This year, a German businesswoman arrived in Washington DC and promptly developed a painful sinus infection. She searched online and found a local doctor, Suzanne Doud Galli. But instead of ordering a taxi to visit Dr Galli's office, the patient arranged a virtual consultation via her smartphone from the comfort of her hotel room, with the help of an app called HealthTap.
The app's algorithm matched the patient's symptoms with Dr Galli's expertise. Dr Galli prescribed medicine and sent the prescription electronically to a pharmacy near the patient's hotel — all in about 10 minutes.
"I think this is the future of medicine," says Dr Galli. "Most primary care physicians are going to have virtual medicine in their office, because patients won't waste their time going to a doctor's office when they can ask a question online."
Companies such as HealthTap, which has signed up 100,000 US doctors to serve its global audience in 100 countries, are seeking to find a niche in the increasingly crowded market known as telemedicine.