Patient monitoring startup Doccla secures $3.3M Seed funding for ‘virtual wards’ platform

Doccla, a healthtech startup with a platform that can monitor patients on hospital wards and in the home, has secured a $3.3 million Seed funding round, led by Giant Ventures and Speedinvest. The company allows hospitals to predict when beds will be freed up by monitoring patients remotely via wearable medical devices, thus helping to alleviate bottlenecks in the system.

Founded by health entrepreneur, Martin Ratz, and tech entrepreneur, Dag Larrson, Doccla says it has saved “thousands of bed days for the NHS,” achieving a 29% reduction in Emergency Admissions and a 20% reduction in A&E attendance, the company claimed.

Doccla is similar to competitors Current Health, Huma and Cadence. The latter recently raised $41 million in funding from Thrive and General Catalyst. The company offers a remote patient monitoring platform that enables clinicians to monitor patients at home and provide personalized feedback via texts and ‘video visits’. Doccla says it can also measure patients at home.

The cash raised will be used to invest in its technology, and integrate further with the medical wearables and journal record systems. It also plans to expand into European healthcare markets.
 
Once again, as we have seen with other technologies, Doccla’s development was propelled by the pandemic. It turned out that overwhelmed hospitals needed technologies like this to create ‘virtual wards’ in order to monitor patients’ journey both in the hospital and when they got home.

Dag Larsson, CEO and co-founder of Doccla said. “Our end-to-end virtual ward services are extremely easy for the care provider to take on and extremely hard for them to ignore. The NHS now faces a challenging winter season and we’re evolving our technology to support care providers.”

He added: “We differ a lot from the competition in that we support the entire patient journey (e.g all last-mile activities like logistics, customer service, and even pre-configured mobile phones). This has made us punch substantially over our weight and win contracts with extremely high patient and clinician approval.”

Cameron McLain, Managing Partner & Co-Founder from Giant Ventures added: “Doccla provides a vital solution for a strained healthcare system, delivering a product that improves the patient experience and tackles cost.”

Felix Faltin, Principal and Digital Health Lead at Speedinvest said “Doccla’s platform is more than a product, it’s a full-stack solution that makes care delivery more efficient for providers, cheaper for payors and safer for patients, long past COVID-19.”

#cadence, #europe, #general-catalyst, #giant-ventures, #health, #huma, #mobile-phones, #monitor, #national-health-service, #nhs, #speedinvest, #tc, #telehealth

Teatis, low-sugar superfood powders developer for diabetics, closes seed round

A serial entrepreneur Hiroshi Takatoh recognized the need for convenient and nutritious food for critically ill consumers after losing his late wife to cancer.

Takatoh founded Teatis, a plant-based sugar blocking superfood powder for diabetic consumers, in 2017 in stealth mode and went fully operational in April 2021 by teaming up with a group of doctors and registered nutritionists.

Teatis announced today it has raised $700,000 seed funding to advance its growth in the US market.  The seed money brings Teatis’ total funding to over $1million.

The seed round was led by Genesia Ventures, Ryo Ishizuka, former CEO and co-founder of Japanese e-commerce company Mercari and Takuya Noguchi, CEO and founder of Japan’s skincare brand BULK HOMME. Seven other angel investors also participated in the seed funding.

Teatis will use the seed money for production and marketing in the US, where 122 million diabetics and pre-diabetics continue to work for prevention and treatment against diabetes, CEO and co-founder of Teatis Hiroshi Takatoh told TechCrunch. The company is now focusing on the US market where its production is located while its next funding, a Series A, is set for next year, Takatoh added.

“Most of our consumers, about 88%, are diabetics, and our recipe is built to help diabetics manage their blood sugar. A staggering number of Americans suffer from diabetes, and there is significant demand for diabetic-friendly foods that are nutritious, convenient and functional,” Takatoh said.

Teatis develops a supplement for all consumers interested in low-sugar foods, as well as pre-diabetics, Takatoh said. Teatis’ plant-based powders does not contain chemicals or sweeteners but include a special Japanese ingredient such as brown seaweed extract (Arame) that is proven to suppress the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and reduce blood sugar levels. The low-sugar powder can be made into teas, lattes or added to smoothies.

The US meal placement market size for diabetes is estimated at $5 billion while the US consumer packaged foods market for diabetes is approximately $300 billion, Takatoh said.

“We combine food science and technology to solve problems for diabetics through food products and telehealth,” Takatoh said.

With its plan on building out a comprehensive one-stop shop for diabetic health, Teatis will launch a Registered Dietitian platform, Teatis RD on Demand, this month, to offer a full-service such as food products, telehealth, and recipes, for those battling diabetes.

Teatis RD on Demand will provide private, 1-on-1 sessions with registered dietitians. It will start at $29 per 30 minutes, which is a reduced cost, versus traditional offline appointments that cost $150 per 30 minutes, and Teledoc, which costs $90 per 30 minutes, according to Takatoh.

“Many existing players in space are old companies that don’t have digital competency and data-driven production methods. Mr. Takatoh is a proven serial entrepreneur with the qualities and boldness to take over the market…I’m excited to see how Teatis’ great ideas and products will help many people who are suffering from diabetes and other chronic diseases in the future,” Genesia Ventures Manager Shunsuke Sagara said.

#asia, #biotech, #diabetes, #food, #foodtech, #funding, #health, #plant-based-food, #tc, #telehealth

Southeast Asia “omnichannel” health startup Doctor Anywhere gets $88M SGD

Doctor Anywhere, a startup that takes an “omnichannel” approach to healthcare, announced today it has raised $88 million SGD (about $65.7 million USD) in Series C funding. The round was led by Asia Partners, with participation from Novo Holdings, Philips and OSK-SBI Partners. It also included returning investors EDBI, Square Peg, IHH Healthcare, Kamet Capital and Pavilion Capital. 

As part of the round, Asia Partners co-founder Oliver Rippel and Novo Holdings Equity Asia senior partner Dr. Amit Kakar will join Doctor Anywhere’s board of directors. The company’s Series C, which it claims is one of the largest private rounds raised by a Southeast Asian healthtech company, brings its total funding to more than $140 million SGD. 

Doctor Anywhere’s omnichannel approach means that in addition to online consultations, it runs in-person clinics, provides home visits, medication deliveries and operates an in-app marketplace for health and wellness products. 

Founded in 2017 by Lim Wai Mun, Doctor Anywhere claims it now serves more than 1.5 million users. It is available in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, and recently established tech hubs in Bangalore and Ho Chi Minh City. 

Lim told TechCrunch in an email that when he started working on Doctor Anywhere, there were already successful telemedicine platforms in the United States, the United Kingdom and China, but the model was still nascent in Southeast Asia. A former investor, Lim began Doctor Anywhere as a side project because he had older relatives who could not leave their homes for medical visits. 

Doctor Anywhere launched as an online-only telehealth platform, but “we quickly realized that physical presence is very important in order to build trust with users,” Lim said. As a result, the company started its home care services and physical clinics. 

According to Doctor Anywhere’s estimates, the COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracked the adoption of telehealth services in Southeast Asia by at least five years. The company saw more demand for online medical consultations, medication deliveries and marketplace purchases. 

“In the past year, we have more than doubled the size of our network, from around 1,000 providers at the start of 2020 to currently close to 2,500 medical professionals across Southeast Asia,” Lim said. 

In response to the pandemic, Doctor Anywhere launched an online COVID-19 Medical Advisory Clinic last year to provide on-demand consultations for people with suspected symptoms. It also created an online mental wellness module with psychologists. Lim said the company has seen an increase in demand for mental health-related services, like insomnia and anxiety. 

Other telehealth startups in the region include WhiteCoat, Speedoc and Doctor World. Lim said Doctor Anywhere wants to differentiate by quickly launching new products in response to user inquiries, and “cultivating a balance between technology and human touch.” 

The funding will be used to deepen Doctor Anywhere’s presence in its current markets and expand into new ones. It also plans to scale its tech infrastructure and big data capabilities for a better online-to-offline user experience, and will introduce new medical specialty modules, shorten medication delivery times and develop personalized healthcare plans. 

