No waiting room required

By Lauren Mazzo
Updated: April 16, 2016

How many times have you Googled a random health question only to quickly give yourself a death sentence a lá Web MD?

Good news: If you're worried about why your sunburn is bubbling or why you're having seriously terrible cramps at a weird time of the month, you can look no further than the 'book. HealthTap (the first global service that provides access to doctors via video, text, or voice) now lets Facebook Messenger users send questions to HealthTap doctors and get an instant response. (Need prescription help? There's an app for that too.)

If it's a common question, they'll shoot you back a link to similar questions that have already been answered by HealthTap doctors, or you'll receive a new answer from one or more of 100,000 U.S.-licensed doctors spanning 141 specialties. And, in case you were a little sketched out about using Facebook to discuss your scary medical problems, the service is totally anonymous and private (because, really, no one else need to know about that weird rash).

And this service is something the people have been asking for: According to a 2015 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, many Americans would like to be able to communicate with their physician via email and Facebook messages, and in the survey of more than 4,500 people, 18 percent had contacted their doc via Facebook. While one downside is that the HealthTap messaging system won't let you speak with your doc (who knows your medical and family history), it eliminates questions about how doctors would charge for email or text consultations, as well as possibly long wait times to hear a response.

If it's a more complicated issue, you should obviously brave the waiting room and make a real appointment. But if it's something simple (is this a pimple or an STD?), HealthTap might be your best and easiest bet. (P.S. There's no real reason to get an annual physical, so you're already off the hook for that.)

Don't fret if you don't have the messenger app; you can access it on a desktop too. Just head to HealthTap's Facebook page, click "Message" and then "Get Started."



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