In 2014 while in San Diego at a medical conference, I came down with a hacking cough that only kept getting worse. On the second night I developed chest pain and unable to sleep, anxious and worried. Was the chest pain related to the cough that would not go away or was it angina? Was the cough due to flu or was it lung cancer? I am a practicing gastroenterologist, but early in my career, I had logged over 3000 hours in ER and Urgent Care. I found myself on the other side of the healthcare equation.
I checked out an online symptom checker and concluded that it was likely the flu and that the hacking cough had resulted strained the rib cage. I still couldn't go to sleep. I wanted objective and confirmatory data such as EKG and Chest X-ray. Where should I go? Driving to the hotel, I had seen a hospital sign. There must be a hospital and hence a ER somewhere in the vicinity. I googled ER and also urgent care and came across a few in the vicinity. But no other data such as wait times, ratings, or save a spot. That same evening I had used yelp to find a restaurant and wished for a yelp for urgent care and ER. 2 years later a group of us have put together www.Care52.com which is akin to 'yelp' and 'opentable' for urgent care and Emergency Room.
The prototype has been built and is live at www.care52.com. Several work flows related to booking requests, updates and asynchronous patient facility communication have been incorporated. We have also figured out work arounds several issues such as transmission of requests, maintaining patient privacy etc.
Current challenges include a) obtaining wait times in realtime, b) memorandum of understanding with facilities (hospitals and urgent care facilities) to hold a spot for our users.
Once fully functional, we expect this to be a killer app with several social benefits. These include a reduction of unnecessary visits to the Emergency Rooms alleviating overcrowding that often impact care of those in urgent need of emergency services, cost savings for both insurers/payors and self paying patients related to unnecessary and expensive ER care.
Ongoing challenges include enhancing the app, ensuring accuracy of data-points, agreements with facilities, SEO marketing and partnerships with channel partners such as travel sites etc.