#asia, #fundings-exits, #health, #medical, #medicine, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Virtual clinic Hey Jane raises $2.2M to solve for state anti-abortion legislation

As more states pass some type of abortion ban, Hey Jane, a virtual clinic startup offering telemedicine abortion care, announced Thursday that it raised $2.2 million in an oversubscribed round from a group of investors, including Koa Lab, Gaingels and Foursight Capital Partners.

The idea for the remote-first company stemmed from a conversation in 2019 that founder and CEO Kiki Freedman had with some friends regarding Missouri being one of six states that has one abortion clinic left. Freedman, who goes by a nickname to avoid violence against abortion providers, explained that, in fact, the clinic was slated for closure that summer, which would have meant Missouri was the first state to not have any abortion care. The clinic was ultimately able to stay open.

“At the time, many of the emerging telemedicine clinics I saw were focused on men’s wellness and didn’t talk about women’s health,” Freedman told TechCrunch. “I thought this virtual model could be used for safe and discreet abortion care.”

One of Hey Jane’s investors, who wished to remain publicly anonymous, “was excited to invest in Freedman and Hey Jane” because he agreed — women’s health was an underserved category. Unlike men’s healthcare, abortion care is segregated from women’s health care. This stemmed from Reagan’s mandates separating abortion care from hospitals.

One in four women will have an abortion by age 45, according to Planned Parenthood. However, just in 2021, over 90 abortion restrictions were enacted in the United States, and there are 1,320 restrictions in total, according to The Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights. Currently, Arkansas and Oklahoma have near-total abortion bans except when a patient’s life is endangered. Meanwhile, Idaho, South Carolina and Texas ban abortion at either six weeks or with very limited exceptions.

In July 2020, a federal judge granted approval for women to obtain abortion medication without having to see a doctor, which opened the door for companies, like Hey Jane and others, to begin offering “no touch” services for people who were less than 10 weeks pregnant.

The $249 treatment includes screening by a medical doctor, FDA-approved medication prescribed and shipped overnight to the person’s house, follow-up virtual visits and the ability to chat with a doctor during the entire process. The Hey Jane team also checks in frequently with the patient via text message.

The company said removing financial barriers is “a huge priority for us.” Though the company does not accept insurance yet, it is offering financial assistance through a nonprofit abortion fund partner, Reprocare. This organization subsidizes up to $110 of the $249 treatment so that patients can pay as little as $139 for treatment.

The new funding will enable Hey Jane to expand into new states and add to its team of seven to build out the product and automated process and for legal research so the company can stay abreast of telemedicine laws and telemedicine abortion laws for each state.

There are several regulatory requirements Hey Jane must follow in each state, including ensuring that clinicians only provide care to patients in states in which they’re licensed. For this reason, the company has clinicians licensed in each state in which it operates who are ready to prescribe medication when appropriate. It also has on-demand experts for emotional relief.

Hey Jane just launched across California this week and is also in New York and Washington. This means that Hey Jane’s service areas now cover up to 34% of all abortions performed annually in the United States, Freedman said. Those states were chosen first because California and New York have the highest number of abortions performed annually, she added.

“Although people in those states may have easier access to clinics, they could still strongly benefit from treatment with Hey Jane since it’s as safe and effective and half the price of in-clinic care,” Freedman said. “It doesn’t require costs, or time for travel or child care, ensures privacy and discretion and provides additional layers of emotional support.”

Freedman expects to be in 10 states by the end of the year and plans to be able to offer treatment in all 50 states in coming years. However, there are regulatory barriers limiting access to telemedicine abortion in 19 states. Hey Jane is partnering with the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health research group out of the University of California at San Francisco to gather information to this end.

“We are working with leading researchers to expand the ample existing evidence that this modality of care is safe, effective and preferred by patients,” she added. “We hope this research can further advance discussions in more restrictive states, ultimately leading to much needed, patient-centric updates to outdated regulations. Existing data on the safety and effectiveness of telemedicine abortion paints a very clear picture that this is the future of abortion care.”

The company is currently seeing 250% quarterly growth in the number of patients using the service. As it has grown, it is focusing more on additional tools for coordinated care and new products.

Abortions are often kept secret due to worries of judgment and discrimination, and Hey Jane will provide a much-needed outlet for patients to discreetly share their experiences and emotion, Freedman said.

“We are focusing on convenience and privacy,” she added. “Two-thirds of women don’t want to talk about their experience, so we want to provide a space for them.”

Matters of women’s health are highly personal. If you or someone you know is struggling with a private women’s health concern, please contact your primary care physician or secular community health clinic for more information.

#abortion, #foursight-capital-partners, #funding, #gaingels, #health, #healthcare, #hey-jane, #kiki-freedman, #koa-lab, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Mental health startup Intellect gets $2.2M to expand across Asia

Intellect, a Singapore-based startup that wants to make mental health care more accessible in Asia, announced it has raised $2.2 million in pre-Series A funding. It is taking part in Y Combinator’s current batch, which will hold its Demo Day at the end of this month.

The round was led by returning investor Insignia Venture Partners and included participation from Y Combinator, XA Network and angel investors like Rainforest co-founder J.J. Chai; Prenetics and CircleDNA founder Danny Yeung; and Gilberto Gaeta, Google’s director of global HR operations.

This brings Intellect’s total funding since it launched a year ago to $3 million, including a seed round announced in December 2020 that was also led by Insignia.

Intellect offered two main product suites: a consumer app with self-guided programs based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, and a mental health benefits solution for employers with online therapy programs and telehealth services. The startup now claims more than 2.5 million app users, and 20 enterprise clients, including FoodPanda, Shopback, Carousell, Avery Dennison, Schroders and government agencies.

Founder and chief executive officer Theodoric Chew told TechCrunch that Intellect’s usage rate is higher than traditional EAP helpline solutions. On average, its mental health benefits solution sees about 20% to 45% engagement within three months after being adopted by companies with more than 5,000 employees.

In many Asian cultures, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health issues, but that has changed over the last year and a half as people continue to cope with the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chew said. “From individuals, to companies, insurers and governments, all these different types of people and organizations are today prioritizing mental healthcare on an individual and organizational level in an extremely rapid manner.”

Intellect protects user privacy with zero-knowledge encryption, so the startup and employers don’t have access to people’s records or communications with their coaches and counsellors. Any insights shared with employers are aggregated and anonymized. Chew said the company is also compliant with major data privacy regulations like ISO, HIPAA and GDPR.

Intellect is currently collaborating in 10 studies with institutions like the National University of Singapore, King’s College London, University of Queensland and the Singapore General Hospital. It says studies so far have demonstrated improvements in mental well-being, stress levels and anxiety among its users.

The new funding will be used to expand into more Asian markets. Intellect currently covers 12 countries and 11 languages.

 

#asia, #cognitive-behavioral-therapy, #intellect, #mental-health, #mental-health-benefit, #online-therapy, #singapore, #southeast-asia, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #therapy

Inspired by Airbnb, Hims & Hers offers 10,000 free medical visits to displaced Afghan refugees

Hims & Hers co-founder and CEO Andrew Dudum said Thursday that his company is in the process of distributing 10,000 primary care and mental health visits to displaced Afghan refugees.

Founded in 2017, San Francisco-based Hims & Hers has built out a multi-specialty telehealth platform that connects consumers to licensed healthcare professionals.

In a blog post, Dudum wrote that Hims & Hers felt a “moral responsibility to act — and fast.”

He added: “The eyes and hearts of the world are currently and understandably focused on Afghanistan and the refugees evacuating en masse. These people are looking for the most basic of needs.”

Dudum said that Hims & Hers plans to work with select NGOs, nonprofits and other relevant partners, including translators and the providers on its platform, “to make sure refugees are aware of these services and get the urgent support they need.” The visits are immediately available to refugees.

The CEO also said that Hims & Hers will be covering the cost of the medical visits but that they would be “delivered by the generous providers” through its platform.

On Twitter, Dudum said the move was inspired by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s recent announcement that his company planned to offer free temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world amid the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan.

Image Credits: Twitter

The companies’ initiatives come at a time when tens of thousands of people are attempting to flee Afghanistan. Amid the crisis, companies and governments are facing increasing pressure to aid refugees fleeing the country. There are currently nearly 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As of earlier this week, countries had evacuated around 58,700 people from the country’s capital, Kabul, since mid-August.

