Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Dr. Chrono Tries to Make Healthcare Apps Go Viral

The Latin word “v?rus” means slime or poison, and the English “virus” has for much of its history been applied to medical infections. More recently, “viral” has been used to describe the spread of computer attacks, which likely led to its current usage for other phenomena that propagate quickly across a network, like silly cat videos. Now, a paperless medical records and communication start-up called Drchrono is trying to bring the term back to medicine.

I spoke with Drchrono co-founder Daniel Kivatinos this week about the company’s next step, which he said will be an iOS app for patients to store their health insurance and personal information, so they can easily transmit it to doctors. “PatientPad” is planned for release in about two months.

Drchrono already has an app for doctors that helps them track patients’ appointments, records, photos and videos and prescriptions. It is used by about 1,600 doctors, who pay monthly fees for premium features like phone support, speech-to-text and notifications.

The intent for the free “PatientPad” app is to connect to all sorts of personal monitoring device APIs directly to doctors, so a user can control all of his or her medical communications. Patients can use the system independently of whether their doctors use the existing Drchrono app (assuming their doctors will accept such information electronically).

But breaking into the medical industry is hard. Drchrono isn’t even trying to get hospitals to adopt its apps–instead, it’s looking to single-doctor practices. The 2.5-year-old company has moved from New York City to Mountain View, Calif., in part to raise funding.

Kivatinos said he hopes to bring a scrappy consumer market sensibility–honed through participation in the Y Combinator program–to healthcare. Getting doctors on board may require a sales team, but helping patients avoid filling out those annoying paper forms and faxing in records may be something that spreads more easily.

In reality, storing personal records is unlikely to be highly viral, but it may get the word out among patients who then tell their doctors to try Drchrono’s other apps.

Other upcoming PatientPad features, said Kivatinos, may include real-time FaceTime video chats with doctors and emergency doctor searches, where users can trigger an SMS to see who is available and at what price when they need assistance at night or on a weekend.

Kivatinos also has another distribution trick up his sleeve, and it has more to do with timing and circumstance than being scrappy: Pending certification, Drchrono apps will make participating U.S. physicians eligible for $44,000 in economic stimulus incentives for adopting electronic health records.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald