Medical house call startup Heal expands to 4 new markets as demand for in-home doctor visits grows

With its doctor house call service, Heal aims to provide a lower-cost alternative to hospitals and urgent care centers, especially for people over 65 and covered by Medicare. (Heal)

Heal, a company that offers both telemedicine and doctor house calls, has expanded its service to Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In addition to large cities such as Chicago, Heal is targeting rural or low-income areas such as Lafayette, Louisiana, noted Nick Desai, co-founder and CEO of Heal.

“When you look at specific areas where we are expanding, for example, Lafayette, Louisiana, many of these patients do not have other options when it comes to quality healthcare,” Desai told Fierce Healthcare. “That’s why we want to bring Heal to areas like this, ultimately elevating quality of care for patients that might be struggling to pinpoint the right solutions.”

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The company already offers services in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Washington state. In 2019, Heal also expanded into New York by acquiring medical house call service Doctors on Call. Meanwhile, in California it partners with health plan Alignment Healthcare to help patients in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

RELATED: Humana teams up with startup DispatchHealth to expand in-home care services

Heal aims to provide a lower-cost alternative to hospitals and urgent care centers, especially for people over 65 and covered by Medicare, according to Desai. Heal helps people without insurance by charging a flat fee of $79 per telemedicine visit or $159 for house calls. The company also lets patients see their regular primary doctor.

Heal takes an omni-modal approach that consists of house calls, contextual video telehealth and real-time remote monitoring. By allowing doctors to make house calls, it provides a way to keep patients out of hospitals, which are overburdened during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, physicians can keep a better eye on patients when they are at risk of falling or have allergies or food insecurities. They can also track medication adherence and social determinants of health, including alcohol or substance abuse, according to the company.

“This allows a doctor to take a more proactive approach to preventive care when managing an acute condition in conjunction with diagnostics and labs, ultimately allowing a patient to spend more time being well and less time getting well,” Desai said.

Desai founded Heal along with his wife, Renee Dua, who is the company’s founder and chief medical officer. Investors in Heal include singer Lionel Richie, former Qualcomm CEO and executive chairman Paul Jacobs and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Health insurers such as Humana are also investing in the house call model Heal offers. Last summer, Humana announced a $100 million investment in the company.

The venture-capital-backed company has raised $164 million from investors to date.

RELATED: Digital health startup Ro expands into home-based care with Workpath acquisition

Healthcare in the home

A number of startups have launched that combine mobile technology with an old-school service: the house call. The demand for in-home healthcare services has surged in the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DispatchHealth launched in 2013 and sends emergency care-trained medical teams to patients' homes armed with mobile blood work labs, IV fluids, nebulizers and most of the standard equipment found in emergency rooms to diagnose and treat patients. The company says it has delivered high-acuity care to over 220,000 patients in the home and offers on-demand care services in 29 cities.

New York City-based Pager, which offers an app for telemedicine and in-person house call services around the city, has raised $62 million to date, according to Crunchbase.

Other players are getting into the space. Virtual health company Ro acquired software company Workpath that enables healthcare companies to offer on-demand, in-home care and diagnostic services with a simple application programming interface.

Heal provides telemedicine care through a one-touch platform in a web browser or mobile app. The Heal platform sends a text message to patients with a link to their appointment. Several people involved in a patient’s care, including family members, pharmacists and specialists, can join a Heal telehealth session.

A remote-monitoring system called Heal Hub lets physicians monitor oximetry and body temperature. A doctor could notice blood pressure is high before patients notice themselves, Desai said. Doctors can then adjust a treatment plan based on these indicators.

Desai sees the future of healthcare in the home, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this vision clearer. Not only has telehealth taken off, but house calls also make healthcare more convenient during the crisis.

“The scope of human tragedy here in the United States resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is beyond comprehension and impossibly difficult to fathom,” Desai said. “With that being said, the pandemic has accelerated the adoption and understanding of the need for non-office-based care.”

This change should be permanent, according to Desai, and he sees parallels with the entertainment industry.

“Home-centric care is as much as the future of patient care as online streaming is the future of content consumption,” Desai said. “At Heal, we believe the faster the industry takes on that change, the better off we all are—patients, providers and payers alike.”