Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Online Healthcare Innovation Forum: Jay Parkinson, MD,  Founder of Sherpaa, New Breed of Physician Innovator

Sherpa – A member of a people of Tibetan stock living in the Nepalese Himalayas, who often serve as porters for mountain climbing expeditions.
Two days ago, The New York Times  ran a story “The Doctor Is In (Well. Logged in” on Jay Parkinson. MD, CEO and co-founder of Sherpaa, a web site that operates like a virtual physician’s office, examining patients by email, photographs, and text messages, without physically touching them or examining them.
Says Dr. Parkinson, “We’re using the Internet to re-invent health care.”
Well.  Maybe.  Anyway, founded in 2012, Sherpaa now has 8 employees, including two primary care physicians and refers to a network of 100 specialists.  Sherpaa charges $50 a month to each employee of a company and claims it can save companies $4000 a year for each employee.

Sherpaa is aptly named,  for it serves as porter (and a portal) to help patients up that mountain top of virtual medicine.  Dr. Parkinson just might make it.  He certainly has a knack for publicity.  Go to Internet Explorer, and you will find at least 50 entries under his name.  If you’re interested,  you might even want to visit his blog,
My interest in Dr. Parkinson is more than just passing.   Five years ago, when he was in  his Internet  diapers,  I wrote the following blog.

I keep running across MD innovators in their thirties. They want nothing to do with old ways of doing things. Today I spoke to Jay Parkinson, MD, 32 year old founder of a new web program, It debuts in June, 2008. will be an online site allowing doctors and patients to talk to each other. There will be no third party, no doctor’s office, no office staff, no health plan. All patients will need to talk to their doctor will be a personal phone call. Parkinson envisions a mobile neighborhood service. Doctors will make house alls and work calls, whatever is most convenient to patients.

Parkinson is a 32 year old year old who cut his teeth on computers at age 5. He graduated from Washington University Medical School, did a residency in pediatrics, and restricts his practice to the under 40 crowd (average age, 27). His patients come from Gen Y, those under 30. His patients are largely artists, writers, artisans, freelancers, digital media folk and other young professionals in his Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood.

Parkinson regards patients as online pals. They trust him and each other, but tend to distrust those in the medical establishment over 40. Parkinson is big news these days. He’s the cover boy in the most recent issue of Hospital and Health Networks, HH&N, the American Hospital Association’s main publication, “America’s most wired healthcare magazine.” HH&N dubbed him “Dr. IM” (IM is Instant Messaging) on its cover and ran a 2300 word article “Your Future Chief of Staff?” Among the young MD entrepreneurial crowd, that’s an impressive and memorable debut.

Dr. Parkinson is six months into his practice, has 3000 active patients, and makes 8 visits a day to his clients, Half of patients are uninsured and willingly pay his $150 to $200 fee. Parkinson never leaves ZIP code. You communicate with him by email, text messaging, or by cell phone video, not by snail mail.

Dr. Parkinson answers phone calls in person. He says his clients are responsive and comfortable with the convenience of online neighborhood care, and often refer their friends to him.

Gen Y, he asserts, want understandable, transparent, and, above all, convenient care. They seek the same level of service they get from banks and other commercial firms. They don’t balk at online care. They expect it.

When patients need a specialist or a surgeon, or a hospital or free standing clinic, Dr. Parkinson is ready. He has done his homework and knows prices and quality. Of his approach, he says, “Keeping in touch with clients is cool. I think it is quite revolutionary.” is venture backed. This online service will guide patients to a pleasant consumer experience, provide free generic drugs when needed, negotiate discounts from neighborhood merchants, provide personal access to physicians. For doctors, Hello Health will allow provide more freedom, more money, closer patient relationships, and more personal care.

Personally, as someone well beyond 40, of an age where I
may come down at any moment with a chronic disease requiring coordinated comprehensive care, I’m dubious about, perhaps because I may be moving soon towards, or even

Besides, as time passes by, I may have to trust somebody over 30, even over 40. Sir William Osler once said, tongue-in-cheek, that we ought to eliminate everybody over 40 to make health care more efficient. Fortunately, we’re not there yet.

The HH & N article doesn’t restrict its comments on online medicine to Parkinson. It also cites the work of Dr. Allen Wenner, a South Carolina primary care doctor. He developed the Instant Medical History where patients can tell their story using structured clinical algorithms

Dr. Parkinson’s online concept reminds me of the young lad who, after mastering hands-on bicycle riding, lets loose of the handlebars, looks at mother, and yells, “Look, Maw, no hands!” In Parkinson’s case, it’s no office, no staff, no paperwork, and presumably no problems, provided he doesn’t fall off his bike and his patients don’t need to go off-line.

I wish Dr. Parkinson luck. He is a great geek and a fine doctor, and extremely innovative. All cash may be a bit rash, but it might just work, for the young and healthy at least.

Tweet:   Jay Parkinson, MD, CEO and Co-Founder of Sherpaas, beleives the future of Virtual Intenret Healthcare,  has arrived.




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