PlushCare, a new app that allows gay men to access the HIV prevention drug PrEP through their phone, promises to revolutionize HIV prevention and care. Currently the app is available in 31 states including Florida. There are plans to roll the app out into the remaining states in the near future.
James Wantuck, PlushCare's chief medical officer, and Ryan McQuaid, the company's CEO, spoke to SFGN about the services the company provides and why the app is needed.
“In San Francisco most doctors know about PrEP,” said Wantuck. “Outside of the city doctors may not know about the latest treatments—they could be biased against prescribing PrEP.”
Wantuck noted that PrEP was approved by the American Medical Association in 2012. “It usually takes 18 years for an approved treatment to become standard practice,” he pointed out.
McQuaid explained how PlushCare works. “Just download the app and put in your insurance information,” he said. “Then you book an appointment with the doctor of your choice.”
For the uninsured, the cost to use the app is $99.
The appointments are conducted via video chat as though they were a regular doctor visit. The doctor orders lab work and makes a determination whether PrEP is right for the patient. Lab work is conducted by Quest and Labcorp, which are nationally renowned labs, and can be conducted at local hospitals.
“The doctor has to be licensed in the state where the patient lives,” McQuaid said. “We follow CDC recommendations on how often people on PrEP get lab testing and follow-up visits.”
So far PlushCare has over 50 doctors in their system—and not all the patients they see are PrEP patients. “We started doing urgent care treatment for colds, flu, and pink eye,” McQuaid said. “It's only in the last six months that we've expanded to PrEP. 80% of urgent care can be done via telemedicine. We emphasize on having the highest quality providers. We take what we do extremely seriously. Our doctors are from the top fifty ranked medical institutions—we have a pretty rigorous interview process.”
“We are in market with most of the major insurance carriers,” added Wantuck. “We are working to get even more so everyone can have access to the service.”
McQuaid noted that while there was an overall decline in new HIV infections from 2008 to 2014, there was a 35 percent increase in infections among 25 to 34 year olds for the same period. “This shows the importance of informing people about PrEP,” he said.
To download and access the app, visit www.PlushCare.com.