The doctor will see you now (through your smartphone)

Andreas Rekdal

For pediatricians, fielding after-hours questions from concerned parents is an inevitable fact of life.

Although most of us are willing to wait until the next morning to see how our own symptoms develop, many parents feel that the stakes are higher when making those decisions for their children — and then there’s the question of whether someone needs to stay home from work tomorrow.

Chelsea Bodnar, a Chicago-based pediatrician, wants to make late-night consultations better both for doctors and their patients.

“We are living through a paradigm shift where we can provide meaningful, useful information and have clinical encounters with patients without forcing them to come sit in a 12-by-12 room with us,” she said. “I got really excited about what that could mean for getting the right doctor to every kid when they need it.”

Bodnar’s startup, Ohana Pediatrics, is building a digital care delivery platform that will help parents assess whether their child needs a doctor’s appointment, and to get them a video appointment as soon as possible if they do.

In addition to making healthcare more convenient for consumers, Ohana wants to solve some of the biggest challenges pediatric physicians face with the current delivery model: burn-out and compensation.

Due to regulations and reimbursement standards for telemedicine, much of the after-hours work pediatricians do is currently unpaid, said Bodnar. By providing a tool for video consultations, Ohana will let doctors bill insurance providers for the time they spend with their patients.

The platform will also enable doctors to share their after-hours workloads with a trusted network of colleagues. Instead of being available 24/7 in case something comes up, Ohana lets doctors take turns being on call, and has built-in functionalities for communicating important details for when the child’s regular doctor returns to the office in the morning.

“We’ve been working with groups of doctors in some rural states who do a great job providing care to a rural community as maybe one of two pediatricians in a 300-mile radius,” said Bodnar. “With Ohana, they can have a group of 30 trusted pediatricians to work with by night. It’s great for helping them not burn out, and for helping them do a good job for their patients.”

By giving customers a single starting point, Bodnar also hopes to lower the barrier for parents wondering if they need to call a doctor or if it can wait until the morning.

The biggest, and most interesting, challenge to building a telemedicine platform, said Bodnar, is to strike the right balance between user-friendliness and providing doctors with enough information.

“We want to mimic a face-to-face interaction as much as possible,” she said. “How do you create the right welcoming environment and then escalate the reaction in a way that makes the patient feel comfortable, and that gives the provider the necessary information to make clinically sound decisions?”

Ohana is venture-backed, and Bodnar said she already has a number of doctors lined up for its launch. The platform is currently at the working prototype stage, and Bodnar is looking to make some Chicago-based tech hires to bring the development past the finish line.

Images via Ohana Pediatrics and Shutterstock.

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