Heal, a California-based company, offers a doctor house call service and sends doctors to patients’ homes, or even work offices, for $99 or insurance copay. The service is currently available in Southern California, the Inland Empire, the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia, with plans to expand to more cities across the nation by the end of the year. The company started less than three years ago and has already conducted more than 60,000 house calls, purportedly saving $41 million in healthcare costs. In a recent development, Heal has teamed up with Thermo Fisher Scientific to offer access to allergy-sensitivity blood testing during house calls.
The Heal app and website allow customers to order a doctor house call. Patients can also request a doctor over the phone. The company advises that a doctor can be at your door in two hours or less, 12 hours a day, 365 days a year. House calls allow a doctor to get an idea of the patient’s lifestyle in their home environment, which could help them in diagnosis and treatment.
The new service is aimed at allergy sufferers. If a Heal doctor suspects that an allergy is causing symptoms, perhaps by noticing possible allergens in the home environment, they can take a blood sample for testing. Thermo Fisher’s ImmunoCAP test is then used to analyze the sample in a laboratory, allowing the physician to follow-up with the patient at a later time.
Medgadget asked Dr. Renee Dua, co-founder and chief medical officer at Heal, and Rebecca Rosenberger, clinical affairs & education, Thermo Fisher Scientific, some questions about the concept.
Conn Hastings, Medgadget: How did the Heal concept come about?
Renee Dua, Heal: Heal is an on-demand doctor house call app that allows patients in California, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia to book an appointment for kids and adults with a physician for both primary and urgent care at a time and place of their choosing.
The idea for Heal first came from an experience with my son. He developed a fever and our pediatrician told us to rush to the emergency room. We waited for hours, and by the time we were seen the fever had cleared up and the doctor said that my son would be fine. It was scary and stressful for me and on the ride home, my husband and I talked about a better way for families to be seen by a doctor quickly and comprehensively at home where we are most comfortable. Since we launched in February 2015, our doctors have made more than 60,000 house calls across the country. Heal’s proprietary technology lowers healthcare operating costs and bureaucracy, making Heal the first to offer house calls from licensed doctors at in-network rates. We’re in nine metropolitan areas in the U.S. now and expanding. Patients can use our app, website, or phone to book a visit wherever they are located within our service areas.
Medgadget: What are the advantages of physician house calls? What types of physicians currently participate in Heal house calls?
Renee Dua: Like many other industries, including food delivery, transportation and even care for pets, technology has enabled on-demand services at the click of a button and consumers are becoming increasingly reliant on those services. Medical house calls add the value of convenience, comfort, and quality.
Further, Heal is redefining the doctor-patient relationship. In a hospital or clinical setting, physicians are seeing up to 40-plus patients a day. Their attention is constantly divided between the examination, charting, and paperwork.
Heal’s appointments typically last up to 28 minutes, which is significantly longer than the national average of 13 minutes for in-office visits. This allows physicians a chance to better engage the patient and incorporate factors of their home life into an assessment of overall health. An unhurried visit with a doctor who knows you and knows your family in the privacy of your own home environment is a gateway to better health outcomes, a better life, and cost controls across the healthcare continuum.
Heal’s team is made up of more than 110 licensed, vetted, and qualified primary care and pediatric physicians. Top-quality primary care is the most effective way to identify medical issues early or prevent them entirely, and this lowers costs and improves health outcomes for patients of all ages. Heal has reduced unnecessary prescription antibiotic usage by more than 50 percent, eliminated up to 50 percent of wasted tests, labs and referrals, and reduced non-emergency trips to the ER/urgent care by 71 percent. Further, we vet our doctors and hire those who practice evidence-based medicine in the most compassionate way possible and arm our doctors with advanced diagnostics such as Thermo Fisher’s ImmunoCAP allergic sensitization tests to ensure that we’re delivering state-of-the-art care.
Medgadget: What is the availability of Heal house calls? Do you have any plans for expansion?
Renee Dua: This is going to be an exciting year for Heal. We recently closed an extended round of funding bringing in another $20 million from investors and bringing total funds raised to more than $67 million. Those funds will be used to expand our house call service to more cities and deliver more clinical services. We are currently available in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, San Diego, Sacramento, Inland Empire, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia and by the end of the year we plan to be in Boston, New York, and Seattle.
Medgadget: How does a physician viewing a patient’s home environment help with diagnosis and treatment of allergies and other conditions?
Rebecca Rosenberger, Thermo Fisher Scientific: The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year, with allergies being the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. Additionally, about one in twelve people have asthma, and the numbers are increasing every year.
Everyone has their own unique combination of allergic triggers. Not all of them are obvious and many like dust, mold and pet danger are present in a patient’s home. Determining if you’re allergic and identifying your allergic triggers through diagnostic testing is the first step in creating a treatment plan.
Many asthma and allergy patients can see their symptoms drastically reduced and even eliminated through simple lifestyle changes like washing your sheets more often, using HEPA air filters and vacuums and keeping the dog out of the bedroom. Physicians who can view the patient’s environment in person are uniquely positioned to create a more comprehensive treatment plan.
Renee Dua: This is where Heal comes in. If, during a home visit, our physician suspects an allergy and wishes to confirm or rule out that suspicion with diagnostic tests, he or she can draw a blood sample immediately and on-site to be processed in a qualified lab using Thermo Fisher’s ImmunoCAP test. A Heal doctor may also notice environmental factors like mold in the bathroom or an old carpet that could be harboring dust mites, as well as view medications, kitchen pantries, and stress factors that impact the patient’s health. This gives them a more complete view of a patient’s life-style and overall health.
Medgadget: So, how does the ImmunoCAP test work? What types of allergies can it test for?
Rebecca Rosenberger: ImmunoCAP is the most widely used specific IgE blood test, and its accuracy has been documented in more than 4,000 peer-reviewed publications. ImmunoCAP assays are FDA cleared and require only a simple blood draw to measure sensitization to many seasonal and perennial, indoor and outdoor allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander and mold as well as common food allergens including peanuts, eggs and milk. ImmunoCAP tests can be ordered by any healthcare provider for patients of any age regardless of skin condition, disease activity or pregnancy status. ImmunoCAP testing also offers at least one distinct advantage during the height of allergy season: the test can be performed regardless of patients taking daily medications. The benefit to a patient, who is already coping with seasonal symptoms, is that they don’t experience an exacerbation of their symptoms by stopping their allergy medications – which is a requirement for skin prick testing.
Medgadget: How long does it take for a Heal patient to get the results?
Renee Dua: The food and blood testing are sensitive and allow the primary physician to educate a patient on what triggers to avoid as part of their treatment plan. Results are typically obtained in 5 business days.
Rebecca Rosenberger: ImmunoCAP testing is run in most major laboratories across the US. It typically only takes a few days from the time the patient has their blood drawn until the ordering clinician would receive the results. This quick turnaround allows healthcare providers to give a patient answers quickly on what may or may not be triggering their symptoms and begin an improved management plan immediately.
Link: Heal homepage…