…Timely visits with a primary care doctor: the best preventive health care isn’t offered in an urgent care, minute clinic or the ER. Anything that needs to be solved quickly probably isn’t encompassing the entire needs of the patient. Make it easier for a patient to see a PCP.
Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Renee Dua. Dr. Dua is a busy, working mother who practices medicine while running Heal, an on-demand doctor house call app available in Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank, South Bay and Long Beach, Orange County, San Diego, Inland Empire, San Jose, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Sacramento, Atalanta, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she followed her father’s footsteps and entered the field of medicine, and now shares a medical practice with him in Los Angeles. Dr. Dua is a licensed physician practicing nephrology, internal medicine and hypertension.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Becoming a mother led me to finding Heal. Before I met my husband, I was a very busy doctor, taking on a lot of responsibility in hospitals and teaching at universities. When I became a mom, I realized the importance of being a better partner, as well as being a more available guardian and protector to my kids. After struggling through various medical complications with having children, it occurred to me that so many people go through so much more than I do, with much less support. The U.S. healthcare system, overall, doesn’t deliver care to people in a way that makes their lives easier. This was the impetus for creating Heal, and we’ve been very successful in delivering affordable, convenient, high-quality care to patients across the United States since we launched the service in 2015.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Every day there is an interesting story to share. Yesterday, I was flying up to the San Francisco Bay Area to complete a training session with our medical teams. I was stopped by the TSA for a luggage search. In my bag, I had some swabs that can be used to complete STD testing. The TSA staff person asked me about them and I explained that we deliver care within the house call setting and want to offer these for people who cannot get timely STD testing in the Bay Area. He thanked me for considering the needs of those who would wish to have their privacy respected with testing like this or who may avoid seeing a doctor for fear of judgement.
Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?
I’ve done a few things in my life that I think make me knowledgeable about running a healthcare company. I’ve started my own practice and learned about human resources, management, insurance, patient billing, and credentialing. Having done things on my own has served me well in the management of a medical practice. I’ve also taken on roles in hospital administration and taught residents and fellows which has helped me communicate in a compassionate way but still offer my colleagues direction to success in their medical operations.
What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes our company stand out is that it was founded by me, a highly skilled doctor, and my husband, a very successful engineer and entrepreneur. A company like Heal, which needs the perspective of real doctors as well as the capabilities of great engineers to pull an idea like this off, couldn’t have been founded by a better pair. We are two of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. No job is too small for either of us and we’re passionate about fixing the broken healthcare system with our outstanding team.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?
A fascinating thing about Heal is how many problems we are trying to solve in the healthcare industry. Within the Company, there are 10 flourishing companies solving various pain points. We have IP for billing insurance and patients. We have IP for routing and special algorithms that get our doctors and medical assistants where they need to go. We have remote monitoring software. We have software that helps pair our doctors and our medical assistants in their market so there is a decrease in driving time. I could go on and on about the awesome engineering work behind the scenes and each part relieves a pain point that a doctor might go through in a practice setting or a patient might struggle with at an office experience. The thing we want to do that is most important is keep our patients at home, safe and sound in their best health. That sentence makes it sound so easy, but house call delivery is complicated and requires a lot of innovation.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m always working on something exciting. At the moment, I’ve dedicated a portion of my energy to our remote monitoring device — Heal Hub. This device allows patients to stay home and use a blood pressure cuff or glucometer to share data with us on our software and allows us to telemedically manage their concerns without needing a house call. This is both helpful for our doctors, who can continue to follow their patients in a manner that’s real time and without being physically present. This is also helpful to our patients who might not be able to make improvements in their health without constant involvement and monitoring from their doctor.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
I often joke with my teammates there are days when I wonder why I opted to start a company like Heal because of how much work I knew it would be. Some of the problems we are trying to solve in a mobile setting seem impossible.
The number one thing that shocks me is how so many people make decisions surrounding the healthcare needs of our country and do not suffer the consequences of those decisions.
To deliver access requires the best and brightest minds but most of all recognizing that when we take care of our vulnerable populations (like children and seniors), we are spending money, but doing it wisely.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this studycited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
As our population is breaking into a class structure, it seems those who have most are getting the most, even when it’s not wasteful. Those who can’t afford medications and doctors are meanwhile struggling and taxing the emergency room and the hospital system. We focus dollars on unnecessary treatments and voodoo medicine and we could be sharing in ensuring that children have proper access to vaccinations and healthy diet regimens. We could be putting money in mental health and instead allow big pharma to alleviate constipation for those that are addicted to narcotics at several dollars a pill. When we don’t focus on the most basic of coverage, in the end, we are expensing these errors by paying for complications rather than preventing illness.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
I will share what our patients say to us on the phone when they are asking questions about our services.
- Transparency: patients don’t understand how their insurance works and what it actually pays for. Their explanation of benefits does not break this down for them sufficiently
- Timely visits with a primary care doctor: the best preventive health care isn’t offered in an urgent care, minute clinic or the ER. Anything that needs to be solved quickly probably isn’t encompassing the entire needs of the patient. Make it easier for a patient to see a PCP.
- Unburden doctors: I have lost count of how many patients tell me their doctor rushes and how many doctors have told me they are stressed to get from patient to patient and are worried about their quality of care. Putting paperwork in the way of a doctor patient relationship affects quality of these relationships and the comprehensiveness of the care a doctor can offer. Cut down on the bureaucracy by streaming ling paperwork via technology, and doctors will have much more time to spend with patients
- Send our politicians to witness firsthand the impact of the decisions they make on healthcare.
- Send investors to witness firsthand the lack of care your average American receives in a busy ER or Urgent Care setting.
Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?
Health starts at home. Do your best to keep on top of your preventive care visits, vaccinations, screenings.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
I don’t have much time for books and podcasts but when I do have time to decompress, I like learning about nature and outer space. We have so much to learn from the beauty around us. Even the leaves on the outside of a head of lettuce grow long and toughen to protect the fragile leaves inside. As a member of the healthcare community, I think we should be doing the same for our vulnerable populations.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!