Industry Update
Opinion Article 7 June 2019

A Dog-Eat-Dog Business, Part 10 - The Life of a Hotel Doctor

By Mike Oppenheim, MD

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Oppenheim

My last post reported a housecall service that charged an unbelievably large fee. By an odd coincidence, at about the same time, I came across another new service with an even more unbelievable fee: $99.

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A high-tech startup similar to Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, Heal is clearly the wave of the future. You download its app. If illness strikes, you click on it, enter information, and (according to the web site) a doctor arrives promptly. Business is brisk, its medical director assured me.

With a "medical assistant," driving, Heal's doctors care for acute and chronic illnesses, performing procedures that I don't such as suturing, immunizations, and complete physical exams.

Paying the doctor, driver, staff, and investors at $99 per housecall seemed impossible, but that's what they charged for several years after beginning in 2015. Recently the fee has grown to $149, but that's still far below what we old timers charge. Taxi companies complain bitterly about Uber, and hotels denounce Airbnb, yet both show no signs of fading. Financial acumen is not my strong point, so it's possible that Heal will drive me and my more expensive colleagues out of business.

If so, I'll work for them. Pay is low for most doctors but acceptable to me. Having a driver would relieve a major stress, and I might enjoy not being on-call 24 hours a day. My blog would vanish, but you could read Heal's. It lacks my whimsy, being mostly earnest medical advice and self-congratulations, but for $149 guests should not expect entertaining literary diversions.

Mike Oppenheim

In his regular column "The Life of a Hotel Doctor", Mike Oppenheim shares remarkable stories around visiting hotel guests as a doctor. When he began as a hotel doctor during the 1980s, only luxury hotels had a “house doctor,” usually a local practitioner who did it as a sideline. Nowadays, in a large city even the lowliest motel receives blandishments from a dozen individuals plus several agencies that send moonlighting doctors if they can find one.

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