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Clinic Seeker app delivers real-time health care info

Friday, November 4, 2016

By: Natasha Marar, Business Advisor

Trips to hospital emergency rooms and walk-in clinics often mean crowded areas and long waits. But a Windsor entrepreneur hopes her mobile app will help patients receive faster treatment using crowd-sourced data.

Clinic Seeker is a free application for Android and iOs devices that pairs users with nearby walk-in clinics, urgent care centres and emergency rooms. The app geo-locates all health care resources throughout Ontario relative to the person’s actual location and provides the services available, hours of operation, directions and estimated wait times, which are submitted by app users. The app also lists clinics associated with a family practice that won’t accept walk-in patients.

Owner Lisa Jacobs, who works in the medical industry, said Clinic Seeker informs the public so they are able to make the best choice for their health care needs and, in turn, it will reduce emergency department wait times.

Jacobs said an initial challenge will be ensuring people enter wait times into the app, but she points to the success of popular apps such as Waze and GasBuddy, in which users supply real-time data on traffic conditions and gas prices.

“Everybody already has a phone in their hands … if you find yourself at walk-in clinic, just pop in an estimated wait time,” she said.

Jacobs started developing the app in July 2015 after seeking emergency treatment while travelling. “I was in Toronto one time and I broke my thumb. I was looking around for a walk-in clinic and there was nothing nearby. I ended up going to the emergency room and waited four hours to see a doctor when there were a ton of clinics right near me,” said Jacobs. “I created the app to help everybody find different options for health care services.”

According to the U.S. journal Health Affairs, 27.1 per cent of all emergency department visits could be managed at a clinic or urgent care centre.

“[Clinic Seeker] works for everybody in the health care system,” said Jacobs. “It benefits the hospitals in the sense that there’s [patients] there that don’t need to be there … waiting for hours on end. It directs patient flow.”

Jacobs also noted congestion in non-emergency health facilities. “There’s patients in one walk-in clinic that has a one-hour wait, and at another clinic three blocks away there’s nobody in there. Why not let people know there are other options?”

“I think that people just don’t know what’s available.”

Jacobs added that travelers will find the app useful for seeking medical attention in unfamiliar places.

Clinic Seeker is available for download, but will officially launch on Nov. 23. “Windsor Regional Hospital is going to be a part of the launch,” said Jacobs, adding that a live feed of the hospital wait times for the Metropolitan and Ouellette campuses will be available through the app.

Future updates to Clinic Seeker will include listings for mental health facilities, family health teams and community access centres. Jacobs is also considering offering different languages settings in the app for newcomers to Canada.

Lisa Jacobs is a WindsorEssex Small Business Centre client that received business consultation and mentiorship to launch Clinic Seeker. You too can receive support in launching or expanding your small business. Contact us for more information.