(The Root) — In a recent survey, 57 percent of respondents said that they turn to the Internet for medical questions. And of that group, a whopping 65 percent trust the information they find online.
With so many people using WebMD and other online resources to self-diagnose medical conditions, there is always the risk of misdiagnosis or the possibility that appropriate medical treatment won't be received. The HealthTap app aims to reduce that risk by ensuring that you get your online medical information from an actual licensed medical professional.
Online or on your mobile device, HealthTap gives you free access to a network of more than 14,000 physicians nationwide. You ask a public question and get a public answer from a real doctor, sometimes within minutes. Each doctor has a DocScore that rates him or her on a scale from 1 to 100 and shows how active the physician is on HealthTap and how frequently other doctors agree with his or her advice.
Depending on their DocScore, doctors earn badges like the Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable Award that help them get to expertise levels such as "elite," "cum laude" and "distinguished." There are also social media aspects to HealthTap, allowing you to follow specific doctors or topics of interest. An activity feed on the home screen updates regularly with patient queries and the doctors' responses.
For $9.99, users can ask a private question to a specific doctor, even uploading pictures or medical records if necessary. There is also a way to schedule an appointment with a particular doctor. HealthTap does stress that none of the online advice you receive constitutes an actual diagnosis, and physicians are not permitted to write prescriptions through the service.
Obviously, there is no substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a medical professional. But for someone who may not have any health care coverage, it doesn't hurt to get a free or low-cost first, second or fifth opinion. What do you think? Would you use HealthTap? The HealthTap app is free for the iPhone, iPad and Android.
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