While Hims & Hers has evolved into a telehealth platform, it also sells sexual wellness and other health products and services to millennials. The company began trading publicly in January on the NYSE after completing a reverse merger with the blank-check company Oaktree Acquisition Corp.

#afghanistan, #andrew-dudum, #health, #hims-hers, #mental-health, #philanthropy, #refugees, #telehealth

Back to the suture: The future of healthcare is in the home

The pandemic has highlighted some of the brightest spots — and greatest areas of need — in America’s healthcare system. On one hand, we’ve witnessed the vibrancy of America’s innovation engine, with notable contributions by U.S.-based scientists and companies for vaccines and treatments.

On the other hand, the pandemic has highlighted both the distribution challenges and cost inefficiencies of the healthcare system, which now accounts for nearly a fifth of our GDP — far more than any other country — yet lags many other developed nations in clinical outcomes.

Many of these challenges stem from a lack of alignment between payment and incentive models, as well as an overreliance on hospitals as centers for care delivery. A third of healthcare costs are incurred at hospitals, though at-home models can be more effective and affordable. Furthermore, most providers rely on fee for service instead of preventive care arrangements.

These factors combine to make care in this country reactive, transactional and inefficient. We can improve both outcomes and costs by moving care from the hospital back to the place it started — at home.

Right now in-home care accounts for only 3% of the healthcare market. We predict that it will grow to 10% or more within the next decade.

In-home care is nothing new. In the 1930s, over 40% of physician-patient encounters took place in the home, but by the 1980s, that figure dropped to under 1%, driven by changes in health economics and technologies that led to today’s hospital-dominant model of care.

That 50-year shift consolidated costs, centralized access to specialized diagnostics and treatments, and created centers of excellence. It also created a transition from proactive to reactive care, eliminating the longitudinal relationship between patient and provider. In today’s system, patients are often diagnosed by and receive treatment from individual doctors who do not consult one another. These highly siloed treatments often take place only after the patient needs emergency care. This creates higher costs — and worse outcomes.

That’s where in-home care can help. Right now in-home care accounts for only 3% of the healthcare market. We predict that it will grow to 10% or more within the next decade. This growth will improve the patient experience, achieve better clinical outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

To make these improvements, in-home healthcare strategies will need to leverage next-generation technology and value-based care strategies. Fortunately, the window of opportunity for change is open right now.

Five factors driving the opportunity for change

Over the last few years, five significant innovations have created new incentives to drive dramatic changes in the way care is delivered.

  1. Technologies like remote patient monitoring (RPM) and telemedicine have matured to a point that can be deployed at scale. These technologies enable providers to remotely manage patients in a proactive, long-term relationship from the comfort of their homes and at a reduced cost.

    #column, #ec-column, #ec-consumer-health, #ec-insurtech, #ec-market-map, #health, #healthcare, #startups, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Accel leads Lucid Lane’s $16M round aimed at treating people with medication dependency

Telehealth company Lucid Lane raised $16 million in Series A funding to continue developing its platform that enables real-time intervention for people with medication dependence and substance-use disorders.

Adnan Asar, co-founder and CEO of Lucid Lane, started the company five years ago after watching his wife struggle to stop taking medication she was prescribed following an illness.

There are 40 million people prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines each year, many like Asar’s wife, after surgery or in conjunction with cancer treatment to address acute and chronic pain as well as co-occurring mental health challenges, he told TechCrunch.

However, though the medications work well, out of the number of people prescribed, about 15 million people will continue to use the medication after the prescription runs out. This leads to ballooning healthcare costs with the healthcare system spending $150 billion annually to take care of this population, Asar said.

Lucid Lane’s latest services are aimed toward avoidance of becoming a persistent medication user or addict. They include comprehensive medication taper management for those dependent on opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol and nicotine, and a medication assisted treatment designed for patients diagnosed with opioid and alcohol substance disorders. The evidence-based treatments are available in more than 25 states.

Its technology utilizes web and mobile-based applications to provide remote patient monitoring and connection to dedicated therapists on a daily basis. A newly developed analytics engine collects health signals from patients to measure symptoms like anxiety, depression, pain levels and withdrawal effects so that the platform and therapists can personalize their treatments. If needed, the engine will connect patients instantly with an on-call counselor.

Over 90% of Lucid Lane patients who start medication tapering safely taper off, while members who are persistent opioid or benzodiazepine users tapered by 50% in six months after they started the process, which is better than Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Asar said. Patients also reported improvements in pain, emotional well-being and quality of life.

The Series A funding comes one year after the Los Altos-based company secured $4 million in a seed round. Accel Partners led the Series A and was joined by Battery Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Morado Ventures and strategic angel investors. As part of the investment, Eric Wolford, venture partner at Accel, joined the Lucid Lane board of directors.

Asar wasn’t planning for the Series A until later this year, but as the healthcare world was changing around him, venture capital firms began knocking on his door asking when he was raising the next round.

“I met Eric through Battery Ventures, and we had tremendous alignment with passion and mission and it seemed a great fit,” Asar said.

Wolford said he recognized how big of a problem opioid addiction was, that it was a worthy cause, and the size of the market opportunity. “There is something beyond the returns that is compelling, the extent of the problem and the awareness that exists already,” he added.

He also felt that Asar and his team knew the healthcare system and how to introduce technology into it. He mentioned that the industry is complicated to interface with due the complex nature of payers, providers, patients and regulations from state to state. He said that Lucid Lane was embracing the system and working with it.

Wolford was also attracted to the personalized nature of the company’s approach and that it can become the standard of care, taking the pressure off of doctors who want to do right by their patients, but want to prescribe less medication so they don’t become dependent.

“It’s a pressure release value so doctors are appropriately prescribing drugs, are accommodating patients and also providing an intervention to avoid the bad that may start,” he added. “Personalization is what doesn’t exist in healthcare right now, and will help get a person to a state of wholeness and encouragement while also progressing them when they are ready.”

Indeed, things are moving quickly for Lucid Lane. As with the healthcare industry itself, the global pandemic helped adoption of the company’s telehealth platform surge as remote care became more mandatory than a discretionary feature. In addition, Asar said it would have normally taken two years for the company to get into Medicare, but with the government’s updated regulations around telehealth, Lucid Lane is now nationwide with Medicare.

The company has a team of more than 40 therapists across 30 states and will be using the new funding to drive its commercial growth, including building up its sales, business development and product development teams. In addition to a leadership team with experience across the technology spectrum, Lucid Lane also announced that Beau Norgeot, former Anthem clinical AI executive, is joining the company as its chief data officer.

The company is also engaged in peer-reviewed, evidence-based, clinical trials at academic institutions, including Stanford University, the United States Veteran Affairs System and The University of Texas Health System.

“We are the only company addressing the whole spectrum of dependent patients and addicted patients,” Asar said. “Doctors don’t have the time or capability to do this, so we work with them to set a goal for patients to improve their quality of life and reduce their pain.”

 

#accel-partners, #adnan-asar, #ame-cloud-ventures, #artificial-intelligence, #battery-ventures, #eric-wolford, #funding, #health, #healthcare, #healthcare-industry, #lucid-lane, #medicare, #morado-ventures, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #telehealth

As the Delta variant surges, a non-profit app lets hospital patients call home for free on any device 

COVID Tech Connect, a non-profit created during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, is launching a free app aimed at helping hospital patients call home. As the Delta variant drives a new upward surge in critical COVID-19 cases, the new offering is, sadly, well-timed. 

COVID Tech Connect originated as a non-profit organization in spring 2020, right before the initial summer surge in COVID-19 cases. At the time, the initiative was dedicated to collecting and donating hardware – tablets, phones, etc – to hospitals where ICU beds were filling up, and COVID protocols prevented families from visiting sick relatives. So far, the organization has donated over 20,000 devices and 30,000 charging cords to 18,000 hospitals and extended care facilities. 

The non-profit is headed by a roster of proven entrepreneurs, including Anjali Kumar, Benish Shah, Christina Wallace, Katie Stanton, Kristina Libby and Sarah Rodell

“That program was one that we never actively promoted [the non-profit did send out some fliers to hospitals but there was no formal campaign],” Elien Becque, Product Director at COVID Tech Connect tells TechCrunch. “We didn’t really put anything behind it, but we were always being flooded with requests for devices.”

