today.”
About 500 calls have resulted in paid consultations since June, Goel said. Some are pediatric calls, although many parents have kid-specific hotlines they use. Single men and students make up a significant chunk of callers.
Ultimately, Goel hopes to capitalize on the popularity of mobile technology to offer a more detailed monitoring service for certain health conditions, in addition to DialNurse’s current product.
“We really want to give people tools using the technology that a lot of us are already getting in our smartphones, so they can manage and monitor, for example, diabetes, blood pressure, weight issues,” he said. “Imagine you’ve got a blood-pressure monitor at home and other kinds of devices. We want to be able to communicate with them through our mobile platform, capture that information and educate the consumer a little bit more.”