Basis Health, a healthcare provider exclusively making house calls, recently relocated from Idaho to Bentonville and plans to launch a service to monitor patient health. The company’s mission is to increase healthcare access for the elderly and chronically ill.
Andres Lazarte, chief strategy officer, said Basis Health is the only entirely mobile house call company in Northwest Arkansas. The company is adding between five and 10 patients per week and has about 120 in the area. They comprise assisted living, independent living, memory care and homebound patients.
According to the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews, “home-based primary care improves the lives of high-cost, frail, homebound patients and their caregivers while reducing costs by keeping patients at home and reducing the use of hospitals and nursing homes.”
The article shows that between 2 million and 4 million patients could benefit from home-based primary care, but only 12% receive it. Over the next two decades, the number of these patients is expected to double.
“Our mission is to change healthcare,” Lazarte said. “The new program we are launching is pairing each patient who is chronically ill with a watch that will monitor their vitals 24 hours a day, and that data will be analyzed by our algorithms and help us to see when a patient is in decline.”
If a patient’s health starts to decline, the company can send a mobile medical team to treat the patient and potentially avoid a hospital stay.
“This will solve one of the major issues in the healthcare system for both patients, hospitals and payers,” he said.
Basis Health started in Boise, Idaho, in 2015 and includes three founders, an assistant and a nurse practitioner. In Idaho, the company has about 250 patients.
The family-owned company relocated to Bentonville because its founder and CEO, Dr. Harry Lazarte, previously worked at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas, and “we love the area,” Andres Lazarte said. “Also, we plan on having offices across the country, working in the community and partnering with hospital systems, ACO’s and insurance providers. Bentonville is a perfect central location to spread our company. We have plans to open two to three more offices and add additional services in the next few years.”
About 32 years ago, Harry Lazarte, an immigrant from South America, moved to the United States from Bolivia. He learned English, attended college and earned a medical degree from Creighton University in early 2000. He worked in hospital leadership roles before he left to establish the business with his sons, Andres and Thomas Lazarte, the chief financial officer.
Asked what led him into healthcare, Harry Lazarte cited his family and watching his father take care of patients. He said that in Bolivia, his grandfather was a nurse and his father was a physician.
As an internal medicine physician, Harry Lazarte spent most of his hospital career working as a hospitalist, including his time at Mercy in Rogers about 12 years ago.
“One of the things I hated the most was the fact that I would always be admitting … elderly patients with simple things I thought the primary care physician should’ve taken care of, such as urinary tract infections,” Harry Lazarte said.
Frequently, these patients would be admitted to the hospital at midnight on a Saturday and need to be treated in the intensive care unit.
He began asking why these patients were coming to the hospital for illnesses their primary care physician should have treated. But when he couldn’t get good answers, Lazarte opted to start a program to learn why these patients are challenging to manage and receive the most information possible. He said making house calls would be the best way to do that.
“We thought that there might be some social determinates — there might be some physiological issues for these patients not to receive the care that they needed,” he explained. “We thought that … going to where they live, we may be able to get more data and more understanding about why these patients are not being well taken care of.”
After about six months, he said he learned the healthcare system had significant flaws. One is the challenge of providing treatment when it’s needed. Also, many of these patients are elderly and might not know they are getting sick. He said that as people age, the sensors letting them know they are getting sick don’t work either.
“If we count the timing and the fact that these patients are not really aware of what’s going on, then we realize it’s impossible to make a difference for this population of patients,” said Harry Lazarte, adding that the three most common hospital admission diagnoses include urinary tract infections, dehydration and pneumonia.
“It’s been a labor of love for us to … develop plans and programs that will reach these patients at the time that they will need it most,” he said. “It behooves us as a country to try to do something for these patients so that they don’t go to the hospital. We want to increase the quality of life for elderly patients, too, so that they live longer.”
Andres Lazarte noted that most elderly and chronically ill patients living in healthcare facilities might have a nurse on staff. Still, nurses cannot prescribe medications or send referrals to labs or specialty providers.
“If they have a primary care doctor or (nurse practitioner), they either haven’t seen them in years, or their provider only sees patients in their clinic,” he said. “Many of these patients have a tough time to make it to the clinic or are homebound and can’t. Some doctors might do some house calls but never very frequently or at the end of their shift.
“Many of these patients will get sick or begin to decline in health, and many times their primary care doctor can’t get to them for a few weeks, and their only solution is to go to the hospital, which is often preventable, hard on patients who are frail and is a huge drain on the healthcare system.”
Harry Lazarte sees all of the Northwest Arkansas patients, but the company will hire more providers as it grows. Andres Lazarte said that the company currently serves patients in cities along the Interstate 49 corridor, from Bella Vista to Fayetteville. In Idaho, the company has a mobile provider and plans to hire another.
“We plan to have many providers in Basis Health vehicles driving across each location going to treat and care for patients that otherwise wouldn’t have access,” he said. “We eventually see ourselves getting a value-based contract with an ACO or insurance company because these frail, elderly patient populations cost the most amount of money to care for because of their frequent trips to the hospital that could have been preventable had there been a solution like ours.”
He added that the new program with the monitoring device would “only make us faster. We can marry technology and medicine to create the best system to help these patient populations.”
Basis Health expects to launch the watch in January. The company also offers telehealth and plans to provide mobile urgent house calls and vaccinations. It partners with providers to provide labs, X-rays, ultrasounds and pharmacy delivery to patients’ homes or healthcare facilities.
Revenue is about $60,000 monthly, and the company is considering raising venture capital. It accepts nearly all major health insurance plans, and patients can expect to pay the same amount to see a Basis Health provider as they did with their in-clinic provider.
The company is considering how to pay for the watch service, but Harry Lazarte said insurance might also cover the service. It will save money for the insurance companies if it prevents patient hospital stays. Another option is direct-to-consumer service.