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Video

Doctor housecalls are back with the click of button

Kai Ryssdal and Mukta Mohan Aug 10, 2015
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In this on-demand economy, there’s an app for pretty much anything. Do you want Thai food? Done. Need a ride to the airport? A car will be at your place in 10 minutes. Want a custom-tailored shirt? Yes, there’s an app for that too. So why wait for a doctor?

Dr. Renee Dua is trying to change the way we approach doctor visits. We visited her office in Santa Monica and asked her how she went from being a nephrologist to running a tech company called Heal.

“One night, we were taking my boy to the emergency room. After about eight hours, we finally saw an attending physician. She just looked at me and said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with your son. Go home.’ It was midnight, and I was furious,” Dua says. She turned to her husband and said, “We’ve got to come up with a better way to do this.” That’s where the idea for Heal was born.

For $99, Heal will send a doctor and a nurse to your house in 60 minutes. They arrive with electronic records and a little black doctor’s bag full of high-tech tools like an otoscope — used to look in the ears — that hooks up to an iPhone. Heal’s doctors can’t perform complex procedures yet, but they can take on the kinds of complaints that bring many people into their primary care doctors’ offices, like diagnosing and treating ailments, writing prescriptions, stitching up cuts and even giving ultrasounds. The company does not yet accept insurance but plans to in the future.

Heal has a mix of full-time and part-time doctors. “It’s very expensive to be a doctor in private practice, and to be frank, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Now, when doctors graduate, they don’t know how to run a business,” Dua says. “It’s very appealing to doctors to come and work with us full time, because they don’t have any overhead. We handle all of the expenses. We deal with billing, and their job is to see patients, which is why they became doctors in the first place.”

The company launched in February in Los Angeles and has recently expanded to San Francisco. It’s set to roll out in another 15 major cities this year. “California is a very difficult state to do anything in,” Dua says. “After you’ve conquered California, the sky’s the limit.”

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