UCLA Alum’s App at the Forefront of Telemedicine

May 18, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom
After experiencing a longer-than-expected wait time for a physician to see their two toddlers, alum Nick Desai and his wife, Dr. Renee Dua, decided to found Heal, a mobile-app company that provides medical house calls by doctors. Desai put his engineering background to work in designing and creating the digital platform and serves as Heal’s CEO, while Dua, who completed her residency at UCLA Health, serves as the company’s chief medical officer.

Founded in 2014 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Heal has paired hundreds of board-certified doctors with patients primarily seeking preventive care, including annual checkups and monitoring of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, from the comfort of their living room. In addition to California, the service is currently available in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C., with plans to expand to other states.

With the rise of COVID-19 and extensive stay-at-home orders in many parts of the country, Heal has had to pivot to meet the surging demand for remote telemedicine.

“The pandemic has dramatically changed the way care is and will be delivered,” said Desai, who graduated in 1992 with a master’s in electrical engineering. “COVID-19 has brought telemedicine to the forefront. We booked 20 times more remote appointments in March than we did all last year.”

From the start, Heal’s driving philosophy has been to provide everyone convenient and personalized care, and it’s staying true to its mission.

The company accepts all insurance plans, and patients’ co-pay is the same as going to a health center, usually from $5 to $30. Heal’s main advantage is that it operates 12 hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in local time zones, seven days a week, including weekends and holidays.

“The Heal platform can potentially use a triad of house calls, telemedicine calls and remote patient monitoring to offer patients high touch, comprehensive care from the comfort of their homes,” Dua said. “What’s more, Heal is achieving excellent patient outcomes based on our proprietary software.”

Recently named Apple’s App of the Day, Heal is being contacted by individuals worried about experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus. Others have reached out for help in coping with pandemic-related anxiety and mental health concerns.

In the age of Amazon and Netflix, the company strives to be as consumer-friendly as possible. “We deliver our services within the hour,” Desai said. “Using Heal is as easy as ordering pizza. It takes less than 20 seconds to book a doctor through our app or on our website.”

The mobile app includes everything from built-in house call bookings and video calls to integrated health records from services such as Apple Health. The company also serves patients who may not have access to smartphones or even the internet.

“While Heal is available through the web, iOS and Android platforms, patients can also use Heal if they only have access to a landline,” said Desai. “We re-architected our entire platform so customers don’t even have to enter an email address. Patients can choose to receive a telemedicine call to a cell phone or landline instead of through video.”

Citing his electrical engineering background, Desai opined that there is no better training for building start-ups than engineering. “Engineering provides a structured way to synthesize complex problems and innovate solutions,” Desai said.

In building Heal, Desai tapped into UCLA’s network of engineers and doctors, a team Desai refers to as “extremely resilient, bright and dynamic.” When asked if he had any advice for Bruin engineers, Desai shared, “Stick with it, it is worth it. The best education money can buy, at any price, is an engineering degree from the UC. Period.”

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