The disruption of primary medical care was already in full swing — even before the novel coronavirus pandemic forced physician house-call network Heal to shift its service delivery model primarily to telemedicine.
The six-year-old company made a shift from in-home appointments to initial “visits” via video. And if the doctor needed to see the patient face to face, a house call was scheduled.
Heal enables patients to order in-home doctors’ visits through an app or a visit to its website. The service employs almost 150 doctors and nurses and is available in some of the nation’s biggest metro areas, including New York, Atlanta, California and Washington, D.C. It’s also planning on expanding to Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Seattle. As of year-end 2019, 90 million Americans had access to Heal.
In May 2019, the startup surprised observers by introducing Heal Telemedicine. It was surprising. Why? CEO and co-founder Nick Desai previously didn’t have much nice to say about the service delivery channel. However, following the move, he was quick to qualify it as an option meant mostly for managing chronic care patients. “We view telemedicine with your Heal doctors as an extension of the relationship after they see you at home,” he said.
Still, the company had nine months to gather some lessons before Covid-19 stymied its in-home model. Prior to its pandemic pivot, Heal had geographic limitations. But telemedicine changes that.
It will be interesting to see what the firm learns from the telehealth shift.
Heal has already met some success. The on-demand healthcare firm recently joined the CNBC Disruptor 50 list in the No. 13 slot.
Coronavirus Gives Heal Proof of Concept
The novel coronavirus — and the resulting global lockdown — in many ways provided a proof of concept for mass telemedicine and similar delivery and service models.
Waivers on Medicare restrictions have partially fueled that. Before, Medicare only permitted telehealth visits in a limited number of rural areas. But amid the lockdown, some 40 million Medicare participants can now call a doc rather than go into an office.
In late April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported beneficiaries receiving telehealth visits had gone from about 10,000 a week to 300,000 in the early weeks of the pandemic. According to the Wall Street Journal, that number will soon rise sharply.
And while the current health crisis has been a catalyst for the new models, will they remain attractive in a post-pandemic world? Then, again, imagine you are a harried parent with a sick child at home, dinner prep in full swing and a video call with your work colleagues after you get everyone to bed.
Are you going to take the little one to the urgent care or connect with Heal to “see” the doctor?
Payers Are Cheering Heal On
When Heal acquired rival Doctors on Call in September 2019 for cash and stock, industry analysts saw more evidence for providing patients convenience through services at home and via phone and computer.
Heal’s at-home model, particularly with seniors, provides a way for the health profession to assess some of the external factors in a patient’s health.
Payers seem to be big on this care model. Heal has signed contracts with all of the major PPO plans in New York and California, as well as with Medicare. Healthcare Dive reported that 80% of Heal’s patients schedule an initial visit for an urgent care need. Then, they transition to expanded services, including chronic disease management and preventive care.
“House calls can be a more convenient option for members, bringing the doctor to their door instead of having to make the time to go to the doctor’s office,” Sutter Health|Aetna CEO Steve Wigginton said in December following the announcement of his company’s tie-up with Heal.
Heal Faces Competition, But Not a Crowd
Heal has some competition, but the field is not yet crowded.
The biggest name is Teladoc Health (NYSE:TDOC) and it has been on a bit of an acquisition tear in recent months. Its January 2020 cash-stock purchase of InTouch Health expanded its presence in virtual healthcare and complex home-based specialty care.
Others include Denver-based mobile urgent care provider DispatchHealth and Johns Hopkins’ Hospital at Home program, which was cited in a New England Journal of Medicine article as just one example of providing hospital-level care at home. It uses technological advances to improve patient outcomes and yield a substantial return on investment.
Some analysts have forecast that a virtual healthcare move could ultimately be part of Haven’s roster of services once the joint venture between Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A, NYSE:BRK.B) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) fully ramps up its healthcare offering to the partners’ employees.
How to Invest in Heal
Pitchbook puts the startup’s value near $137 million with investors injecting $95 million into Heal stock equity. Besides a couple of celebrity investors, like Lionel Richie and BET founder Robert L. Johnson, the company is also backed by Breyer Capital, Fidelity Investments and China’s GRC SinoGreen Fund.
Individual private investors looking to purchase Heal stock can look at several equity crowdfunding platforms, including EquityZen and SharesPost. Meanwhile, if the private market isn’t for you, keep an eye on the IPO process for telehealth player Amwell which filed in June for its own offering.
Robert Lakin is a veteran financial writer and editor, following fintech, agtech and property tech startups. He was previously emerging markets editor for Bloomberg News in Tel Aviv. He is a contributor to the Powered by Battery blog. Robert does not own any of the aforementioned securities.
Investing through equity and real estate crowdfunding or asset tokenization requires a high degree of risk tolerance. Despite what individual companies may promise, there’s always the chance of losing a portion, or the entirety, of your investment. These risks include:
1) Greater chance of failure
2) Risk of fraudulent activity
3) Lack of liquidity
4) Economic downturns
5) Dearth of investor education
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