During its first year, COVID Tech Connect raised $4 million in funding from a variety of sources including Google.org, private donors, including Ellen DeGeneres and Shutterfly, and about $200k from a GoFundMe. Right now, COVID Tech Connect’s fiscal sponsor is The Giving Back Fund, another non-profit that manages charitable donations from pro athletes, celebrities or high net-worth individuals. 

About one year after its original debut, COVID Tech Connect expanded into software with an app called TeleHome. TeleHome, which soft-launched in May, is a device-agnostic, HIPAA-compliant way to perform a video call within a hospital. 

The TeleHome rollout comes during a confusing and critical time in the pandemic. While some hospital systems are now allowing visitors, others, like some Florida hospitals, are suspending or limiting visits in response to the Delta variant. 

Generally speaking, the CDC still recommends hospitals facilitate other ways for patients to visit with family – especially video or audio calls

The TeleHome app was designed through a partnership with Caregility, a for-profit company that already provides telehealth services for hospitals. Caregility provided the back-end functionality for the app, while the front-end was developed by COVID Tech Connect’s team. 

The idea for TeleHome was born out of conversations that the COVID Tech Connect team was having with hospitals about the specific use case of using smart devices to connect patients in hospital settings,” says Becque. 

“The whole point of TeleHome really was to make our mission scalable beyond just the physical devices.” 

The obvious critique of yet another video calling app is that it’s already flooded space, though TeleHome does offer some services that are unique, and that make the app particularly useful for hospitals. 

Hospitals have already used apps like FaceTime to connect patients with their families with success. A 2020 study on the effects of 350 FaceTime calls made in UK hospitals noted that the feedback was “very positive.” But the hospitals did run into IT issues – the use of FaceTime software, the study notes, limited calls to relatives who own Apple devices. (Apple’s new iOS 15 operating system will allow Androids and windows-based devices to run FaceTime, however, once it’s released widely in the fall). 

By comparison TeleHome works on any device. A hospital can request a TeleHome login (provided again, for free). Once it’s installed using that one-time login, patients can use a hospital’s device to send a link via text to another person. Clicking that link will take participants to a Zoom-call like format in an internet browser – regardless of whether they have an iPhone, Android, computer or any other type of device. 

TeleHome was a natural extension for us beyond hardware and into software, especially for those hospitals that couldn’t accept the Android devices from us,” Kara Goldberg-King, Product Director at COVID Tech Health tells TechCrunch. 

TeleHome also comes with some privacy features that may be attractive to hospitals. To address patient privacy mandates by HIPAA requirements, Becque notes that “literally no data is collected.” There is evidence that a call link was generated but there are no recordings, logs or transcripts and the link itself expires after five minutes. 

So far, the app has about 3,400 downloads. 

The one thing TeleHome can’t get around is the need for a device in the first place, though COVID Tech Connect does donate devices as well, addressing that concern in part. But it does cut out technical details usually required to get a call up and running.

TechCrunch conducted about half of this interview with Becque and Goldberg-King over the TeleHome platform –– the platform works relatively seamlessly, provided you don’t have strict privacy settings limiting microphone or camera use. A test run of the video chat service worked like a charm on a computer, but I struggled to get the chat up and running while navigating the microphone or camera permissions menus on an iPhone. 

There are some signs that some of the infrastructure of COVID Tech connect may outlast the pandemic. For instance, COVID Tech Connect is in touch with Ameelio, an app that allows incarcerated people and their families to send letters and schedule video calls for free. But for now, COVID Tech Connect remains focused on the problem it set out to solve: closing the gulf between COVID-19 patients who enter the hospital, and families on the outside.

 As long as the non-profit exists, the workforce plans to keep the service free. 

“We’re really grateful to have been able to execute on the mission with TeleHome and make it scalable and we are not going to turn it into a company,” Becque adds. “It’s free now and it’s always going to be free.” 

 

#health, #tc, #telehealth, #video-chat

Peppy, a B2B health platform for menopause, fertility, raises $10M Series A led by Felix Capital

When it comes to health issues like menopause, fertility, pregnancy, and even early parenthood, the data tells us that people typically turn to search engines and social media for advice to ask about symptoms or concerns they have. They tend not to go to a medical practitioner, in the first instance. The suggestion, therefore, is that there is plenty of room for startups to fill that gap This is effectively the verticalisation of the model first pioneered by startups like KRY, Babylon Health, and Ada Health.

Peppy, a B2B digital health platform addressing just these concerns, has now raised a £6.6M/$10M Series A funding round led by Felix Capital, with previous investors including Outward VC, Seedcamp, and Hambro Perks, also participating.

Peppy is a little like a ‘Babylon Health before you need Babylon Health’. The company says it provides expert-led support to individuals before they need to see a doctor.

Founded in London in 2018 by co-founders Evan Harris, Max Landry, and Mridula Pore, the startup address major life and family moments: menopause, fertility, pregnancy, and early parenthood. 

It offers its services to a corporate customer base, which then incorporates Peppy into its employee health programs, enabling it to acquire some large employers in the UK and grow – it says – by 20 percent month-on-month for the past 12-months. Customers include BNP Paribas, Santander, DFS, Wickes, NHS trusts, the University of Sheffield.

The startup is pushing at an open door: Women of menopausal age are the fastest-growing demographic in the UK, and most say their work is negatively impacted, but – and here’s the crucial bit, they’d rather not talk about it to their line manager. Peppy says this is one of their biggest selling points into companies, which can now address the problem and help employees back to work more easily.

Just as with other telemedicine products, there are features such as access experts via a secure mobile app, with instant messaging, group chat, video consultations, live events, evidence-based articles, videos and programs. Furthermore, users can join a community of people who are experiencing similar challenges.

Mridula Pore, Co-Founder of Peppy, said: “The pandemic has shown us that employers can’t just talk about supporting their employees’ health and wellbeing anymore, they have to take action. More and more leading businesses are turning to us to provide the support their people really need – not a one-size-fits all solution, but support that is trustworthy, personalized, and delivered by experts. We’re still at the surface of what is possible for Peppy.”

Susan Lin, Investor at Felix Capital, said: “Since Felix started, ‘aspiration for a better life’ has been a core theme and we believe in the strong opportunity for digital health and wellness solutions to improve this. Peppy is at the forefront of three huge market trends and we believe is positioned to become a category-defining brand. First, massive growth in targeted employee benefits, driven by increasing awareness of the importance these have in boosting morale, productivity, and retention. Second, demand for much more convenient ways to access healthcare, which has been further accelerated by COVID-19. And finally, a need for much more personalized solutions, especially in critical life stages such as menopause and early parenthood.”

Speaking to TechCrunch, Pore expanded on the problem: “Today, people’s alternative is to go to their GP/MP. They may be lucky, have a GP who knows a lot about the issues to offer the support the patient needs. We know that a lot of women aren’t getting the support they need, they suffer, they struggle, they’re embarrassed to talk to their manager about what’s going on. They muddle through and they’re worried about being fired because for ‘women’s problems’. Some women quit. All the surveys suggest that people either switch their working arrangements, make different decisions or quit. It’s a big headache for employers, and we know the same thing happens for new parents.”

She added: “We’ve seen a real tidal change, especially in the last two years and I think COVID has massively accelerated companies putting menopause policy into line manager training. But none of those really address what the individual needs are because ultimately they still go to their GP and they’re back at square one. And so what we’re doing with Pepe is giving them access to our nurses and counselors on our programs, so they can get informed, educated on what their options are, medical and nonmedical, have the information they need to be able to go and seek out the right options for them, try them and they get that support over months, because we know that it will go up and down over time and you know everyone’s health journey evolves.”

She told me that the tech solution means Peppy allows people to connect to human experts “through the way that suits them in a personalized way and convenience so they can get child support, they can get video consultations, they’ll get content that’s tailored for them, they can join in live sessions on topics that are relevant for them. That can be anything from the basics of menopause, to your sex life. You can do it on your own time, in short bursts, or if you need it, for a 45-minute phone consultation.”

#ada-health, #articles, #babylon-health, #bnp-paribas, #co-founder, #europe, #felix-capital, #kry, #london, #max-landry, #menopause, #nhs, #peppy, #reproductive-health, #social-media, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-kingdom

NewView Capital leads $22.3M Series B in Australian telehealth platform Eucalyptus

Telehealth platform Eucalyptus raised a $22.3 million Series B round of funding to build a digital health portfolio for primary care in Australia.

