David Schlager still believes in the concept his York Township-based company launched back in 2001: Quick, convenient care for common illnesses by videoconferencing with a board-certified doctor, who can issue a prescription electronically if necessary.
But although Rapid Remedy currently has about 25,000 participants, it hasn't grown as much as he expected it would. General videoconferencing is more common than ever, health care pressures and prices are greater than ever — but, he says, because it's not insurance, it's still a struggle to get people to consider it.
In the past, Schlager has made his pitch primarily to business owners, trying to convince them the time off work and sick days that Rapid Remedy's easy access can prevent is worth the cost of subscribing for their employees.
Schlager's not giving up on the business owners, but these days he's pursuing some new markets: Colleges, community centers and the wide world of apps.
Nicole L. Borrell, a student at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, is part of a Rapid Remedy pilot program there. She was skeptical at first, she said, but gave it a try when she started having symptoms of an ear infection.
"It was amazing," Borrell said. "The doctor was able to prescribe me the medication I need and send it to the local CVS. It took a total of 15 minutes, much faster than a normal doctor, and I was able to pick up my prescription the very next day. I didn't even need to leave my apartment."
HU President Eric Darr said he expects the university will decide to extend Rapid Remedy services officially to all students.
"It's so cost-effective that the university right now can just offer it," Darr said. And, he added, because HU is a completely wireless university and all the students already have laptops containing cameras, implementing a program like Rapid Remedy is simple.
"We think there's a market in the 18- to 24-year-old age group," Schlager said.
In addition to the convenience factor and the fact they are living on their own for the first time, "they have not yet established their health care patterns in terms of accessing services."
Schlager also thinks community centers might be a good fit, offering Rapid Remedy subscriptions as a benefit of membership.
But what Schlager's most excited about is the prospect of tapping the individual market via apps. One for Android devices is currently available in the Google Play store and another for iTunes is in review.
"We are prepared to go out into the mass market," Schlager said, with a focus on advertising. "If we got 100,000 subscribers in the state of Pennsylvania who paid $10 a month for unlimited access, we'd have a $12 million business right there."
Rapid Remedy's site currently lists the cost of individual subscriptions as $75 for six months, which includes all consultations.
Pittsburgh-based health insurer Highmark Inc. recently announced that it is joining an online dermatology service with Iagnosis Inc.
Iagnosis is based in McMurray, Washington County, and its flagship product is DermatologistOnCall.
"This new process makes it convenient for patients to access care," said Eric Starr, director of business innovation and development at Highmark.
"They will just simply take a photo with a smartphone device or digital camera and then go to the secure website and send the image. Based on the image, the physician can determine if the patient can be treated virtually," Starr said. "This really modifies the workflow of the dermatologist, allowing office visits to be used for the most critical cases."
Starr said the service "is the first of many unique consumer-focused health care products and services" that Highmark's newly created business innovation center has been involved with.
DermatologistOnCall is not an insurance benefit, according to the news release, but a standalone service that will be an out-of-pocket expense for those who use it. The charge has been initially set at $69 per visit.