Startups is a new column about new companies, big ideas and bold discoveries happening in the L.A. area.
It's Sunday afternoon, and you've got chest pain. It could be the four Pink's chili dogs you hoovered at 3 a.m. after a night of mezcal and Tecate, or it might be something worse. Your primary-care physician is off on Catalina for the weekend, and you're leery of astronomical emergency-room costs. You've checked every medical website -- even Wikipedia -- to no avail. You need a doctor, but what kind? Where?
Cue RingADoc, the startup telemedicine service that bridges the gap between your paranoia and your primary-care physician. RingADoc soothes your burning question (or burning organ -- eww!) by providing on-call doctors 24 hours a day via phone, smartphone or tablet. Through a phone call or digital face time, you can renew a prescription, double-check your symptoms and get some peace of mind.
RingADoc co-founder Jordan Michaels, a 23-year-old L.A. native, basically wants to fill a niche in a slipshod system that makes real 24-hour medical care far too pricey for most consumers. "We've taken one doctor and made him or her incredibly more efficient," he says. "The fact is, two-thirds of all in-person doctor visits could be solved by a phone call."
As a premed student at USC, Michaels found himself fascinated by the confluence of technology, media and medicine.
He and his co-founder, Dr. David Gonen, partnered with Curious Minds, an L.A.-based idea incubator, to make RingADoc happen.
With their invention, Michaels says, "A lot of the inconveniences associated with an in-person visit, scheduling the appointment ... all of that has pretty much gone out the window ... and you're talking to a doctor in two minutes."
It costs $19.99 per call, and you don't even need to miss work -- unless you really want to.
RingADoc currently serves California with video and audio consultations; it serves patients in 17 states with phone-only consultations.
The company already has enlisted about 2,000 customers, mostly thanks to word-of-mouth, and it hopes to pick up a lot more from an early 2012 marketing push.
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How does RingADoc work in reality? We used the low-tech version and called to inquire about our hypothetical heartburn. Dr. Edwin Ramirez, who answered our call, assured us that we had only a minor case of indigestion. Nothing serious. Phew!
Ramirez has been signed on to RingADoc since day one.
The service's new video feature, functional with iPad's FaceTime, "feels just like Star Trek, or something," he says. "I can interact with a patient in real time, and the patient can see me on the other end."