HealthTap enables (dare I say it?) the Uberization of medical response

Describing companies as being the "Uber of x" has become the cliche du jour. But sometimes the term is justified.

sos help emergency
Credit: iStockphoto

The great thing about Uber and other on-demand services is that they flex according to demand (and, yes, I do realize that is a fairly self-evident statement). Take an available pool of resource and an ever-changing demand and join the two via a flexible platform and you should have a way to deliver better outcomes for all concerned. It's the reason that Amazon Web Services, Uber, Airbnb and countless other demand-based services have flourished.

But it's also happening in other areas that one wouldn't expect. In December, the southern Indian city of Chennai was hit by severe flooding. The repercussions were major as contaminated water supplies raised serious health risks. If you're a big employer in Chennai, you have some moral, if not some legal, obligation to do as much as you can to help your staff.

But that's hard to do when everyone is scrambling and when most of the people who can help are busy helping themselves or others. This is the situation that Flex, a Fortune 500 company with a significant employment footprint in Chennai, was in. As a caring employer, Flex wanted to do what it could for its staff but lacked the resources on the ground to do so. Instead, the company turned to HealthTap SOS, a new service from health IT vendor HealthTap.

HealthTap SOS is a tool for population managers -- large multinational corporations, governments and insurance companies -- to offer health and related services to their employees. HealthTap offers real-time supplementary disaster relief via HealthTap's network of 85,000 doctors globally. Via mobile or Web, affected parties can access information or individual advice. In the case of Chennai, Flex employees were able to access doctor-created information personalized for incident-specific health concerns, as well as care via live doctor consultations.

The interesting thing here is the possibility of using HealthTap as a way to augment existing relief resources and processes. By virtually deploying doctor knowledge and expertise to jump-start the relief process, including before local first responders arrive, HealthTap has the potential to improve relief efforts across a range of disaster events -- from natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and tornadoes to man-made disasters such as nuclear accidents, chemical spills or even acts of terror.

A simple case in point from the Flex/Chennai situation: Through its network of doctors, HealthTap provided thousands of residents with information on mitigating the spread of Leptospira, a potentially harmful bacteria often found in stagnant pools of water. Shortly after the disaster, HealthTap and Flex worked together to ensure that an entire population received on-point information about the do's and don'ts of accessing water during a flood: how to use the limited supply of clean water together with sugar to keep hydration levels up, and how to remain safe until access to physical resources became readily available.

Flex seems to be pretty happy about what HealthTap enabled it to achieve as well.

"We are so thankful for HealthTap's speed and efficiency," said Paul Baldassari, chief human resources officer of Flex. "We needed to quickly provide thousands of our employees with accessible, easy-to-use information and virtual care, and that's exactly what HealthTap delivered. Access to physical resources was extremely limited, and through HealthTap's proprietary technology and deep domain expertise, we were able to help our employees and their loved ones during an extremely difficult situation. We are proud to partner with HealthTap and support their efforts to bring this much-needed service to population managers around the world."

It may be very much a cliche, but this is one example of Uberization that I can totally relate to.

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