Los Angeles

New Apps Make Doctor House Calls New Again

"On-demand" is no longer just a TV setting.

With the popularity of phone apps, "on-demand" has become a business model. And it's given new life to an old concept in medicine — the house call.

The new app allows you to see a doctor when and where you want.

The concept of a doctor making a house call was as outdated as having a milkman.

Dr. Abe Malkin is proving what's old is new again as one of 100 doctors in Southern California working under Heal, a phone app that let's you book a house call.

"They don't have to get in their car, fight through traffic, wait in a waiting room," Malkin said. "They have doctors on-demand."

Added Dr. Renee Dua, the co-founder of the app: "We want to get patients access to personalized care."

Dua calls the on-demand model a game changer in health care.

"Doctors are coming to us because they are recognizing that they can practice excellent medicine without the stress of running a business that they're not comfortable partaking in," she said.

The Heal app launched in Los Angeles last February. It has expanded to San Francisco and is set to roll out in 15 major U.S. cities.

There are similar apps such as Pager in New York City, Go-2-Nurse in Chicago and Milwaukee and Curbside Care in Philadelphia which all offer medical house calls by doctors.

Stay-at-home mom Rayne Garber has booked a house call through the Heal app twice.

"You put in your ZIP code and then you click to see a doctor and then you pick a time you want to see a doctor," she said. "For me to get two kids out of the house and myself if I weren't feeling good, it's a huge advantage for anyone who's busy."

Medical examinations cover the basics, including blood work and IV therapy.

A Heal app house call costs $99 without insurance. Currently, only Anthem Blue Cross offers the Heal app in network, which reduces the payment to a copay percentage.

To compare, the I-Team contacted 11 urgent care clinics, and found fees ranging from $55 to $150 per visit. A trip to an emergency room with no insurance can cost thousands.

"Not all doctors are good doctors," said Stuart Talley, a consumer attorney.

Talley warns convenience doesn't always mean competence. You still want to verify the medical license of the person coming to your home and seek recommendations.

"A doctor can be really friendly and have a good bedside manner but they may not be very knowledgeable in medicine, so you have to be careful," Talley said.

Garber said for something beyond a simple illness or exam, she'd opt for an emergency room but her house calls have lasted between 25 minutes and an hour.

She's gotten to know her doctor better, a relationship Garber said is improving her health.

"I think it's amazing," she said. "I think it's like the old school back in the day doctor's in your house."

Dua said all Heal app doctors have practices affiliated with hospitals or they are part of a university's medical program. There are also apps that allow you to video conference with a doctor for a fee but Dua said demands for medical house calls are growing as an alternative for primary care.

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