The Doctor Will See You Now: Pager Reimagines House Calls for the 21st Century

Aug 22, 2014

Sometimes, technology has a funny way of propelling us forward with ideas from the past. That’s certainly the case with Pager, a new company whose app enables users to schedule in-home appointments with physicians.

Currently available in New York City, Pager connects qualified physicians with people of all ages. The service was conceived by a handful of tech impresarios, including Oscar Salazar, who helped build the prototype app for Uber, the ubiquitous ridesharing company most recently valued at $17 billion.

Salazar and his fellow co-founders developed the idea behind Pager after identifying what they saw as blatant inefficiencies within the healthcare system, Toby Hervey, the company’s head of strategy, says. They then began thinking about how they could use technology to address those problems.

“As the founding C.T.O. of Uber, one of our founders, Oscar Salazar, had seen first-hand the opportunity to create efficiency in a traditionally fragmented, out-of-date market using mobile-first, location-based technology,” Hervey explains. “The team was also inspired by the ubiquity and impact of existing house call services in Europe, where house calls remain a viable and important part of the health care system.”

Pager effectively bridges a gap that has long existed between physicians and their patients, Hervey says. In doing so, it’s become popular among a wide array of users, including people with children and the elderly. For these groups, in particular, Pager represents a breakthrough in patient care, saving immobile patients and their caregivers, for instance, from having to drudge to a healthcare center whenever they encounter a medical setback.

“So far, we've seen strong initial interest from parents concerned about their sick kids, busy professionals not willing to take the time to leave the office to get care, travelers who lack access to their regular doctor, and caretakers looking for urgent, episodic care for their elderly relatives,” Hervey says. 

Pager currently charges users $199 for a daytime doctor’s visit; on the weekends and in the evenings, that price increases to $299. While not inexpensive, Pager is not merely looking to appeal to wealthy consumers, Hervey says.

The company is, moreover, in talks with various insurance providers to help offset the cost to its customers, CNN reports. If it’s able to forge such agreements, patients could feasibly have a doctor visit them in their homes and pay roughly the same price that they do under today’s prevailing outpatient model.

“Pager's vision is to provide access to high-quality care for all, not just the concierge medicine crowd,” Hervey stresses. “We can help make existing providers and healthcare systems more efficient and personalized in their care delivery, for every patient they serve.” 

Given the potential impact it could have on all kinds of patients, Pager has seen its user base expand rapidly since it launched this spring, Hervey points out. Yet it’s not just sick people who have helped the fledgling company grow, he adds. 

“All of our recruitment has been through organic, referral-driven word of mouth, and from people hearing about us and being excited about what we're doing,” Hervey says. “We have doctor applications rolling in every day.”

Having a talented pool of applicants, Hervey says, is crucial to ensuring its future success. Pager only works with board-certified doctors, meaning physicians who have voluntarily sat for and passed a specialty-specific exam administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties (A.B.M.S.). Achieving board certification is not a requirement for practicing physicians, the A.B.M.S. stresses, but rather indicates that they have met “nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience, and skills.” 

As Pager continues to attract users, its executive team is perfecting its business model and focusing on the future. Having encountered such a positive response in New York, the startup is eying a number of additional markets, Hervey says.

“In 2015, we'll be rolling out to new cities,” he says. “The short-list includes Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami.” 

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