According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 percent of patients walk out of a physician’s office not knowing what they were told or what they are supposed to do. Orca Health is trying to fill in the blanks for patients between doctors appointments with their suite of patient education apps. The company aims to give healthcare professionals a better way to educate patients on their conditions, while also allowing patients to educate themselves using a suite of 11 condition-focused iOS apps. The company’s apps include several health-focused apps, and today they’re beta launching their Find A Specialist service, which helps patients connect with specialists around the world.
Orca Health founder Matt Berry’s father is a surgeon, and inspired him to start the company after a discussion about healthcare issues he came across in his practice. “At that point the iPad was brand new, and I said I think there are ways we can create a very engaging experience for your patients, so they can learn about their condition, remember it, share it, and download it if they have any other questions,” Berry said. He built the SpineDecide app, which he said was a hobby at first, but when it shot to the top of the iTunes App Store for nine straight weeks he reconsidered the potential of the apps, and decided to recreate that model for other conditions.
Orca Health’s Decide line of apps include SpineDecide and EyeDecide, which was named the Best Medical app by Apple in the 2011 U.S. iTunes App Store Rewind. Each app is developed by board-trained specialists, who maintain full-time practices but contribute medical images, annotations, condition and symptom information, and give treatment recommendations based on best practices. Certain apps like EyeDecide have augmented reality features, so patients can see what it would be like to live with a specific condition, and the apps also provide a directory of specialists based on a patient’s location. The apps range in price from $1.99 for iPhone to $4.99 for iPad, and the majority of them were released in September 2011. Berry recently released several of the apps for free as a promotion, and saw over 600,000 downloads in three days.
Today’s Find a Specialist beta launch capitalizes on the “find a specialist in your area” feature they have in their existing suite of apps. Patients can enter their location and insurance provider, preferred hospital and desired specialty, as well as any tags that help to narrow the search. Users can call or email a specialist once they find one they like, and can recommend them after they’ve received treatment. Each specialist has a devoted profile, where they can list their credentials, the insurance providers they accept, their office locations, and any recommendations they’ve received. Specialists also have the option to upgrade to a pro account, which gives them access to features like custom URLs and additional profile features, and they can promote their accounts and track referrals through the platform. The new Find a Specialist functionality will be integrated into existing Orca Health apps, and will also be available as web and mobile apps. The apps will be free, and Berry said they plan to make money through advertising and pro accounts (which will launch in July).
Berry said Orca’s suite of apps are used by patients and individual physicians in their practices, but are also being used by healthcare professionals in universities and hospitals. “Their patients are more satisfied with the apps, they feel much more comfortable and happier because they understand their condition, they’ve interacted with it, they’ve been entertained by it, and they’ve shared it with family and friends,” Berry said about the app’s use in a university residency program (he couldn’t divulge which one they’re working with, since the trial hasn’t been completed). He said their growth to date has been mostly organic, but Berry said they recently started actively pursuing partnerships with a few institutions, which he declined to name.
Right now Orca’s suite of apps are only iPad and iPhone compatible, though Berry said they will be “device-agnostic” at some point in the future. The team will be presenting their most recent app KidsDental at the Launch Education & Kids conference in June, before debuting Find a Specialist as an Android and iOS app in early July. The platform is in testing with existing partner physicians and healthcare specialists prior to the public launch. As we’ve reported before, there are many startups that are attempting to improve physician workflow, and to help patients better understand their diagnoses. Orca’s comprehensive suite of apps is resonating with patients and providers alike, and their future growth will likely depend on international expansion and adding more institutional partners.