NewView Capital led the round with participation from existing investors Blackbird Ventures and W23, and new investor AirTree Ventures. As part of the investment, Ravi Viswanathan, NewView founder and managing partner, will be joining the Eucalyptus board.

The new round gives the Sydney-based company a total of $32.8 million raised since it was founded in 2019 by Tim Doyle, Benny Kleist, Alexey Mitko and Charlie Gearside.

Australia’s healthcare system is a two-payer model, where most of the care is paid for by the government, and there is a smaller insurance coverage that is owned by individuals. Eucalyptus fits into these models as a private-pay option selling directly to consumers. In some cases, the company is able to charge lower copays for care than the average $25 per doctor visit, Doyle told TechCrunch.

He touts the company as the “largest vertically integrated telehealth platform in Australia,” serving more than 200,000 patients across four demographic-focused brands: contraception and fertility, skincare, men’s health and sexual wellness. Each brand has its own core platform of healthcare providers, patient data repository, remote monitoring tools and partnerships with pathology labs and pharmacies.

All of that results in a higher touch and higher quality relationship between doctor and patient, Doyle said.

“We are seeing an opportunity to shorten the amount of time between identification of a condition and diagnosis,” he added. “We also want to go more in-depth into diabetes, heart conditions and mental health. People are dropping out of diabetes and mental care because there are not enough touch points that are easy to use. If we can build a hub, it will make it easier to treat those conditions.”

In addition to product development, the new funding enables Eucalyptus to build toward being a major player in the telehealth industry. The company will introduce new brands in the next year around chronic care like behavioral health, weight management and diabetes.

Eucalyptus grew its revenue between 200% to 300% year over year since 2019, Doyle said. This is not unlike other startups in the digital health sector, where 2020 saw another record year for venture capital investment. He expects similar growth in 2021, including adding about 20 employees to be over 100 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Doyle said he is excited to work with NewView, especially with Viswanathan and associate Christina Fa, who said Eucalyptus is proving that Australia can lead in digital healthcare.

“The team is impressive in terms of clarity of vision and execution, especially in the way they brought in people to manage the brands,” she told TechCrunch. “It is unique being based in Australia where they don’t have the Teledocs and other digital health companies. Instead, Eucalyptus had to build all of that in-house and do the hard work upfront. In addition, they curated a network of health providers and four brands, each with their own personalities that can be fully vertically integrated and own the customer journey.”

 

#airtree-ventures, #blackbird-ventures, #christina-fa, #digital-healthcare, #eucalyptus, #health, #newview-capital, #ravi-viswanathan, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #tim-doyle

Healthcare data sharing: How to improve patient care in the future

Far too often, we see medical mixups and even deaths caused by interoperability obstacles in our healthcare system. In these situations, patients in critical conditions cannot speak to their past medical history in an emergency. Upon their recovery but through no fault of their healthcare providers, they are left footing a massive medical bill or facing other severe financial repercussions. Lack of access to data not only causes these terrible outcomes — it’s also part of the reason why our healthcare costs are nearly 18% of the GDP and growing.

Among the many reasons why healthcare data isn’t more digitally accessible is a very simple one: fear that it will be misused. Patients are scared their data will be used against them. This could happen in a number of ways, the most obvious being the threat that insurance companies will use health data to deny people coverage or that employers will use the data to exclude people when making hiring decisions. That’s why the rules and regulations surrounding health data privacy are so stringent.

So, how can investors advance (and capitalize on) tech development around this issue and help eradicate this fear?

Investors, take note

We know funding for companies in healthcare and digital health has not been a problem — but profitability has. Many of these companies are still struggling financially under a fee-for-service business as required by most insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare. There are grave inefficiencies in the fee-for-service system: It creates the wrong alignment of interests; doesn’t favor the consumer; is complicated by CPT codes (the numerical codes used to identify medical services and procedures), high copayments and deductibles; and is riddled by waste and abuse.

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns?

If the investor community bets on companies that continue to embrace a model that many agree is broken, how can we expect outsized returns? To truly lower costs and reduce inefficiencies, we have to abandon the existing structure and put the customer first.

The key here is to look at companies that are truly trying to solve not just one piece of this puzzle, but those that are attempting to create an end-to-end solution that connects the employer, member, hospital, specialists, pharmaceutical companies, primary care doctors and claims adjusters, powered by digital health data — all while making it more affordable for the consumer.

Keep an eye out for those that are moving away from the fee-for-service structure and focused on employer-driven systems. Employers are properly aligned with patients, as bad health outcomes and financial stress both negatively impact productivity. Employers are also focused on KPIs in their business; they’re used to measuring and tracking results, making them great candidates for data-focused healthcare companies.

Most importantly, in a labor market where companies are clamoring to attract employees, employers will have to work with healthcare technology companies that put a premium on data security because their current and potential employees will demand it.

Innovation over fear

The whole future of healthcare is going to focus on the ability to securely share data. To empower providers and patients to take control of their healthcare journey, we need to build a system of trust that allows the efficient flow of personal healthcare information from stakeholder to stakeholder.

Today, with the way HIPAA works and the requirement to keep data private, that trust has to be in the hands of a provider. Imagine if your primary care physician was the quarterback of your entire healthcare journey. Simply by handling your preventative care, they have a more complete picture.

Even better, preventative care is a major focus when it comes to reducing healthcare costs. If you put the data in the hands of a trusted entity and ensure that each person has access to their full medical history, people are much more likely to grant access at times of need.

The good news? There’s hope

The future is very bright because of technology. The challenge is being able to figure out meaningful ways to utilize and integrate it. Right now, we have a system of incumbency that is disincentivized to embrace new technologies.

Telehealth is a perfect example of how the system can meaningfully change. It took a global pandemic to really be able to break through to a point where telehealth was fully embraced (and covered by insurance). Now, health insurers such as Anthem are actively trying to improve care coordination and interoperability.

Three critical technologies not used in healthcare today could be instrumental in bringing about this change. Ideally, all three will align to usher in a new era of healthcare:

Healthcare telemetry 2.0: Collection of health data on cellular devices

Through our use of social apps and e-commerce platforms on our mobile devices, people have already accepted that our cell phones are constantly collecting data on us and willingly consent to this. Sometimes this function is quite helpful — just look at court cases where detailed location data have provided alibis to suspects.

Anybody with a cell phone is carrying a medical device that counts our steps, tracks our screen actions and is attuned to us as users. So why are we not leveraging this function for optimized care — or at the very least trying to get medical insights out of our device use data?

In the future, the number of times one checks their mobile calendar in a day could be an indicator of early-onset Alzheimer’s in people of a particular age group, as one example. Technologists must continue to push the boundaries of how the computing power in our pockets and purses is used to help us, especially with so much of the groundwork already laid.

Privacy 2.0: Application of blockchain to protect medical information

In just the past six months, we have seen bad actors capitalizing on digital risk to cripple entire industries through data breaches. The Colonial Pipeline hack effectively shuttered gas distribution to a massive portion of the U.S. in a matter of hours. With healthcare data, stewards of the system need to be even more careful. It will be tricky to regulate the privacy and protection of healthcare data, but blockchain technology has proven to be an effective measure in maintaining trust between consumers and data stewards.

Portability 2.0: Ability to securely share information with approved parties

For many people with life-threatening conditions, the simple act of wearing a medical bracelet can make a difference between life and death — but at this point, medical bracelets should be obsolete. Imagine the patient benefits that could come from a next-generation medical “bracelet” that carries a patient’s entire genome, tumor profiles, long-term heart rate trends and more, and can be uploaded instantly in an emergency situation.

Right now, the absence of health record portability creates redundancies that are both expensive and harmful to patients. Doctors spend time and resources rescanning patients, while patients suffer from repeated (and sometimes risky) diagnostics, like blood draws and radiation. Nobody has cracked the code on portability, but effective solutions must navigate tricky regulatory waters while solving for standardization across data sets.

