Doctors On Demand: Would You Use an Uber for Doctors?


What if seeing a doctor could be easy as getting an Uber? Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center Adam Thierer looks at one of the newest innovations on the free-market frontier of health care. Doctors are making real house calls arranged by new smartphone apps. Would you use an app like this to see a doctor in your own home? Should an “Uber for Doctors” app be regulated by the government?

“Uber, Airbnb, & Feastly vs Government Regulation” (video): Professor Chris Koopman explains how the sharing economy connects people to provide services and solve problems.
Permissionless Innovation (book): Adam Thierer explains how if the “precautionary principle” (the idea that innovators should be forced to seek the approval of public officials) trumps “permissionless innovation” (the concept that innovators should generally be free to experiment with new technologies and business models) the result will be fewer services, lower-quality goods, higher prices, diminished economic growth, and a decline in the overall standard of living.
America’s Health Care System (online program): In this Learn Liberty On Demand program, distinguished scholars break down the problems with America’s health care system, look at what has caused these problems, and propose what we can do to produce better health for more people at lower cost, year after year.

>> Wouldn’t it be great if seeing a doctor was as quick and easy as calling an UBER? In some places it is. New companies are now allowing patients to use an app to order a doctor for their home as simply as they order a ride. Thanks to innovations in technology and the sharing economy, the old fashioned house call which had become a luxury that only the richest could afford, could be making a comeback for average patients.
This means personalized services that work around your schedule. No waiting weeks for an appointment, or missing classes or work because you had to take public transit to a doctor’s office, or wait for hours in the. Importantly, it could also mean getting better care. Doctors report that these services give them more time to focus on the patient and to practice real medicine again.
New health services like these are emerging because entrepreneurs and business people had the freedom to experiment with new ways to serve customers. As these start-ups have be gotten off the ground, they weren’t stopped at every stage by government regulations and bureaucracy. They had freedom to innovate which is key not only to our economic growth but to our well-being.
I call it permission-less innovation because this innovation doesn’t have to seek approval or get a license at every step in order to move forward. Instead, innovation can be rapid and responsive to current needs. The Wright Brothers never asked anyone if they could build a plane, and Steve Jobs didn’t ask permission to build the iPhone.
But this engine of growth and progress is often threatened. On-demand doctors making house calls have been allowed so far, but their competitors, offering more affordable services via webcam, known as telemedicine have not been so lucky. With some states imposing strict regulations on such services. While done in the name of public safety, such restrictions actually mean fewer services, higher prices, and reduced access to care.
If we would to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care for all we need to let that health care sector follow the example of Silicon Valley. And allow innovation. New ideas and competition to flourish. On demand house calls could be just the beginning.