Another start-up is looking to apply the Uber principle to healthcare.
New York-based FRND is testing a new version of the house call that dispatches a nurse to a consumer's home to collect vital signs and other information before remotely connecting – if necessary – to a doctor. This on-demand triage service aims to use the available workforce of nurses while refining the doctor's workload to critical care.
[See also: An Uber for house calls]
Coley Parry, FRND's co-founder, says the service is defined more along the lines of "precision medicine" than telemedicine because it combines in-person care with mHealth devices and immediate access to a doctor, all depending on the initial prep work done by the nurse.
The service is being initially marketed to consumers for a $99 flat fee, but Parry sees a wide range of business opportunities, from health systems looking to ease the burden of their EDs and remote clinics to solo and small practices looking to improve community health outreach to businesses seeking that extra healthcare edge for their employees.
"We believe we can work alongside all of those," says Parry, who adds he's been in contact with "a number of different hospitals" about the service.
[See also: Is Health 2.0 finally growing up?]
FRND pushes back against today's telemedicine platforms that focus on virtual care, offering a personal element that might appeal to the elderly, those with chronic conditions and parents of sick children who might feel more comfortable having someone in person rather than at the other end of a phone call or video visit. In addition, the nurse comes to the door with a wide array of mHealth tools, and can instantly conference in a doctor via video if the visit requires a clinical consult or a prescription.
The attraction for healthcare providers is obvious: If a nurse can be dispatched to triage patients in their home (or, theoretically, the office, the school, the mall – wherever they're located), that speeds up the workflow and only pulls in the doctor if and when he/she is needed. Parry notes there's a much larger network of nurses than doctors from which to draw for the service, from those employed at health systems and looking for extra hours, to those who'd want to make this a full-time job.
In addition, he says, nurses often have better patient engagement skills, and might be better at making a house call.
"There's a certain skillset that nurses have," he says.
While the inclusion of nurses is unique, the idea of telehealth-enhanced house calls isn't necessarily new. New York-based Pager has been providing house calls since 2014, offering service within two hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day for a $50 charge (there's a $200 fee for a subsequent visit), and this year has expanded to the West Coast. Los Angeles-based Heal – whose investors include Lionel Richie, Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Qualcomm executive Paul Jacobs - charges $99 for a visit and recently expanded to San Francisco. And Silicon Valley-based Medicast – the oldest of the group, launched in 2013 – recently dropped its physician network and moved to partner with health systems like Seattle's Providence Health to provide house call services.
Parry, who thought up the business plan while caring for a parent who was often ailing but didn't want to leave home, said the house call may have all-but-vanished for years, but it's coming back into favor with consumers who don't have time to visit a doctor but still want that human touch. And with mHealth technology at hand, this house call is much more productive.