We are already seeing these technologies used in other industries. Apple and Google have turned phones into remote monitoring devices that can easily collect all types of health telemetry data. Cryptocurrency represents billions of dollars in transactions with no breach of trust in various coin exchanges. Uber and Lyft have changed the way we hire, use and pay for transportation. Applying the core technologies used in each of these examples would provide a means for disrupting the current challenges in healthcare. It’s only a matter of time.

History has proven that with innovation, investment and technology, the world has become a dramatically better place. As long as rules and regulations stay out of the way, you can expect that technology will allow us to make enormous leaps forward in the next decade.

Making data secure and meaningful, along with personalized medicine, holds the promise to reduce long-term healthcare costs in the U.S. while improving healthcare outcomes.

#column, #digital-health, #health, #healthcare, #healthcare-data, #healthcare-technology, #insurance, #medical-billing, #medicare, #opinion, #tc, #telehealth

How one founder navigated a highly personal product category and a major shift in focus

ON this week’s episode of Found, we speak to Rob Schutz, co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Ro. Ro recently raised $500 million, bringing its total raised to date to near $1 billion. The digital healthcare startup now does everything from telehealth primary care, to operating physical pharmacies, but it originally began life as Roman, a startup addressing men’s health, and specifically, erectile dysfunction.

Rob told us how a windy path from founding a daily deals site in the heady times of Groupon, to teaching at General Assembly, and being an early employee at Bark Box (now just ‘Bark’) led him to meeting up with co-founders Zachariah Reitano and Saman Rahmanian and setting up Roman in the first place. He also detailed how the company evolved, first to address women’s health as well, and eventually to providing much more broad-reaching remote primary care.

We talked about everything from managing the dynamics in a a founder triumvirate (including declarations of love), to dealing with the ongoing complications of a rebrand, to operating a business in an industry with dense regulatory requirements that vary considerably state to state.

We loved our time chatting with Rob, and we hope you love yours listening to the episode. And of course, we’d love if you can subscribe to Found in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or in your podcast app of choice. Please leave us a review and let us know what you think, or send us direct feedback either on Twitter or via email at found@techcrunch.com. And please join us again next week for our next featured founder.

#found, #general-assembly, #health, #healthcare, #medicine, #podcasts, #ro, #tc, #telehealth

New South African partnership gets $3M, launches telehealth product

For the early detection and treatment of health conditions, easy access to primary healthcare is crucial. Primary healthcare is best delivered by teams of primary care clinicians coordinating care between them. However, ubiquitous access to such care is scant across Sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a real opportunity for digital healthcare platforms to scale access to team-based care across the region. They can reduce the cost of quality care while improving health outcomes, reach patients in remote areas and reduce the pressure on the traditional medical support systems.

The pandemic has seen such platforms scale globally, and Africa is not exempt. A new platform (without a name yet) is launching out of South Africa and it wants to provide accessible quality care for Africans with its telehealth service. Today, it has closed a $3 million pre-Series A round to that end.

Yes, you’re wondering why the platform doesn’t have a name (I am too), but what’s interesting is the fact that a VC firm (Webrock Ventures) and two health tech companies (Healthforce.io and Doktor.se) joined forces to launch this new venture

Here’s summarized information on the trio.

Webrock Ventures is a Sweden-based investment company that employs a venture-building model. So essentially, the firm partners with tech companies in Sweden and combines its cash with the company’s business models to create portfolio businesses. It does this while maintaining a sizeable stake in the company.

Healthforce is a South Africa-based health tech company that tries to improve healthcare through multidisciplinary clinical teams. So far, it has set up nurses in over 450 clinics across the country while conducting more than 1 million nurse consultations. Healthforce also has a telemedicine play with over 110,000 consultations since launching the service last year.

As a Sweden-based telehealth company, Doktor.se allows patients to contact healthcare professionals through their smartphones across the whole spectrum of primary care. Most of its customers are in Europe, as well as in Latin America.

So why form a partnership to launch a telehealth product in South Africa with a plan for further roll-out in other African countries down the line?

Globally, telehealth investments have skyrocketed and increased by more than 50% since the start of the pandemic. With many of the fastest-growing economies globally, investors and companies (in this case, Webrock and Doktor.se) are now turning to Africa as a major growth region for such high-demand services.

South African telehealth

Saul Kornik (CEO & Co-Founder of Healthforce and CEO of the new venture)

Now, Doktor.se has two models for commercialising its telemedicine application. The first is to use its technology to personally deliver healthcare services. The second model licenses the core technology to third parties in markets in which Doktor.se has no intention of expanding. Doktor.se achieved this with Brazilian health tech startup ViBe Saúde (via Webrock), and last year, the platform had over 1.2 million patient consultations. It plans to do the same by licensing its technology to deliver care through Healthforce across Africa.

By forming a new partnership, a completely new opportunity is set up. Healthforce can leverage its current position to take core tech from Doktor.se to a new direct-to-patient market. In the background is Webrock, a willing investment machine set up to scale the platform.

The new venture will focus on the uninsured, B2C segment through a freemium-type offering. The platform offers on-demand and scheduled consultations with nurses, general practitioners and mental health professionals. It also provides chronic care management and will be integrated with Healthforce’s broader primary care offering.

Saul Kornik, co-founder and CEO at Healthforce, will resume a new role at the newly formed company. According to him, the partnership gives Healthforce an additional product to add to its healthcare product stack. In addition, it gives Doktor.se the ability to generate license fee revenue from a new market, while Webrock has an opportunity to invest in yet another large developing market.

“Webrock and Healthforce partnered to bring funding and strategic/operational capacity to this new pan-African direct-to-patient play, respectively,” he said to TechCrunch. “All existing independent operations will continue. However, under the NewCo, Healthforce as a major shareholder will expand its primary care product stack and Doktor.se will generate revenue off license fees earned.”

Sub-Saharan Africa has a healthcare market of about $90 billion. But health insurance coverage is in single-digit (percentage-wise) across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa except for South Africa with 16% coverage. Kornik says the three parties want to tackle a large portion of this challenge and are aligned about how the healthcare system in Africa could look if it were functioning optimally.

“This is a pure-play provider-of-healthcare venture. Through this pan-African venture, we will deliver high-quality healthcare at low cost to 75 million people through telemedicine, literally putting healthcare in the palm of their hands,” he said.

Partner at Webrock Ventures Joshin Raghubar and co-founder and CEO of Doktor, Martin Lindman, are enthusiastic about the opportunity Africa presents due to its large population and increasing smartphone penetration.

This new venture, which should hopefully have a name soon, is one of the few health tech platforms based in South Africa that have raised seven-figure sums in a fintech-dominated year. In February, hearX Group, a company that specializes in making hearing healthcare technologies, raised $8.3 million Series A to expand into the U.S. April saw Quro Medical close a $1.1 million seed round to scale its service that manages ill patients in the comfort of their homes. Judging by the spacing between each fundraise, we should see more from the country before the year runs out.

#africa, #doktor-se, #health, #healthcare, #healthforce-io, #quro-medical, #recent-funding, #south-africa, #startups, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #webrock-ventures

Click-and-mortar is a better model for healthcare

Until COVID-19, healthcare was either all in-person or all virtual. Patients had to choose. Some patients chose both — an in-person health system for most things and perhaps Livongo for diabetes care or Hinge Health for back pain care.

The problem with this approach is that in-person all the time is inconvenient and a waste of time when all a clinician is doing is looking at a wound or responding to lab results. But all-virtual is not great when things are uncertain or patients need to be examined. While there are few silver linings to the horrendous COVID-19 pandemic, one is that nearly all providers and most patients have experienced virtual care and most have found it useful. This widespread adoption of virtual care, we believe, will lead to hybrid models that we call “click-and-mortar,” which combine the best elements of in-person and virtual care to deliver better outcomes more reliably and efficiently.

The uptake of virtual care in 2020 is stunning: 97% of primary care doctors provided some kind of telehealth care in 2020. Moreover, nearly 44% of Medicare beneficiaries’ primary care visits were provided by telemedicine in 2020, compared with a mere 0.1% the year before.

The notion of virtual care has become so common that Google searches for “doctor online” result in a specialized tool displaying widely available virtual care platforms, such as Teladoc, Amwell, Doctor On Demand and MDLive. Moreover, telemedicine providers like Doctor on Demand, MDLive, Galileo and Firefly have all launched “virtual primary care” services designed to deliver non-urgent longitudinal primary care virtually. While these services may meet the needs of healthier patients, the absence of a physical location for physical examinations, diagnostic tests and procedures may limit their utility.

