Prospective patients too sick or busy to visit a physician can now choose from several Uber-like apps that make use of new technology to bring doctors, physician assistants (PAs), and nurses into their homes, hotels, and workplaces with a few taps on a smartphone.
Explore This IssueMay 2017
Home services like these can also help provide patients who use the emergency department or urgent care facilities for conditions such as ear and sinus infections with continuity of care from clinicians or within health systems that have ongoing access to their health records. And the services are so convenient that a clinician is usually knocking at the patient’s door in less than 90 minutes.
“Our mission is to make it easy to see your doctor,” said Renée Dua, MD, a nephrologist and cofounder of Heal, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based house call healthcare service. She and her husband, Nick Desai, started the company after spending many frustrating hours in an emergency room seeking answers about their sick child. It occurred to them that it would have been much easier on their family if a pediatrician had been able to come to their home.
In November 2015, Desai and Dr. Dua debuted Heal for just that purpose. Today, patients who live within their service areas in California can call for one of Heal’s 75 physicians to come to their home to suture a cut, evaluate a stomach virus, perform a physical, and/or administer a flu shot. While most of these physicians are full-time Heal employees, the company also works with a small percentage of contract physicians who fill in the gaps as the startup grows. At a cost of less than $100 a visit, the fees for patients differ vastly from concierge medicine, which typically operates on a retainer model, with annual fees of $5,000 per person to bring a physician to a home.
Recently, Dr. Dua helped a patient go through his medications. It turned out he was on two blood pressure medicines of the same class—unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Dr. Dua believes medicine reconciliation is an important part of a physician’s job, and the task is much easier to perform in a person’s home, where the medicine cabinet is just a few steps away, than to rely on patients bringing their medications to a clinic appointment.
Continuity of Care
Similar home visit services are popping up in various parts of the country. Pager, which serves parts of New York, Florida, and Texas, was co-founded by one of the team members who created Uber. Swedish Express Care at Home serves the Seattle area, and their affiliate Providence Express Care at Home serves parts of California.