Mobile Med reviving the house call

Jess Deyo
Greg LaFontaine, Jill Parak and Ryan Cantzler of Mobile Med .

After falling ill in the 1930s, it was common to make a call and wait for a doctor to arrive for care in the comfort of your home. Since then, medicine has advanced and house calls have ceased to exist for the most part. Columbus-based Mobile Med is bringing them back.

Mobile Med was launched in June 2019, and the healthcare workers who made it happen are passionate about the revival of the house call. Now from a smartphone, perhaps while lying on the couch, patients in central Ohio can get medical advice in minutes.

For co-founder Ryan Cantzler, a board-certified emergency room physician at Mount Carmel Health System, painting a picture of the convenience of Mobile Med is easy.

Perhaps a parent is juggling three kids, working to make dinner, and cuts their finger while cooking. Instead of a two-hour urgent care wait and impromptu childcare arrangements, the solution can be found in minutes over the phone thanks to Mobile Med, Cantzler says.

The idea of Mobile Med was brought to Cantzler by longtime coworker and co-founder Greg LaFontaine, a physician assistant for over a decade. While the two have spent many hours in the hospital together, they’re also neighbors in Worthington and frequently spend time together with their children. As busy parents themselves, the idea of a mobile clinic was perfect.

“Everything we do now, we get delivered to us whether it’s groceries, Amazon packages,” LaFontaine says. “Our whole thought was why not provide a healthcare provider who can come to your house?”

Another asset to Mobile Med is co-founder Jill Parak, a certified nurse practitioner,  healthcare provider at Kenyon College and wife to Cantzler. She previously worked in the emergency room alongside her husband and LaFontaine but stepped away to care for her daughter.

Jill Parak of Mobile Med

For the three co-founders and four additional care providers, Mobile Med is a side hustle aside from their regular work. Each provider dedicates time to the company by collaborating as a team to ensure constant phone coverage.

From stitches, common illness, ear infections and more, Mobile Med is equipped to offer a solution. If not, they will advise what the next steps should be. To make an appointment, patients can call or download the Spruce app to their smartphone, which allows easy communication between the physicians and the patient.

Tools used by Mobile Med

Initially, the takeoff of Mobile Med didn’t offer much headway, Parak says. After, the success is comparable to a rollercoaster — with the 2019 flu season, business increased, but with the onset of Covid-19, many were cautious about seeing a doctor at all. In late 2020, however, house calls began to increase.

“The thought of having a provider come to your home and potentially see you on your porch or in your garage, people were very receptive to that,” Parak says.

Mobile Med offers Covid-19 testing and services, including rapid antigen and PCR testing, which determine if the patient is currently infected by the virus. They also offer antibody testing and will coordinate testing for small businesses.

Despite the convenience of Mobile Med, a hurdle for the team has been the inability to accept insurance. However, bills can be filed with insurance agencies out of network. Patient bills range from $50 to $99 with Mobile Med, compared to an average of $50 to $250 at an urgent care.

For Cantzler, LaFontaine and Parak, the perks of running Mobile Med are centered around the ability to spend time with people and get them the resources they need to be healthy.

Parak, who was accustomed to patient interaction as a nurse, is particularly fond of the opportunity to connect with those she treats. Her favorite memory is a simple one: sitting on a patient’s porch and talking about school with a fellow parent.

As more patients learn about Mobile Med's services, the team hopes to spread to other cities, like Cincinnati, and have the workload for three full-time employees, LaFontaine says. They also hope to partner with local medical practices.

“We’re small, we’re Columbus small — and Columbus proud,” Cantzler says. “We want to make people healthy and we want to give them time and expense, but also we want to bring everybody up.”

Mobile Med

Business: Mobile healthcare provider traveling to patients to treat common illnesses, injuries, Covid-19 and more.

Founders: Nurse practitioner Jill Parak, Dr. Ryan Cantzler, and physician assistant Gregory LaFontaine

Employees: Seven part-time

Revenue: Would not disclose