Doctors stem the tide of COVID-19 with virtual healthcare

Written by:
Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge
Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder
Last updated on March 13, 2020

A looming crisis in healthcare

In the coming weeks, massive numbers of Americans will experience symptoms of COVID-19 or will be exposed to the novel coronavirus (now officially called SARS-CoV-2), but most who seek medical help will not need any specific office- or hospital-based care. Many people will need to access their doctor when they have symptoms or after someone they know develops symptoms — but in an epidemic, doctors' offices and hospital ERs will be overloaded, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous places to be.

This is where virtual healthcare comes to the rescue. If everyone who needs care first accesses a skilled and trained doctor via virtual consultation, they can find out whether it's likely they have COVID-19 and how best to manage it, plus get an order for a COVID-19 test (when needed), without having to visit the doctor's office or navigate the perils of the hospital ER.

HealthTap's free COVID-19 virtual consult service

HealthTap is eliminating the barriers for people to get help from a doctor qualified and trained to manage COVID-19 patients. HealthTap will soon launch a free virtual consult service in California to enable people with COVID-19 concerns to get a clinical diagnosis and a recommendation for what they need to do. No one with concerns about COVID-19 needs to go to the hospital ER, or even make an appointment to see their own doctor, without first speaking to a doctor remotely! With the help of a growing pool of volunteer doctors, we plan to expand this service to the entire country as soon as possible.

Doctors, here's how you can help

If you are a doctor and not already one of the 95,000 US-licensed physicians who participate on HealthTap, it's easy and free to sign up to join your colleagues so that you too can help solve the coming crisis.

After you join HealthTap's doctor network, you can provide virtual healthcare to those who need it most, or you can help by giving informational answers to new health questions (and you'll learn from doing peer review of your colleagues' answers).

(1) Provide virtual healthcare

Doctors can help people directly by connecting via text or live video with people who have COVID-19 concerns. By evaluating people remotely, doctors can confirm a presumptive diagnosis, order a COVID-19 test (so that patients can visit new mobile testing services with a doctor's order), and guide people who really do need to go to the hospital to do that (meanwhile greatly reducing the burden on office and ERs by giving self-quarantine instructions to all those who may have the condition but do not need emergency or other in-person care.

Doctors first join the network, and doctors in the network then sign up for giving consults.

(2) Give informational answers

A large and increasing number of people have concerns and questions about the new coronavirus; doctors help by giving short but informative expert answers. We share doctors' answers not only with the person who asked the question, but also with all the people who ask similar questions in the future (So far, doctors have helped many millions of people who found answers to their questions on HealthTap).

If you are a doctor, start sharing your knowledge and helping people! Simply join the network to give answers that will reach millions. Then you'll also be able to learn from your colleagues by reading and giving peer review feedback on their answers. Plus there is unlimited free AMA PRA category 1 CME credits for doctors who learn while answering questions!

We thank all of the incredible doctors who are helping people on a national and international scale through the HealthTap platform!

Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge

Dr. Geoffrey W. Rutledge

Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder
Geoffrey W. Rutledge MD, PhD, FACMI, Chief Medical Officer and co-founder at HealthTap, is a double-board certified physician who practiced and taught medicine for more than 25 years. He earned a PhD in medical computer science from Stanford, was an NIH-funded researcher, and served on faculty at Harvard, Stanford, and UCSD medical schools. Before HealthTap, he created the first consumer health website and PHR at Healtheon/WebMD. Learn more about HealthTap's Medical Editorial Board at

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