Hit With the Flu? There’s an App for That

Alarmed about the country's deadly flu epidemic, Lisa Maciel knew she needed to get her 2-year-old daughter to a doctor when the toddler's eyes began to water and she started to run a fever.

A friend suggested another option: an Uber-like app that sends the doctor to you.

At first, the working mom of three kids didn't know what to expect when she booked an appointment with a company called Heal.com for a pediatrician to pay a house call to the family's home in Hayward.

But when Dr. John Liou, who previously worked as a pediatrician at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, showed up to examine Elyse in the family's living room on a frigid Friday night, Maciel instantly got it.

"It's quick, it's in the comfort of your own home, and you don't expose your child to everyone else in the emergency room,'' she said.

"This, to me, is just great.''

The growing market of on-demand and telemedicine appointments is booming this winter as the flu season continues its rampage. Doctor's offices and hospital emergency rooms are overflowing with flu patients as the death toll from one of the worst flu seasons in more than decade has risen to 74, including 25 in the Bay Area.

But those suffering from less severe symptoms are turning to doctor-consultation apps to avoid the hassle and hold ups of waiting rooms -- and the possibility of catching other bugs.

While Maciel was comforted by a home visit from a pediatrician, despite Elyse crying every time Dr. Liou poked his otoscope into the 2-year-old's ears, patients can also connect with physicians who examine them through video conference calls via computer or smartphone.

"In the last two months, our visit volume has increased by 100 percent,'' said said Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, a San Francisco-based telemedicine...

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