In May, Shwetha Narayanan, 33, had a severe throat infection and urgently needed to see an ENT specialist. “I didn’t have any recommendations from friends and when you can’t speak, you don’t really want to wait," says Bengaluru-based Narayanan.

She opened Practo, a doctor-appointment app, on her phone, read reviews of doctors close to her home, and booked an appointment with an ENT specialist within minutes. Since then, she has used the app multiple times to find specialists, such as a paediatrician for her daughter. “I’ve just taken another appointment with a doctor who has close to 100 reviews on the site," says Narayanan. “I’ve not had a bad experience till now. If I do, then I might think twice on booking through an app."

Apps that offer doctor recommendations, reviews as well as instant appointments are becoming popular among city dwellers. For doctors, too, it’s generally a win-win situation.

Chennai-based dermatologist Narasimhalu C.R.V., who runs his own clinic, got on to Lybrate, another health app, in February. Since then, he says, he has got 4,000 patients for online consultation and 400 for physical consultation. Before this, all he had was his regular patients. “My capacity and range has increased as well as my popularity," says Dr Narasimhalu.

How do doctors get on to an app? It works both ways. They either go to the apps or the app comes to them for business development. Some apps charge a connecting fee, some are free. A doctor can be listed with more than one app.

Looking for the right doctor for yourself? Try one of these apps.

Practo

Practo lets you book appointments by choosing specialization, location, recommendation and time. Once you’ve booked an appointment, the app reminds you on the day of the appointment and even gives you directions to the clinic/hospital. You can add recommendations or give feedback about your experience with the doctor. The app has just launched a diagnostic feature that allows patients to access the closest diagnostic centre for tests.

“Users can search by the test name, check the quality of the lab, filter results by proximity, home pick-up facility as well as price," says Shashank N.D., founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Practo, as the start-up too is called.

Shashank says the app has an enviable list of 200,000 doctors in 35 cities, offering the maximum choice to customers. It books about 200,000 appointments every month. The company has also acquired fitness management app FitHo to add preventive healthcare features.

Practo.com; free on Android, iOS and Web.

Ziffi

Launched in May, Ziffi not only lets you book appointments with doctors but also meets other wellness requirements—of salons, spas, stylists and diagnostic centres. Once you register on the app, you can see the doctor’s experience, expertise, availability calendar, ratings and reviews, to make an informed decision. The Web service has a list of 3,500 salons and spas, 19,000 doctors and 6,000 diagnostic centres and hospitals, and has been used by 1.8 million users across Mumbai, Pune, the National Capital Region (NCR), Bengaluru and Hyderabad. It was known as DocSuggest before its creators expanded the scope to include beauty and wellness. “Next we plan to create a wallet of sorts to offer discounts, rewards across spas, salons, diagnostic centres, pathology tests and health check-ups," says Shantanu Jha, founder and CEO, Ziffi.

Ziffi.com; free on Android and Web.

Lybrate

This app allows you to choose a doctor, do a video consultation with him privately, and if you’re okay with what he says, take an appointment with him. Over 90,000 doctors are listed with the app, which covers 40 cities.

The app also lets you ask a health-related question anonymously in an open forum, free of cost, or upload an image of your medical report or a list of your symptoms to seek medical help. For private video consultations, there is a fee.

The doctors also offer tips on the platform for general health. “We’ve just launched our video consultation feature, which allows patients and doctors to talk to each other through the app, without revealing each other’s contact details, for a secure and private healthcare communication," says Saurabh Arora, CEO, Lybrate.

The app has seen more than a million downloads since January.

Lybrate.com; free on Android, iOS and Web.

ContinuousCare Health App

This app is meant for those who have chronic diseases and would like to stay connected with their doctors. The app lets you manage your personal data, medical records, add in data like medications, health conditions, allergies, surgery, and vaccinations between visits to the doctor. You can invite your doctor to the app, consult with him virtually, take an opinion from another doctor, or book a physical appointment, all from within the app. The app’s virtual appointment is especially useful if your doctor and you are in different cities.

Needstreet.com; free on Android, iOS and Web. In-app, or additional, purchases for consultations and health monitoring start from 300.

Diabeto

Meant for those who have to manage diabetes, Diabeto is an app that enables patients to key in details of their health, how much and what kind of food they have eaten, the activities they undertake, schedule appointments, and get video consultations. The company behind the app, also called Diabeto, has also developed a blood-glucose reading device, the glucometer. You can take blood glucose readings from the device and it will sync into the app to show the analysis.

The device was successfully funded at crowdsourcing site Indiegogo and will be available for purchase from March or April. “Till then, the consultations with our panel of doctors are free," says Shreekant Pawar, CEO and co-founder, Diabeto. “We are also working on assigning each patient a diabetes educator who would make sure that the patient takes control of his/her diabetes and gives them additional tips on exercise, weight management, nutrition, etc.," says Pawar.

Diabe.to; free on Android and Web. The glucometer and consultation charges from April onwards will be 6,000 a year.

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