This widespread adoption of virtual care, we believe, will lead to hybrid models that combine the best elements of in-person and virtual care to deliver better outcomes more reliably and efficiently.

Nonetheless, there are several potential advantages of virtual primary care. The ability to see patients in their homes can contribute new information about safety, social support and social determinants. In cases like behavioral health, they can decrease the stigma associated with accessing care. Virtual care platforms can more easily incorporate remote monitoring data, and virtual visits can occur as groups with teams of caregivers or other specialists simultaneously.

Furthermore, virtual visits may allow for more frequent “microvisits” to monitor how patients are progressing. They also facilitate more rapid treatment adjustments because they eliminate the need to travel to a doctor’s office. Virtual visits also have lower cost for physicians, avoiding brick-and-mortar overhead costs, and for some services offer 24/7 access, which may reduce the need to seek urgent care or emergency department care. Finally, patients may be able to gain expanded access to clinicians who match preferences based on things like ethnicity, LGBTQ orientation and gender, particularly in rural areas where options are limited.

For pure-play virtual care models to work, they need to rely on connected devices and patient cooperation. Using connected blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, oximeters, thermometers and scales, it is possible to replicate much of the physical exam. Just like for in-person care, a virtual provider can order lab tests, although it is impossible to do a quick urinalysis or strep test virtually without the supplies on hand.

Virtual providers who work closely with health plans may have more data on cost and quality to inform referrals but perhaps less local knowledge. A possible consequence is that virtual providers may have more transactional relationships with specialists and traditional local brick-and-mortar providers.

Data have shown virtual care delivers better clinical outcomes in certain cases. Virtual care has been shown to reduce emergency department visits and antibiotic overprescribing. Chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes are examples where virtual care has outperformed in-person care. Virtual physical therapy has generated cost savings and resulted in fewer back surgeries.

Despite these benefits of purely virtual care, we believe that ultimately the most efficacious model of primary care is a hybrid one combining virtual and in-person interaction. We think that the mix of in-person and virtual is probably 80% virtual. We also think that most visits will be triggered by clinicians reaching out to patients in response to a change in remotely monitored data, perhaps a new fever, change in sleep patterns or weight change for a patient with heart failure.

The implications of visits being mostly virtual and largely triggered by changes in data are profound. It means that offices become places for problem-solving and procedures. It means clinicians spend their days responding to signals from patients and probably have their schedules largely unfilled until the night before. It means that patients will need to adopt passively collected and remotely monitored data.

We think this model ultimately will result in more frequent, shorter, virtual interactions that happen nearly continuously over text and be supplemented by email, phone and video. We also think this approach will deliver much better clinical outcomes and more rapid improvement since both the patient and clinician have much more data on how diseases are progressing.

There are risks with this model. It requires patients with mobile phones and devices to engage and respond to clinicians and ensure their remote monitoring devices stay online. Most importantly, patients need to follow the advice of virtual providers and prompts to get in-person labs, diagnostics or care when needed. Further, clinicians will need to be trained to conduct virtual clinical examinations and to incorporate as well as respond to remote monitoring data.

The COVID-19-fueled adoption of virtual care will hopefully create the demand on the part of patients and desire on the part of clinicians to embrace our “click-and-mortar” vision for care. These models have the potential to deliver more proactive, more engaging and, we think, far better care.

#column, #doctor-on-demand, #health, #healthcare, #opinion, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Expressable launches with millions for scalable speech therapy

Speaking isn’t simple for at least 40 million Americans, so a new Austin-based startup is scaling a solution. Expressable is a digital speech therapy company that connects patients to speech language pathologists (SLP) via telehealth services and asynchronous support, and it has raised a new $4.5 million seed round.

The early-stage startup is launching with an explicit focus on serving the approximately five million children in the United States that have a communication disorder. What might start as an occasional stutter could turn into a communication disorder over time – so the startup is looking to intervene early to get kids on a clearer path.

Launched in 2019 by married co-founders Nicholas Barbara and Leanne Sherred, Expressable has served thousands of families to date. Today, the duo announced its seed funding, co-led by Lerer Hippeau and NextView Ventures, with participation from Amplifyher Ventures. The money will be used to expand its provider network, go in-network, and focus on its edtech service.

What it does

Put simply, Expressable connects children to speech-language pathologists on a recurring basis. The therapy is done live via Zoom for Healthcare with licensed professionals that Expresssable employs full-time. Clients are matched with a therapist in their area of need, from public speaking to vocal cord paralysis. Parents are able to reach their children’s SLP through secure SMS for coordination, questions, and rescheduling throughout the week.

On top of real-time support, the virtual speech therapy provider has a suite of asynchronous services. The company is building an e-learning platform with homework assignments and lessons, prescribed by the therapist and provided via SMS, for parents to do with their children to reinforce the speech care plans.

The activities are meant to be bite-sized – used when driving to the grocery store or cooking dinner or playing in the backyard – and tailored for interaction with children. The lessons can be as simple as creating opportunities for a kid to ask for juice, or to practice two-word utterances with an imitation game.

A mock secure SMS by Expressable. Image Credits: Expressable

This unique edtech bit of Expressable leans heavily on parent involvement in the therapy process. Parental help has been shown to increase positive outcomes, but notably it could also leave low-income, working class families out of the mix. Its price, on average, is $59 per week, and that’s currently only out of pocket rather than subsidized by insurance.

“There’s a lot of content for speech language pathologists by speech language pathologists, but not a lot of content by [SLPs] for parents, written in a way that is consumable,” Barbara said. “It just felt like a huge opportunity and market gap.”

Part of Expressable’s value is that it’s better than the status quo, which surprisingly often actually amounts to nothing. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, about 8 to 9 percent of children have a speech sound disorder in the country — but only half actually get treatment. What might start as an occasional stutter could turn into a communication disorder over time – so Expressable wants to intervene early to get kids on the right path.

“Public schools are the number-one provider for pediatric speech but they are unfortunately notoriously underfunded,” said Sherred. Children who are lucky enough to be eligible for school services are often provided them in a group setting, she continued, which lengthens the amount of time it takes to make progress.

Sherred witnessed the “incredibly frustrating cycle” created by gaps in school intervention first-hand as a SLP. She has spent the majority of her career in in-home health, where she would work in homes and daycares directly with children.

The majority of Expressable’s user base are children, but about 35% are adults, signaling how speech issues can continue past childhood.

Meagen Lloyst, who sourced the Expressabble deal for Lerer Hippeau, is one example. Lloyst was diagnosed with a speech and voice condition in late 2020 and needed to find remote SLP therapy, which introduced her to the challenges of finding a high-quality specialized SLP.

“Before Expressable, there was no consumer-facing brand out there solving these pain points for individuals with communications disorders,” Lloyst said. “It’s evident that they’re already hiring the best SLPs out there, bringing parents and education into the process to focus on better outcomes for children, and doing so in a cost-effective and convenient way through virtual care.”

Telehealth with a twist

While telehealth usage remains above pre-pandemic levels, visits are on the decline. One challenge for any digital telehealth startup, Expressable included, is how to make a convincing pitch for moving caretaking fully-virtual in a post-pandemic context.

The Expressable co-founders pointed toward consistency, both internally and externally, as a competitive advantage.

First, speech therapy is a recurring service that many patients use once a week, every month, for years. “A lot of other telemedicine plays are these quick, convenient, and direct primary care,” Barbara said. “[We are] a longer tail of treatment plan that requires a close relationship between provider and patient.”

Second, unlike many telehealth startups, Expressable has hired its specialists full-time as W-2 employees. It’s a strategic choice to help ensure to its clients that their SLP of choice is a long-term relationship. The startup has 50 W-2 SLPs currently.

“We have built a career path for SLPs and a value proposition to speech language pathologists where they can work from home, set their own hours [get] paid above the national average, and then receive benefits that may not be obviously not common if you’re working in a contractor position.”

Not relying on the traditional contractor model might be a differentiation, but it’s also a challenge. The startup will have to rapidly (and efficiently) hire SLPs for the variety of speaking conditions out there – and in order to expand into new markets, it has to go through the arduous legal process of local licensing requirements, instead of just going to a white-label solution that helps staff similar companies while offloading individual practitioner certification.

