One day in 2014 Nick Desai and his wife, Dr. Renee Dua, took their seven-month old son to the pediatrician, they were told to go to the emergency room. After waiting for hours, they were told their son was fine.
The two believed that there was a better way to see doctors and so they founded Heal, a doctor house call company.
“We’re an app or website where you can book and receive a high-quality doctor to your door 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days a year. We accept insurance, and if you don’t have insurance it’s never more than $99,” Desai said.
Desai is an engineer. He runs the technological side of Heal’s business.
The company works with most insurance companies which keeps costs low for individuals using the app. The doctors work full-time for Heal. The company employs pediatricians, family medicine and internal medicine doctors
In an office, doctors see roughly 40 patients a day and spend 13 minutes with each patient, Desai said. At Heal, doctors spend 28 minutes with every patient, according to Desai.
“We’re an on-demand business. Our typical arrival time is within an hour and a half. Wait time for primary care doctors is typically 24 days,” Desai said.
So far, the company has made roughly 45,000 house calls. It has nearly 100 doctors in California and Washington, D.C. and is looking to expand to other major cities.
Part of what makes a company like Heal successful now, Desai said, is how many things can be treated at home, especially as technology becomes smaller and easier to carry with you. Having doctors make house visits also help them see a patient’s surroundings which can help in diagnosing people, and in preventing infections commonly picked up at hospitals.
“Health care is a unifying, interesting topic,” Desai said. “Whether you are a billionaire or living on fixed income, quality healthcare is hard to get.”
Other health apps and website that have grown in popularity focus on video calls with doctors instead of home visits.
One of the largest is San Francisco-based Doctor on Demand, which was co-founded in 2012.
Chief executive officer Hill Ferguson said something like Doctor on Demand is necessary to address a “lack of access to health care providers.”
“The average wait time to see a physician is three weeks, and even when a visit is scheduled, it takes two to three hours from the time a patient leaves their home or office to the time they get back home,” he said.
With how bad this year’s flu has been, he said, access to doctors is especially important.
The video service is nationwide—patients video call doctors certified in their geographical area. The doctors talk to the patient and ask questions, having them check certain things on their own. The doctors are employees of the company. Mental health services are also offered.
Doctors are trained by the company on how to practice telemedicine, or treat patients via the video calls.
Other services that help patients talk to doctors online or on an app include HealthTap, MDLive, American Well, Maven and Teladoc.
San Francisco-based Spruce Health offers some telemedicine, but has also developed technology used by doctors around the country to help patients.
The company was founded in 2013 and released an app in 2014. When it started, the app allowed doctors to talk to patients to treat acne. It eventually expanded to a full range of dermatology.
“We wanted to accelerate the technology,” spokesperson Jessica Chiew said. “We took the software technology that we were using and broadened it to something that could be used by any practice.”
The software can be used for telemedicine, or just a secure way to message patients.
Individual doctors and practices using the software can decide how they charge their patients and what insurance providers to accept.
“Healthcare delivery has changed. Ways to provide better care, better access to care, more convenient access to care is important,” Chiew said.