Montreal nurse Oren Sebag is betting that the pandemic benefits are here to stay with the launch of her company’s Made-in-Montreal mobile app that offers same-day at-home appointments for blood tests and flu shots — with just a few clicks.
Sebag, a nurse for 20 years and now the CEO of Avvy App, compares Uber’s service to healthcare.
“So think of it like you order your favorite food from your favorite restaurant. It does the exact same thing but with health-care professionals,” he said in an interview.
Avvy first launched in the Greater Montreal area in April, and the company hopes to expand to other Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Toronto.
Users who download the app can upload their requisition form from their doctor and request a nurse to come to their home. Most appointments are the same day, and some can be as quick as 15 minutes, according to Sebag.
Users can request a variety of non-urgent care options, such as blood tests, COVID-19 tests (PCR and rapid antigen tests), electrocardiograms, strep tests, ear cleanings and vaccinations — for a fee. Blood tests are usually around $109 while flu shots are $89.
CLSCs already offer free home visits to some patients, and other private clinics such as MDomicile, Cliniquego, RN Privée also charge for some home appointments with health-care professionals, but Sebag says his mobile app sets Avvy apart, since there are flu shots. – on the phone or in line-up – no waiting, for example.
Having treated COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, Sebag said he saw an opportunity to bridge the health-care gap in Montreal by giving residents more options.
“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve made a lot of house calls to people who were very, very sick and couldn’t leave their homes. There’s a need today, and people are used to doing certain things. For the comfort of their homes, in the safety of their homes,” he said.
“It’s a business model that’s certainly expanding into many areas, and health care is one of them.”
Sebag said Avvy has already logged several thousand users since launching last spring, some as young as 17, and has hired about 50 health care workers, many of whom have left the public health system to work in the private sector.
“If there’s a nurse who wants to work full-time for Abby, she has the ability to do that through the app. If she wants to work a few hours a month, that option is available as well. So we’re not necessarily competing with anyone. We’re just people who want it. Trying to give them a different option,” Sebag said.
The app has been launched as the province tries to come up with innovative ideas to desperately retain health workers in the public health-care system, amid a staff shortage driven in large part by burnout. One of those ideas was a $5,000 bonus for nurses who returned to the public network in certain regions (in Montreal, the bonus was $2,000).
Lou-Micah Castillo is one of the health-care workers who left the public system to join Avvy full-time in April after graduating in 2019 and starting her career as a licensed practical nurse in January 2020.
He said the flexibility of their business model was the reason he joined the private healthcare system.
“I still love what I’m doing,” Castillo said in a phone interview Tuesday after a house call in Blainville, Kuwait. For blood tests.
“It’s no secret that the healthcare system is facing some serious challenges with burnout and retention. And we see Avvy as one solution among many, allowing patients access to healthcare, access to the support they need. It’s really about their comfort, convenience and accessibility. ,” he said.
The Quebec Conservative Party has pledged to give the private sector a bigger role in providing health care in the province. Meanwhile, the ruling CAQ party has promised to increase home care services if re-elected in October elections.