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This health care startup is bringing back the house call

A physician who works with Heal. Credit: Heal/Screenshot
A physician who works with Heal. Credit: Heal/Screenshot

One health care company is harnessing technology to bring a doctor to your doorstep within two hours.

Heal connects patients with vetted and licensed pediatricians and family practice doctors. Doctors arrive in under two hours for emergency situations or you can schedule an appointment ahead of time. It costs $99 per visit without insurance or an in-network co-pay.

On Tuesday, the Santa Monica-based company announced it has raised $26.9 million in Series A funding led by Thomas Tull’s Tull Investment group, bringing the total funding to $40 million. Other investors joining the round include Breyer Capital and Qualcomm (QCOM) Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs.

“Heal is uniquely positioned to assume the role of the go-to health care option in America. They have the leadership team, technology innovation and vision required to contribute to the transformation of the health care industry,” Tull said in the press release.

The husband and wife co-founders came up with the idea in October 2014, when their then-7-month-old son was sick on a Friday afternoon.

“We couldn’t get a hold of his pediatrician so we went to the emergency room and waited there from 4 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. Turns out my son was OK. But when we were on the way home, my wife turned to me and said there has to be a better way,” one of the founders, Nick Desai, told Yahoo Finance.

Desai and his wife, Dr. Renee Dua — who is board-certified in nephrology, hypertension and internal medicine, and served as chief of medicine at Valley Presbyterian and Simi Valley Hospitals in California — embarked on a journey to reinvent primary and preventive care.

Since April 1 of this year, Heal has seen 8,500 patients. Recruiting mostly through referrals, the company employs 15 full-time doctors and 45 long-term contractors. Desai says he understands that Heal can’t fix medicine for patients unless they help doctors first.

“The reality of the health care system is that primary care physicians are unhappy,” he said. “Ironically, this dissatisfaction exists because doctors don’t have enough time to practice quality medicine.”

With Heal, a medical assistant drives doctors to a patient’s home. Through a tablet-based record system, physicians spend the car ride analyzing a patient’s history through the digitized system.

Heal
Heal

Currently available in California’s Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and San Diego, Heal accepts all the preferred provider organization (PPO) health insurance plans, including Aetna (AET), UnitedHealthCare (UNH), Cigna (CI) and Anthem Blue Cross (ANTM).

“We want to offer services that are patient-friendly and improve health care outcomes,” Desai said. “More and more people have insurance because of Obamacare, but it’s the first time they don’t know how to find and use services or if they don’t want to wait for a doctor they just go to the emergency room, which costs more money for both the patient and the system.”

Heal’s mission is akin to that of a bevy of other health care startups that have served specific regions. Doctors Making Housecalls operates in North Carolina. Ashton Kutcher-backed Pager operates in New York City. Dose Healthcare was started by an emergency medicine physician in Nashville. Despite regional competition, none have expanded nationally. Desai thinks Heal is equipped to do so.

With the funding, Desai says he wants to be in every corner of California and serve more patients. Heal will also begin accepting Medicare next month, and it will extend into 10 new markets in 2017.

“From February to November, we’ll be entering one new market a month,” he says.

Of course, the landscape for certain providers isn’t looking so bright, with Aetna, UnitedHealth and Humana exiting 11 of 15 state exchanges next year.

Acknowledging that local knowledge is critical (he and Dua grew up, were educated and have spent their entire adult lives in California), Desai said he and his team need to fully grasp the regulatory market and leverage existing networks to succeed. He’s optimistic that people are desperately looking for an alternative to the health care options typically available to them.

“Health care delivery is very fragmented,” he said. “We’re up against the system but there are a lot of players.”

Additionally, he wants to participate in the next wave of biometric product development.

“We want to reinvent the business process of medicine and we’re seeing that a patient’s home environment is critical to precision medicine,” he said.

By partnering with diagnostics companies, Heal aims to develop intelligent software to create more accurate treatment plans.

And Desai is practicing what he preaches. His now 2 ½-year-old son gets everything from his check-ups to his vaccinations from a Heal doctor. They haven’t taken him to a doctor’s office in the past year.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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