Clinicians at Heal (heal.com) have been using Health Gorilla since the start of the pandemic to simplify the most burdensome part about running a telemedicine practice — retrieving medical records. Since their $100M investment from Humana, Heal has been growing their house call and virtual care service at a rapid clip. Currently, Heal is delivering approximately 8,000 telemedicine appointments per month while also doing about 33% more house calls since the pandemic began.
On their journey to become a national service, Heal had to explore hyper-efficient ways to deliver deeply personalized care at scale. Automating the way a patient’s medical records were retrieved became a priority for their clinical team, which is where Health Gorilla came in. We caught up with Justin Zaghi MD, Medical Director at Heal, to learn about how Heal has adapted during the pandemic and how they use Health Gorilla to retrieve clinical data.
Heal has seen a tremendous amount of demand throughout the pandemic. For folks that may not be aware, what does Heal do?
Heal is on a mission to transform the $4 trillion healthcare industry. Since its inception in 2014, our founders Nick Desai and Dr. Renee Dua have been steadfast in their belief that better care starts at home. Together they built a technology-empowered, home-centric primary care infrastructure that has improved health outcomes, lowered healthcare costs, and delighted patients. Heal is a provider of physician house calls and telemedicine. We provide comprehensive primary care in the comfort, convenience, and safety of your own home. Now more than ever, it’s important for patients to stay home and reduce their risk of exposure. Patients feel more comfortable getting care in their home environment, and we can uncover social determinants of health by seeing where they live and how they live.
Heal serves patients in multiple states including California, Georgia, New Jersey, and New York to name a few. We’re also in the process of expanding into additional markets like Illinois and Louisiana.
Access to data has become a huge topic in the telemedicine community. How does Heal use clinical data to drive its business model and services?
Heal takes pride in using the most innovative software available to make data-informed decisions for our patients. Given our growth, many of our patients are new, and the real challenge is not having data about them before the visit. The other challenge is providing coordinated care with their other providers, which may include specialists or the hospitals where they’re receiving care. Heal is not part of an integrated hospital system, so we benefit from partners like Health Gorilla that give us a channel to access EMR data. This way, the care we deliver can be informed by all of the care the patient has received by other providers.
Before you started searching for solutions to simplify medical record retrieval, what pain points were you trying to solve?
The primary pain point was not having enough data on our patients beforehand. This was limiting our ability to care for them with the highest level of quality that we needed.
Our process to get their medical records was also very manual and burdensome. We would request records individually from each doctor’s office. When you fax a HIPAA release form, it’s very cumbersome from a personnel perspective. In addition, you may be dealing with multiple physician offices that are not responsive or slow to send back records, so we’d have to call them and follow up. So we were struggling with getting the records back to us.
What is the market landscape for solutions you were considering?
One option was to hire more administrative staff to fax HIPAA release forms and call doctors offices to get patients’ records. This was obviously going to be cost prohibitive and wouldn’t scale well.
The second option was working with local health information exchanges in each particular market that we wanted to expand in. But as a national healthcare provider, we really wanted to use one platform across all of our markets and reduce our vendor complexity.
Lastly, we looked at products that let us retrieve medical records from multiple health information exchanges all together. After evaluating a few products, we ultimately landed on Health Gorilla.
What were the reasons Heal chose Health Gorilla?
Health Gorilla was already integrated in our EMR, and it could easily become a part of our workflow. More importantly, Health Gorilla has the broadest network of providers, which includes connections to CommonWell and Carequality. Other companies were regional and had fewer providers in their networks which didn’t work for us. Health Gorilla also has a user interface to review all the newly retrieved medical records. Other companies in this space would provide raw data as XML files, but our clinicians needed a way to review this data in an easy way.
How does Heal use Health Gorilla today?
The most common use-case is getting data on new patients and getting records on an ongoing basis when our patients are receiving care from other providers. I routinely use it to track any care my patients receive from specialists and neighboring hospitals. As the primary care doctor, I can see imaging, labs, vaccine records, and notes from any specialist that sees my patient. More importantly, when I see my patient in the follow up visit, I can treat them in the context of their full medical history, and as a result, I can provide them with better care.
How does this data serve as a competitive advantage for Heal? What are the strategic benefits?
It really comes down to the quality of care we deliver. With better quality, we can better serve our patients, remove administrative hassles from our providers, and perform better in our contracts with our health insurance partners. It also helps in closing care gaps, so we’re aware what preventative measures are done at other institutions and allows us to make decisions informed by data. Access to this data creates benefits across our business.
Since adopting Health Gorilla, how has it impacted the patient experience? Is there a particular patient story you can share?
It has dramatically improved the patient experience. Patients appreciate that we treat them in the context of the care they receive from all of their providers broadly. They also don’t need to repeat as much information during the visit, since we go in having already reviewed their history.
I did a house call for a frail elderly patient in Los Angeles. She was recently discharged from the hospital after having burns on her arms. She felt isolated and somewhat abandoned from her primary care provider who would not do a house call for her. She also could not recollect her medical history, and without it, I would have struggled to care for her. I wouldn’t know what happened in the hospital.
With Health Gorilla, I was able to pull up all her data, see when she was hospitalized, see what medications they discharged her on, understand all of her medical conditions, and provide exceptional care for her. The only reason I could do this was because I could care for her in the context of her prior health records.
What advice would you give to other telemedicine startups that are evaluating new ways to access clinical data?
Having complete data on your patients is a huge advantage. It enables you to improve outcomes, improve patient satisfaction, and improve the provider experience. It has revolutionized the way we practice. Having a solution for medical record access is something I’d encourage other telemedicine companies to consider.
For more information about Heal, visit heal.com.