Are Doctor House Calls Making a Comeback?

Years ago, a visit with the doctor often meant welcoming one into your home, but that changed during the 1960’s. House calls became inefficient and costly in an increasingly complex healthcare system where large medical equipment wasn’t mobile. It made more sense for patients to come to a central location for their needs and to use the equipment necessary to make appropriate medical diagnoses.

But some, like the founders of Heal, a leader in physician house calls, still believed that bringing a doctor to the patient’s home remains the best way to provide value-based care.

Dr. Renee Dua, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at Heal, recently sat down with Thermo Fisher Scientific to discuss the trends fueling interest in on-demand medical care, how it’s improving the physician-patient relationship and how advanced diagnostics are helping Heal realize its vision of providing world-class care in the comfort of a patient’s home.

What is Heal and where did you come up with the idea?

Heal is an on-demand doctor house call app that allows patients in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, San Diego, Sacramento, Inland Empire, Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia to book an appointment for children 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 so 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 or website to book a visit wherever they are located.

What's driving the trend toward house calls?

Like many other industries, including food delivery, transportation and even pet care, 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 and the 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.  For example, a Heal doctor may notice environmental factors like allergens, as well as view medications, kitchen pantries, and stress factors that impact the patient’s 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.

How do you ensure that patients are getting the same standard of care as they would in a doctor’s office or hospital?

Top-quality primary care is the most effective way to identify medical issues early or prevent them entirely, which 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 62 percent.  Further, we vet our doctors and hire those who practice evidence-based medicine in the most compassionate way possible.

As an example, we provide our doctors with advanced diagnostics such as IGE allergic sensitization tests to ensure that we’re delivering state-of-the-art care. 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. If, during a home visit, a Heal physician suspects an allergy and wishes to confirm or rule out that suspicion with diagnostic tests, he or she can draw a blood sample to be processed in a qualified lab using Thermo Fisher’s ImmunoCAP test. The results from the Thermo Fisher in vitro diagnostics test can be reviewed later during follow-up with the patient, which may not require an actual face-to-face encounter.

Companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific are leading the way with innovative technologies that assist clinicians with diagnosis and treatment. The ability to offer services such as this are at the core of Heal’s mission; and vital to our success.

What's next for Heal?

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.