Dallas’s Mend, Children’s Health Align to Expand Healthcare Access

Jonathan Clarke was a U.S. Navy surgeon and received much of his training in the unforgiving classroom of a battlefield.

But it’s his memories watching his grandfather calling on patients in small-town East Texas that inspired his journey as an entrepreneur. “He would make house calls in the ’60s and ’70s,” Clarke recalls. “There are stories of him taking chickens for payment.”

The personal touch used by doctors like his grandfather, and practicing medicine in what Clarke calls “outside the traditional healthcare setting,” primed him to create Mend, an app that connects patients with providers for a house call.

“Amazon Prime can deliver a package in two hours, but you have to wait four hours for urgent care complaints,” he says.

Mend, which was released on the iTunes App Store last March, has about 20 physicians and physician assistants on staff, who work part-time for the startup and see patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The service is $50 for the first visit and $199 for subsequent consultations. Currently, Mend does not take insurance.

“For people who have episodic needs, bronchitis, a sprained ankle, they can’t get in to see a doctor,” Clarke says. “For same day or next day, it’s urgent care or the ER.”

Filling that gap in healthcare—needs that are relatively urgent but not an emergency—has become the target of health IT startups like Mend. In Houston, health IT startup DrNow launched its app for house calls last summer. Nationally, there’s Heal in Los Angeles and New York-based Pager, founded by a former Uber engineer.

These startups charge between $100 to $200 a visit. Last June, Heal raised $5 million in venture capital to expand operations.

Mend has sought investment in another way. Last month, Children’s Health in Dallas took a majority stake in Mend. “This gives us access to resources far greater than the capital contribution that they’ve made, more than what we could have done with just angel or VC money,” Clarke says.

The idea is to tap into Children’s physician network and patient roster. And Clarke says the hospital is working to help it become an in-network provider and tap into health insurance plans.

“Healthcare is changing very rapidly,” Clarke says. “We’re not where we’ll wind up but it will be different from where we are now. [Children’s] is investing in that change.”

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