Uber-like health-care app Avvy launches in Montreal


Oren Sebag, a Montreal registered nurse, is betting that the convenience of the pandemic will continue with the launch of his company’s Montreal-made mobile app, which offers same-day appointments for blood tests and flu shots at home with just a few clicks.

Sebag, a nurse for 20 years and now CEO of the Avvy app, compares the service to Uber for healthcare.

“So think of it like ordering your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant. It does exactly the same thing but with healthcare professionals,” he said in an interview.

Avvy first launched in the greater Montreal area in April, and the company hopes to expand into other Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

Users who download the app can upload their request form from their doctor and request a nurse to come to their home. Most appointments take place on the same day, and some can last as little as 15 minutes, according to Sebag.

Avvy

Users can request a variety of non-urgent supply options such as: Blood tests, COVID-19 tests (rapid PCR and antigen tests), electrocardiograms, strep tests, ear cleaning and vaccinations – for a fee. Blood tests typically hover around $109, while flu shots cost $89.

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CLSCs are already offering free home visits to some patients, and other private clinics such as MDomicile, Cliniquego, RN Privée also charge for some home visits with healthcare professionals, but Sebag said his mobile app is what sets Avvy apart since there is no waiting — neither on the phone nor in a queue – for a flu shot, for example.

In treating COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, Sebag said he sees an opportunity to close the healthcare gap in Montreal by giving residents more options.

“During the pandemic, I’ve made a lot of home visits to people who were very, very ill and couldn’t leave their homes. Today there is a need, and people are more used to having certain things done in the comfort of their home, in the safety of their home,” he said.

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“This is a business model that’s certainly expanding in different areas, and healthcare is one of them.”

According to Sebag, since launching last spring, Avvy has already signed up a few thousand users, some as young as 17, and hired around 50 healthcare workers, many of whom have left the public healthcare system to work in the private sector.

“If there is a nurse who would like to work for Abby full time, she can do so through the application. She would like to work a few hours a month, this option is also available. So we don’t necessarily compete with anyone. We’re just trying to give people who want it a different option,” Sebag said.

The app’s launch comes as the province tries to come up with innovative ideas to desperately keep health workers in the public health system amid staff shortages largely caused by burnout. One such idea was a $5,000 bounty for nurses who returned to the public network in certain regions (the bounty was $2,000 in Montreal).

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Lou-Micah Castillo is one of the healthcare workers who, after graduating in 2019 and beginning his career as a licensed general practitioner, left the public system in January 2020 to join Avvy full-time in April.

Lou Micah

He said the flexibility of their business model was one of the reasons he entered the private healthcare system.

“I still love what I do,” Castillo said in a phone interview Tuesday after making a home visit in Blainville, Que. for a blood test.

“It’s no secret that the healthcare system faces serious challenges with burnout and retention. And we see Avvy as one solution among many that enables patients to access healthcare, access the help they need. It’s really for their comfort, convenience and accessibility,” he said.

Quebec’s Conservative Party has pledged to give the private sector a greater role in health care in the province. Meanwhile, the ruling CAQ party has pledged to increase home care services if re-elected in October’s elections.





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