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The Mayo Clinic's New Doctor-In-An-iPhone

For $49.95 a month, the Mayo Clinic can turn your phone into a personal health concierge.

[Image: Flickr user Jessica Keating Photography]

For approximately $50 a month, the Mayo Clinic is offering unlimited access to the famed hospital's nurses through a smartphone app. The Mayo Clinic partnered with Better, a California-based health technology startup, to launch the new subscription-based app. The app is not covered by insurance but offers real-time, 24/7 health care assistance. Think of it as a mobile WebMD—on steroids.

Along with real-time video chats with Mayo Clinic nurses, the new service also includes personally-tailored health information culled from Mayo Clinic databases, a "symptom checker" that incorporate's individual user's health histories, and access to a personal medical concierge who can provide more information or schedule patients' doctor appointments. The app costs $49.95 a month per household and is compliant with federal health privacy regulations.

"Our culture of learning, innovation, and the desire to find answers has allowed Mayo to remain at the forefront of health and wellness, and we want to extend this expertise to people anywhere," said Paul Limburg of Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions in a press release. "People consistently tell us they want more convenient access to Mayo Clinic knowledge. We collaborated with and invested in Better to create a powerful way for people to connect with Mayo Clinic in their homes and communities, wherever they are."

Concierge medicine could also be a potential new revenue stream for the Mayo Clinic. Fast Company has previously covered New York-based medical concierge service Sherpaa and Oscar, a new health insurer which tailors its products for web and mobile use. Because apps and subscription services are largely outside of the scope of FDA regulations, they are a potential moneymaker for health-minded businesses and entrepreneurs, as the cost of releasing a health-related personal concierge or smartphone application is far less than a comparable standalone product, which requires far greater fees for the FDA process.

Better App, Available on iOS

Better founder Geoffrey Clapp was previously an executive at telemedicine pioneer Health Hero Network; his new company was launched with $5 million from venture capital fund The Social + Capital Partnership and the Mayo Clinic itself. The Mayo Clinic's Global Business Solutions wing has been actively building partnerships with everything from benefits providers to a variety of software developers.

The Mayo Clinic is entering a crowded market of smartphone-based concierge medicine firms. Beyond Sherpaa, there's also Grand Rounds, Stat Doctors, Doctor on Demand, and even a free app for Canadians, Medeo, which offers subsidized concierge medicine services via smartphones for residents of British Columbia.

For Better, the Mayo Clinic, and other concierge medicine providers, the real (and unanswered) question is just how much of a market for their services really exists via smartphone apps.