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Doctor-on-demand app Akira launches in Ontario

Akira Toronto-based health consultation mobile platform Akira has launched, with $500,000 in seed funding from several investors, including Shopify founder Tobias Lütke, Top Hat founder Mike Silagadze, and venture capital firm HIGHLINE.

The app, available via Android and iOS, allows patients in Ontario to consult with board-certified physicians remotely, communicating through a mobile device through text or video, and providing a family doctor-on-demand or Healthcare-as-a-Service, doing away with the ingrained idea that an appointment is necessary for health consultations, instead offering mobile, immediate access.

The idea being that remote consultation saves time otherwise spent hanging out in a waiting room.

The company offers the caveat: “Akira should not be used for emergencies, and is not a replacement for the most responsible physician in cases of chronic disease, cancer or other complex care conditions.”

Akira was co-founded by Dustin Walper and Dr. Taha Bandukwala, a radiologist who recently completed residency at The University of Toronto, and has a team of both female and male general practitioners currently practicing in Toronto, including Dr. Shazeen Bandukwala, Dr. Shayda Ziai, and Dr. Paul Frydrych.

“The way Canadians interact with their doctors hasn’t really changed in 100 years. Technology has revolutionized almost every other aspect of our lives except the healthcare system,” said Akira co-founder Dustin Walper. “At Akira, we’re focused on bringing high-quality health care to people everywhere, and we’re leveraging technology to do it. We’re starting with the Akira app, but our ultimate goal is to build the world’s smartest artificial medical assistant.”

Presumably, that means that Akira has got an artificial intelligence, bot-style medical consultant in the works.

Walper previously co-founded web and mobile development agency Myplanet.

Akira signed up 2,000 people for over 750 physician consultations during a closed beta this spring.

If each of these consultations saved one hour of wait time at a clinic, Akira suggests, then the app has already saved the equivalent of 31 days of wait time in Ontario.

Users can access personal health records through the app, along with critical notes, as well as prescriptions and test results, with prescription information, including frequency and dosage, accessible in-app.

Akira claims to follow the strict privacy rules set out by Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), assuring that all consultations are private, that patient data is encrypted and stored in Canada, and that only patients and a doctor or medical staff are authorized to view patient data.

iPhone users can also enable TouchID protection to prevent unauthorized access to their health records.

Prescriptions can be written and sent to the patient’s pharmacy of choice, or the doctor can make a referral to a specialist or allied health professional, and order tests.

Akira doctors cannot, however, complete disability, insurance claims or Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board forms.
Working with partners, Akira can offer free, same-day delivery of prescription medicine to a patient’s home or office.

A patient logs in to the app, and is then enabled to speak to an Ontario-based doctor immediately and in real-time, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Doctor response time is typically within two minutes, and begins via text, with the option that the doctor can decide to launch a video chat if necessary.

Doctors can diagnose and treat common health problems such as anxiety or depression, urinary tract infections (UTIs), rashes, and the flu.
“Akira’s mobile health platform is bringing much-needed change to a medical system still reliant on fax machines and paper charts,” said Akira chief medical officer Dr. Taha Bandukwala. “According to the American Medical Association, up to 70 per cent of doctor’s visits could be conducted virtually, saving an unnecessary trip to the doctor’s office. Canadians are demanding better access to health care, and we built an interdisciplinary team of physicians, developers, data scientists and designers to bring transparency, accessibility, and user-friendliness to the patient experience.”
The monthly subscription fee for the app is $9.99 per month, providing the user unlimited access to Akira’s team of doctors and nurse practitioners, and can be cancelled at any time.

Several companies familiar to Ontario’s technology scene are offering access to Akira as an extended health benefit, including Pivotal Labs, Top Hat, and 500px.

Offered only in Ontario for now, Akira has plans to extend to other provinces in the future.

Given that health care laws across Canada are fairly homogeneous, Akira believes it has an opportunity to scale quickly across the country.

The biggest obstacle for Akira remains the fact that this service is not covered by Ontario provincial health insurance.

On the other hand, there are telemedicine billing codes in British Columbia, meaning that Akira’s model will be different if and when it launches there.

Akira directly compensates doctors for their time, rather than for patient volume, and so aren’t under pressure to compress visit times.

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