Pager Expands Its On-Demand Doctor Service By Letting Users Chat With Nurses

Pager isn’t just a doctor-on-demand service anymore.

We’ve mentioned the New York City-based company as part of a broader group of startups aiming to bring doctors to patients’ homes, and to be clear, you’ll still be able use the app to set up medical house calls. Now, however, that’s just one part of a broader experience.

In the new version of Pager, everything gets managed through an interface where you chat with Pager’s on-staff nurses. Once they have a sense of what you need, they can identify the medical provider and level of service that makes the sense for you, whether it’s a remote “telemedicine” session with a doctor, a house call or a visit to the hospital.

As part of the shift, Pager is shutting down in San Francisco, at least temporarily, so that it can focus on refining the model in New York.

Walter Jin, founding partner at healthcare firm Three Fields Capital, recently joined Pager as chairman. He said the company has the potential to address “the cost inefficiency that exists in the healthcare system today” by doing a better job of matching patients with the appropriate level of healthcare.

Jin noted that in the current system, many people go to the emergency room regardless of what’s wrong with them, which is “the most expensive form of care available.” With Pager, nurses can help you figure out the specific level of care you need — you shouldn’t end up visiting an expensive specialist unless it’s really necessary.

Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Oscar Salazar added that Pager decided to focus on chat, because that was already one of the main ways users wanted to connect with medical providers in the previous version of the app.

“What we notice is for urgent care, people don’t necessarily stop their lives to get care,” Salazar said. “They do it when they find time in the middle of their busy day” — and chat, of course, is a great format for that.

This is probably a good time to mention that Pager is focused on urgent care. The term sounds, um, urgent (sorry), but it’s used in a medical context to distinguish from real emergencies. Put another way: If you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t use Pager, dial 911.

The standard pricing for Pager includes free chats, $25 for a tele-consultation and $200 for an in-person visit. (The service currently counts as an out-of-network provider for insurance purposes.) Pager is also working with businesses to provide the service to their employees, and it will be expanding its reach through a partnership with Envision Healthcare.

Pager raised a $14 million Series A from New Enterprise Associates and Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures last year.