I tried a doctor’s appointment over video chat and here’s what happened

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By Nina Cusmano

Like many college students, I’m not the best at allotting time to focus on my health. So, this weekend I finally did. I scheduled an appointment with a physical therapist to discuss exercise and nutrition, at a time and place I never would have expected.

On Sunday at 9 p.m., I video chatted a physical therapist while sitting on my bed in my apartment.

Through appointment like this, a mobile application called Maven is bringing more convenient health care to women.

The app launched in April and provides health care information that is aimed at women with busy schedules, like mothers who are don’t have time to get themselves (or their kids) to the doctor.

Maven can also benefit college students whose schedules are inconsistent or who may not have a doctor yet in their college town.

The New York Times compared it, and several other apps, to the Uber for doctor house calls. Similar to Uber, after going through a vetting process, nurse practitioners, allied health professionals, mental health providers, physicians, doulas, physical therapists and nutritionists can work for Maven and take appointments at home whenever they chose.

 

Before the appointment

To schedule on the Maven Clinic app, you choose from one of five health fields: general health, nutrition and physiotherapy, family medicine, prenatal and postpartum or mental health. Then profiles of available specialists within that field are listed. You can view practitioners’ history, education, certifications and time availability.

It feels a little like a dating app for your physician.

After selecting the practitioner I wanted to speak to, I had to chose a time. There was pretty much any time available and I found myself wondering, do I leave time to do my hair? Will she notice?

I finally picked a time and booked the appointment for $25 for 25 minutes.

The scheduling process was user-friendly and in the minutes leading up to the appointment I received two notifications to remind me the appointment was approaching.  

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Student Body Magazine writer Nina Cusmano video chats with physical therapist Adrienne Salvagni on the Maven mobile app.

During the appointment

So, at the time of my appointment, I settled onto my bed and hit “launch.”

Physical therapist, Adrienne Salvagni, instantly appeared and greeted me. Salvagni has been with the app since its launch in April and says she has watched it progress. She went from having just one appointment her first month with Maven to 20 this month.

Video chatting with a stranger about your health while in your pajamas is about as awkward as you would expect. But, after the initial discomfort subsided, I enjoyed the conversation I had. There’s also something a little more comforting about telling a practitioner your problems when you’re both respectively in the comfort of your home.

 

After the appointment

After taking a perfectly awkward screenshot-selfie with Salvagni, I hung up.

Although I got a lot of valuable information about exercise and staying active, I couldn’t help but notice the slight irony about the situation. Our entire conversation about health took place in a way that almost fueled laziness. I didn’t even have to leave my bed.

A few minutes after ending our video chat, Salvagni provided me with a detailed summary of what we talked about for me to reference in the future, including workout routines and advice.  

The physical therapist I spoke to could not prescribe medication, but the clinic does employ medical professionals who are certified to prescribe.

 

The Takeaway

After using this app, I don’t think credibility should be a concern for Maven’s users. Although the vetting process Maven uses for its practitioners is not explicitly listed on their website, there is such a large number of practitioners available to Maven’s customers that it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that meets your individual needs.

Overall, I think using apps to obtain health information or advice should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and people should take into account their personal preference to determine whether or not this kind of service suits them.
Based on my experiences, women seeking medical advice for conceiving or mental health would probably benefit the most from this service. For mental health I think the laid-back, comforting setting of being in your own home would help create a more successful appointment than at a mental health clinic in person. Although the convenience factor is definitely a huge benefit to using services like these, it is important to remember that apps like Maven should not replace an emergency or specialty doctor.

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