In-Home Primary Care Company Heal Acquires Doctors on Call, Enters NYC Market

Heal — the doctors on-demand startup that has raised more than $71 million since launching in 2014 — is entering the New York City market.

The expansion is yet another example of the momentum Los Angeles-based Heal has built of late, but it also broadly underscores an ongoing “explosion” in demand for home-based care offerings, according to CEO and co-founder Nick Desai. It’s an explosion that’s especially true for in-home primary care services, he told Home Health Care News.

Previously, Heal operated throughout California, plus Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, which the company entered in January through a partnership with insurance giant Aetna. The move into New York, however, was specifically made possible thanks to Heal’s acquisition of Doctors on Call — its first major acquisition to date.

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“We’re now launching Heal in the largest metro area in America,” Desai said. “We jump started our presence in New York by acquiring a 30-year-old doctor-house calls practice that embodies many of our same values.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Currently, Heal has more than 100 doctors in its network, most of whom work on a full-time basis. In 2019 alone, the company will have completed 100,000 house calls, averaging an estimated $53.7 million per year in overall health care cost savings.

Meanwhile, Doctors on Call averaged 42,000 house calls to seniors in the New York City area in 2018. While Heal provides in-home, on-demand primary care to a range of patients, Doctors on Call mostly focused on homebound seniors, according to Desai.

“From a business standpoint, this means a couple of things for Heal,” he said. “First of all, it represents our continued and increased focus on the senior population, the Medicare population. The practice we acquired delivers 150 to 180 housecalls a day, exclusively to the elder and senior population.”

Compared to other groups, older adults are particularly likely to benefit from in-home primary care due to their often complex and chronic health conditions, Desai noted.

Throughout its markets, Heal — co-founded by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Renee Dua — has been shown to reduce hospitalization rates by roughly 28%. Similarly, the company has been shown to reduce unnecessary emergency room and urgent care visits by up to 71%.

In general, Heal’s doctors are authorized to do anything a doctor working in a traditional office environment can do, including vaccinations, certain tests and wound care. The average Heal appointment time is 28.5 minutes long.

In terms of coverage, Heal is in-network with all major PPO insurance companies in California and New York, as well as Medicare. It soon plans to be in-network with insurers across the country as well.

Several factors have contributed to Heal’s growth over the past four years, including several steps taken by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to promote in-home primary care and other, broader forms of home-based care. The first important domino fell in 2018, Desai said, when CMS announced it would open up house call reimbursement from only homebound patients to all Medicare patients.

“Before that rule change, you could only deliver house calls to 6% of the Medicare patients who were medically homebound,” he said. “We can now deliver house calls to all Medicare patients — and that was a huge market expansion.”

Moving forward, CMS’s Primary Cares Initiative will likely play a role in Heal’s future, as will the gradual expansion of the Medicare Advantage program. Heal is also making its mark through a remote patient monitoring offering and by partnering with home care providers, including Los Angeles-based 24 Hour Home Care.

“Once [Medicare Advantage] made some rulings on how you can be reimbursed for house call visits, that opened the door for us and Heal,” 24 Hour Home Care owner and co-founder Ryan Iwamoto previously told HHCN. “At the end of the day, we wanted to provide this as another service for our clients, as it’s obviously a value-add to our existing offerings.”

Heal’s investors currently include Fidelity ContraFund, Jim Breyer, the Ellison Family, Lionel Richie and others.

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