Health care company bringing back the house call

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LOS ANGELES — When it comes to health care, house calls are a thing of the past. Or are they? For physician Renee Dua and her husband Nick Desai, cofounders of Heal, an app that schedules house calls with medical doctors, the answer is a resounding no. Dua, Heal’s chief medical officer, was inspired to start the company after taking her young son to the emergency room. That visit left her wondering why there was no other alternative when it came to seeing a doctor. So, taking matters into their own hands, she and her husband launched Heal in October 2014 and saw their first patient in February 2015.

In starting the company, Dua says she and Desai, Heal’s chief executive officer, established three rules to guide the company: “We had to accept insurance and keep prices affordable. Second, to fix medicine for patients, we had to fix it for doctors first. Third, to never sacrifice clinical quality for growth.”

To use Heal, a patient books a doctor house call on the Heal website, or via the Heal app or phone. A doctor then comes to the patient’s home, office or even a hotel, along with a medical assistant. House calls can cover pediatrics, urgent, primary and preventive care.

For insured patients, Heal house call prices are set by insurance plans, and Heal says patients will always see the price of the visit before it is booked. Those without insurance, or opting to not use insurance, pay a flat fee. Between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., seven days a week, 365 days a year, a Heal member has the option to be seen by a Heal doctor within two hours with the touch of an app.

Heal has the backing of some major venture capitalists and celebrities, including the Fidelity ContraFund, Samir firm, Jim Breyer, Paul Jacobs and Lionel Richie. Heal’s services are available in most of California as well as in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia. Recently, however, Heal expanded into Atlanta through a partnership with insurance giant Aetna, which is now part of the CVS Health. Due to the access that comes with Aetna’s robust network of high-quality providers, those using Heal in greater Atlanta can schedule house calls with pediatricians, internists and family practice physicians for the same co-pay as a primary care doctor’s office visit.

Desai says Aetna’s market president in Georgia, Frank Ulibarri, instantly saw the value of Heal in increasing access to timely primary care for all patients, especially those suffering chronic disease. “The mission of Heal is exactly that, to remove all the friction preventing patients from receiving care and doctors from delivering high-quality primary care,” Desai says. “Primary care is the gateway to preventive care that reduces costs, improves outcomes and empowers patients to spend more time being well, and less time getting well.”

“We like the simplicity and convenience of this new service option for our commercial members,” says Ulibarri. “Our offering with Heal reflects Aetna’s commitment to creating a more accessible, simple and patient-centric health care experience.”

In less than four years, Heal has provided more than 100,000 house calls across California and the Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia area and has reduced unnecessary emergency room and urgent care visits by up to 71%, generating more than $62 million in health care cost savings, according to Heal.

Desai adds that Heal is planning similar partnerships around the country, as the company’s model of care “is the catalyst to arresting runaway health care costs by reestablishing high-quality, unhurried in-home primary care as the foundation of a healthy life.”

Considering the rising costs of health care and all the other challenges surrounding health care in general, Desai believes that the Heal model of house calls is the wave of the future because health care costs are either tied to bureaucracy or late-stage treatment of chronic conditions, which can be much more effectively treated (or avoided entirely) through timely, regular preventive care delivered by a doctor who knows the patient.



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