It's 3 A.M. and you're frantically clicking Google results for "my neck is making a weird creaking sound am I dying + tumors" or "is pregnancy AT ALL possible after three months," again. Now there's Sherpaa, a startup that connects you with doctors instead of misspelled Yahoo! Answers remedies whenever you need to know what the fuck is going on inside your body. We spoke with Sherpaa's Dr. Ida Santana about how the service empowers marginalized groups of people who often have trouble accessing health care — not just paranoid web-surfers.
Here's how Sherpaa works: you email or call a doctor at any time, on any day to describe your symptoms — let's say it burns when you pee, which is A LOT this weekend — and you'll get a response in around 15 minutes. You answer her questions; turns out you have a UTI. She prescribes an antibiotic and anti-burning medication, calls in the prescription, and ten minutes later you have what you need. No doctor visit necessary, no co-pay, no more burning.
You can also ask Sherpaa's doctors whether you were fucked over. Does your ER bill seem unfairly expensive? Email them an image of your bill; they'll contact the ER and your insurance company to see whether there was a mistake.
You can email Sherpaa for any medical question, whether you just want a good doctor in a new city or need to go to the hospital ASAP.
"It puts the locus of power with the patient, whereas if you go to your doctor, the power structure is that you're lower," Sherpaa Doctor Ida Santana told Jezebel. "Google can exacerbate hypochondriac tendencies, but we can tell you whether you really need help or not."
Santana said she thought Sherpaa could be particularly beneficial for women, since we have to deal with what she called the government's "patriarchal" stance on our wellbeing. (And we're not even talking Republicans or Bishops.) She referenced reports that Obama's frustratingly conservative stance on the morning after pill had been influenced by being the father of two daughters; it's cute and all that he's an invested parent, but shitty that he uses that to justify why he opposes easy access to medication that's safer than aspirin. "There are so many stops along the way that deny women healthcare," she said.
One recent Sherpaa patient contacted Santana after she switched insurance providers and could no longer get a specific brand of oral contraception covered. The new generic version she was taking was giving her terrible migranes, but she didn't want to pay for the brand she knew worked. Santana investigated: turns out her doctor's office didn't have her full medical history and therefore denied her coverage.
"If you write the wrong thing on a form, you're denied," Santana said. "It's disempowering. You have to know how the system works, and the system isn't set up so it's easy for the patient to figure out."
Unfortunately, you can only use Sherpaa if your boss pays for it — but you can request info here.
Image via Getty.