Concierge medicine is a shot in the arm for the DC economy

Innovation in the field of medicine and biotechnology is always welcome; but when it’s happening here in the D.C. region, it means a win-win situation. One of these new innovations is part of IV Doc, a national chain of wellness businesses with a new approach that’s getting local attention. We spoke with Dr. Diva Nagula, founder and CEO of the Washington, D.C. franchise for this national organization.

ABERMAN: Well, let’s start with IV Doc. What is it?

NAGULA: IV Doc is a franchise that’s around 21 areas across the country. It’s actually a concierge service that provides hydration therapy to people who are dehydrated or depleted of volume, for whatever reason. If it’s food poisoning, fluid issues, or even a run-of-the-mill hangover.

ABERMAN: I’m not sure how many people realize what a big deal dehydration is. Could you give me some examples of where it turns up, and why that headache in our heads actually has some relevance to this conversation?

NAGULA: It’s interesting. You’re really supposed to be drinking about eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day. And people are so busy, and grinding, especially in the D.C. area, and they just forget to drink liquids. And as a result, they’re dehydrated. And when they partake in activities like athletics, people just get chronically dehydrated. And then they go out drinking, and they just compound one another. And as a result, people are just hurting, they’re dehydrated, they feel the lethargic, they feel fatigued, they have headaches, and they’re like, oh, am I having the flu? No, you’re really dehydrated.

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ABERMAN: I just get the image of the times I’ve been really feeling ill, or having a hangover, and yeah, I just think, oh, well, I’ll sit down for a while or drink a lot of water. Why doesn’t that work?

NAGULA: Interesting enough, when you drink water, or take anything by mouth, such as vitamins, you lose about 50 percent of it. So, it’s because you either pee it out or you lose it through metabolism. So, you’re not getting a lot through the oral route. So, the intravenous route is a much preferred route to get things in quicker. It goes right into the cells, right into the vein, and it gets to where it needs to go. To your brain, to all your vital organs, very quickly. So, a liter of fluids that contain electrolytes, and sometimes we infuse the fluids with vitamins, you’re replenished in no time.

ABERMAN: So this is like what I think of the times I’ve been in the hospital, or so forth. This is like the IV that I would get in the hospital?

NAGULA: Exactly, same thing. The only difference is that hospitals aren’t able to inject and infuse vitamins. It’s not on a formulary, it’s not something that hospitals carry, but the medications that, say, for example, if you’re suffering from nausea, or suffering from just aches and pains, we use the same medications that they would in the ER. But we do something different. We infuse vitamins as well. You won’t get that at an institution like a hospital or a doctor’s office. So, we don’t have a brick and mortar, and our model, which is how we’ve thrived, is just that we send nurses and deploy them to the person’s home, place of employment. or hotel rooms.

In fact, today. we had a patient that was at work, and had a meeting from ten to four o’clock today. And he was feeling a little cruddy, and he went to the doctor’s, didn’t have strep, didn’t have flu, but just felt like something was going on. Nine AM, he calls us to go into his office, and we gave him two liters of fluids and vitamins, and within 45 minutes, he was fine. He had so much energy, he even texted me, saying, I feel phenomenal, and he was ready for his meeting.

ABERMAN: It’s fascinating to me, you describe them as patients. Is this healthcare?

NAGULA: I think it is, because it is a brand of wellness, and a service that we are providing that is medical-related. We are helping people fix their ailments that, otherwise, they would go to the ER, or to an urgent care, to get a remedy.

ABERMAN: This may be new, but this isn’t crank medicine. This is still medicine.

NAGULA: Absolutely correct.

ABERMAN: Having said that, you entered the market in January, and, as I recall, you entered the market with a story about hangovers, right? What’s it turned out to be, what are your customers looking like?

NAGULA: It’s funny. When I got involved, my experience, when I first had this done, which is what propelled my opening to the D.C. market, was that I was in Vegas, and I saw this service that they would come to you, and I signed up for it on New Year’s Day a couple of years ago. And because of that, I was like, this is a phenomenal wave, helping people, the whole concierge model. And concierge medicine is actually something that’s taking off, not only in the business that I’m in, but just in general: family practice, and just, people are making house calls again.

ABERMAN: Yeah, that is true. In fact, I have a number of friends that are involved in concierge care, and it is a big trend, as is personalized medicine, a lot of different things. Do you feel that your service is indicative of a larger trend? Healthcare is changing dramatically. It’s not just about reimbursement. What do you think is going to happen in the next ten, twenty years? How personalized do you think medicine is going to get?

NAGULA: I think our society is, we want to be fulfilled, and our needs need to be fulfilled immediately. We just have that mentality. Because of that, people don’t want to wait in the ER six to eight hours, people don’t want to wait for appointments three weeks out. So now, people are taking advantage, in terms of physicians and other businesses, are taking advantage of that sentiment that people have. And they’re like, let’s just do on-demand service, like Uber. And that’s kind of how we are. We’re the on-demand service for hydration therapy.

But there are on-demand services for concierge medicine, as well as home visits, that are in the line of family medicine and things along that alignment. And I think, that’s what we’re going to see more of. People are being satisfied with that, and people have disposable income to do this now. Sometimes insurance companies aren’t going to reimburse for this kind of service, but your FSA accounts, they’ll probably reimburse for this.

ABERMAN: So this looks and sounds a lot like we’re seeing with the pharmaceuticals, or some larger companies buying pharmacies, and so forth. This is all part of the same trend, then.

NAGULA: I think so. I think we’re going to see more of this, yes.

ABERMAN: You started out with your medical training. Did you ever imagine for a moment this is where you’d be?

NAGULA: No, I didn’t, not at all. But it’s fun, it’s sexy, and it makes people’s lives improved.

ABERMAN: Thanks a lot for taking the time, it was a lot of fun to have you in the studio.

NAGULA: Thanks for having me.