Norwalk senior Jacqueline Ruiz-Lara has had her share of health issues in recent years. Diabetic, Ruiz-Lara underwent open-heart surgery three years ago, has persistent knee problems and suffered a series of falls.
All of these difficulties meant that she had to make multiple trips to the hospital, not to mention the amount of prescription drugs she had to manage and the doctor’s visits she had to arrange.
But a year ago, one of Ruiz-Lara’s doctors recommended that she try a new service designed to help seniors navigate the healthcare system and manage their care, all with the aim of allow her to age in place.
This new service was provided by Santa Monica-based SixD Inc., doing business as Renee. Founded by the husband and wife duo who previously launched call-to-home and virtual doctor visit company Get Heal Inc. – dba Heal – Renee provides a personal health concierge service to its elderly clients.
This service includes reminders for clients to pick up their medications or make appointments, obtain those medications and deliver them to the client, arrange doctor’s appointments and transportation to and from these visits, and complete required paperwork , among other services.
“I feel so safe with Renee, and the best part is that I can stay home instead of waiting in the hospital for four or five hours every time I have a problem,” Ruiz-said Laura.
Renee had a soft launch a year ago with over $4 million in funding, secured additional funding of over $4 million earlier this year, and officially launched this month.
Simultaneously with its official launch, Renee joined the ranks of companies offering prescription drug discount programs. But unlike most of these programs that offer discounted rates for individual prescription drugs, Renee offers comprehensive coverage for approximately 500 drugs at a flat cost of $25 per month. A patient using the discount program only pays the $25 fee, regardless of how many prescription drugs they use each month.
“We offer complete management of the person’s care journey with a low-cost prescription program,” said co-founder and CEO Nick Desai. His wife, Dr. Renee Dua, in addition to lending her name to the company, is the company’s Chief Strategy Officer; she is also a practicing physician. It was Dua who found the inspiration for the company after having to care for her aging father and experiencing firsthand the complexities of organizing healthcare services and medicines.
The duo’s previous startup, Heal, still offers in-home doctor visits. According to the Crunchbase website, Heal has raised a total of $162 million through four funding rounds.
The idea of a health care concierge — or ombudsman — isn’t new: Employer health plans and hospitals have long offered such services, especially when patients are discharged from the hospital. For those with limited financial means, local government health care agencies or nonprofit social service organizations have maintained similar services. There are also high-end personal healthcare concierges who, for a substantial fee, help their clients navigate the complexities of modern healthcare.
But for many elderly patients, family members often step in to make sure they take all their medications regularly or transport them to and from doctor’s appointments.
However concierge service has been delivered, it has always been human capital intensive.
Renee, on the other hand, uses an artificial intelligence platform to essentially automate the simpler tasks of compiling medication orders, tracking medication usage, aligning transportation options, and more. This reduces the time spent with each patient, allowing the company’s eight concierges to manage up to 150 patients each.
One of the main objectives of the company is to facilitate the daily interactions of the patient with the health system.
“Through automation and our proactive approach, we eliminate confusion around medications, eligibility verification and coverage,” Desai said. “By doing all of these things, we minimize the number of instances where time-consuming troubleshooting is required.”
Lump sum orders
The other major goal is to become the one-stop-shop for patients – especially the elderly – who wish to stay at home and need to manage all of their healthcare.
And that’s where the prescription drug discount program comes in. Renee’s program greatly simplifies the process for seniors, especially those on fixed incomes. The program includes 500 commonly prescribed medications. As long as all the prescriptions a customer needs are on this list, the customer pays $25 per month. All the rest of the work—filling prescriptions and delivering them—is overseen by Renee’s janitors.
If a prescription is not on the list of 500 medications included, the concierge works with the patient’s insurance plan to ensure the medication is delivered at the insurance coverage price.
This approach differs from most other rebate programs. Santa Monica-based GoodRx Holdings Inc., for example, offers deep discounts on the prices its customers pay for prescriptions. It also offers a monthly subscription – $10 per month for individuals and $20 for families – but the difference is that the customer still has to pay a certain amount for each individual prescription, even if it’s discounted by more than 80% compared to the manufacturer’s market price.
The combination of a healthcare concierge service and the Prescription Flat Rate Discount Plan sets Renee apart in an increasingly crowded field of consumer-driven healthcare companies.
“There are many businesses and community-based nonprofits that have become good at guiding the patient through one or another part of their healthcare journey,” said Jaja Liao, director of 25 Madison, a New York-based startup venture capital firm. . Liao knows about Renee’s program.
“Some companies focus on arranging transportation, others focus only on medicine,” Liao continued. “But as far as I know, no company has put all of this in place in a consumer-friendly or senior-friendly way.”
But Liao said the true test of Renee’s set of healthcare management offerings will come with time.
“They need to show with this first consumer iteration that they are having a big enough impact on patients’ lives: tracking how much they’ve increased medication adherence; reduced missed doctor visits, etc.,” a- “They have to show it to health care payers, and they have to show it with enough consumer adoption,” she said.
We offer complete management of the person’s care pathway with a low-cost prescription program.
Ultimately, the goal, she said, is to get health care payers — whether private insurance companies or government programs like Medicare — on board with Renee’s concierge and healthcare management offerings.
If Renee’s client Ruiz-Lara is any indication, it might not be as difficult as it first seems.
“I’m assigned to one person with Renee and she takes care of everything,” Ruiz-Lara said. “Plus, with Renee’s reminders, I don’t forget to take my meds anymore and they track all my vital signs and send them directly to my doctors. It all made it easier to stay home. I definitely intend to continue using Renee.