While it has ambitions to become a national practice, Expressable currently operates in 15 states, and employs SLPs that are licensed in all the states that it operates in.

#early-stage, #health, #lerer-hippeau, #nextview, #tc, #tech, #telehealth

Kaia Health grabs $75M on surging interest in its virtual therapies for chronic pain and COPD

New York headquartered Kaia Health, which offers AI-assisted digital therapies via a mobile app for chronic pain related to musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders and for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), has raised a $75 million Series C.

The round was led by an unnamed leading growth equity fund with support from existing investors, including Optum Ventures, Eurazeo, 3VC, Balderton Capital, Heartcore Capital, Symphony Ventures (golfer Rory McIlroy’s investment vehicle), and A Round Capital.

The funding fast-follows a $26M Series B closed last summer. The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of telemedicine, generally — and Kaia has, unsurprisingly, seen a particular surge of interest in its virtual treatments.

After all, DIY home working set-ups are unlikely to have done much good for the average information worker’s back in the pandemic-struck year. Kaia’s real-time feedback generating motion coach is also able to offer treatment for neck, hip, knee, shoulder, hand/wrist, and foot/ankle pain.

A digital health solution may have been the only lockdown-friendly option for treating conditions considered ‘elective care’ during COVID-19 — meaning suffers of chronic pain may have faced restrictions on accessing physical healthcare provision like in-person physiotherapy. Kaia says it grew its business book 600% in 2020.

Given the U.S. healthcare sales cycle is heavily focused on January onboarding of new medical benefits by employers — who are key customers for Kaia in the market, where it now has around 50 employer and health plan clients — it’s expecting another big onboarding bump next January. And while it hadn’t been looking to raise again so soon after the Series B, doing so was “a very easy process”, says co-founder and CEO Konstantin Mehl.

“We actually planned to start the raise in the end of this year and then the pandemic happened and of course we had a huge boost because the healthcare system was pretty much shut down for in person elected treatments and chronic diseases are considered to be elected treatments which I think is a bit of a mistake.

“The thing is that the big b2b partners they are really scared that they will have this big backlog of surgical interventions that are very expensive… Pre-pandemic I think 20% of employers in the US were even interested in offering a digital therapy and then that changed to 100% immediately. So that was a big boost,” he goes on. “The other thing is that our market got really hot. We don’t really need the money right now but we met these investors and it was a very easy process.”

Kaia says that globally its digital MSK platform is accessible to 60M patients — which it claims makes it by far the biggest player in the space in terms of covered lives. (Other startups in the space include Hinge Health and Sword Health which are both also focused on MSK; and Physera, a virtual physical therapy provider that was acquired by Omada last year.)

The plan for Kaia’s (unexpectedly rapid) funding boost is “to be much more aggressive in building out our commercial team”, Mehl tells TechCrunch. “We are very proud of being a product focused company but it also gets a bit stupid at the point where you just need to bring the product in front of the relevant customer so we are investing a lot in that and also in computer vision because it’s still our USP.”

Kaia’s digital therapies rely on using computer vision to digitize proven treatments so they can be delivered outside traditional healthcare environments, with the app helping patients perform exercises correctly by themselves.

The user only needs a smartphone or tablet with a camera for the app to do real-time, posture-tracking and provide feedback. No wearables are required. Although Kaia is researching how 3D data from depth-sensing cameras which are now being embedded in higher end mobile devices may further feed the accuracy of its body tracking models.

“We basically can have the same correction functionality in your home that you have can have with a PT [personal trainer],” says Mehl. “We want to invest a lot more in computer vision and build out that team so we can also do that more aggressively now [with the Series C funding] which is cool.”

Kaia has started to use motion-tracking in another way in its patient-facing chronic pain app — as a way to track progress. So as well as asking patients to quantify their pain (which is a subjective measure) it can have an objective biomarker alongside patients’ pain assessments by getting them to do regular tests that track their body movements.

“We started to use motion-tracking besides the correction-tracking functionality also as a biomarker. So we basically can measure your body functionality. Now we can, for example, see which body parts are less flexible and that’s how we can measure the disease progression, instead of asking you how is the pain level today,” he explains. “Pain is the number one cause for work disability and the reason is because your body functionality decreases so if we can measure that correctly then we can also escalate it to the right speciality doctor, for example.”

Kaia can also quantify the progress of COPD patients in a similar way — by tracking them performing a sit-down, stand-up test.

Care for COPD has had a particular imperative during the pandemic as people with the chronic inflammatory lung disease who catch COVID-19 have the highest mortality rate among COVID-19-infected patients, per Mehl.

At the same time, pulmonary rehabilitation centers have been shut down during the pandemic because of the risk of infection to patients. So, once again, Kaia’s app has provided an alternative for suffers of chronic conditions to continue their rehab at home.

In the US Kaia focuses on activation rate as a percentage of the employer population — and Mehl says this stands between 5%-10%, depending on how the app is communicated to potential users. “We also had a company that had 15% of their population active it one year but you always have these outliers,” he adds.

Looking ahead to the coming 12 months, he says he expects to be able to grow revenue 5x-10x as a number of bigger partnerships kick in.

In Germany, where Kaia plans to start prescribing its app (via doctors), he’s hopeful they’ll be able to get 10,000 prescriptions done over the same period, once it has approval to do so under a national reimbursement system.

Plugging Kaia into wider healthcare provision

Integrating into a wider care pathway by being able to loop in healthcare providers where appropriate has been a big recent focus for Kaia.

In February it kicked off a major integration of its patient-facing MSK therapy/pain-management app with a referral system that plugs into services offered by other healthcare providers — using an escalation algorithm and screening and triage system, which it calls Kaia Gateway — to identify patients at risk of needing more invasive or intense treatment than the digital therapies its app can provide. It’s working with a number of premium partners for this referral path (i.e. within an employer or health plan’s ecosystem).

Its partners can provide additional medical services to relevant patients, both general and specialty care solutions, including disease management programs, PT, telemedicine, care navigation, and expert medical opinion services. Partners also get access to detailed treatment history on referred patients from Kaia, including via APIs.

“Besides being just an app-based therapy we want to expand more down the treatment path,” explains Mehl. “And also work with external medical providers — doctors etc — and bring our users at the right point to the right doctor to prevent any deterioration in pain that we cannot treat in the app. I think that brings a lot of trust, also, to the app.

“Because I think what’s happening now is that there’s so many digital therapies popping up everywhere. And one thing that is happening in the beginning when you’re small, like us three years ago, we just offered this app and said we don’t really know what’s happening before or after… Now we really want to integrate.”

“We have some cool partnerships coming up in the U.S. — partner with bigger medical providers that have thousands of medical providers on their payroll,” he goes on. “And then integrate with them so we can optimize the full treatment path. Because then the patients can really feel safe and say hey they don’t keep me in the app-based therapy when they know I should actually see somebody else because it’s not the best care anymore.”

“We have this platform approach but then we saw now it really makes sense to go deeper in these two diseases,” Mehl adds. “We start with our chronic pain approach in the U.S. and say we really want to go down the treatment path. And because the main problem is if people then start to be frustrated in our app and say I need something else and then they get back to this, for example, pain killers, opioids, surgery, cycle, and then they’re back in the system where we actually wanted to help them getting out of it so that’s why we say it’s not really possible to not integrate with healthcare professionals.

“You need to integrate them. If not you cannot always offer best care and then the patients realize at one point this app is not enough — but I also don’t get directed to a medical professional who could offer a new diagnosis or a different prescription. And then your trust is lost.”

“The other point is when you think about different levels of chronification, because we’re so scalable we can catch people much earlier in their chronification journey when the disease is still reversible. And even if our app is still the best treatment it helps to get an additional medical professional involvement to validate a diagnosis — or to just talk with a patient so that they really know that they’re safe here. So just reassuring, motivation and also diagnosis, to really say okay just to be sure we should make this diagnosis just to be sure you are getting best care. So I think that’s a huge product task and operational task for us.”

Kaia is starting by doing case referrals manually in-house — by setting up a medical case review team, staffed by doctors and therapies it employs — aided by a triage system that automatically flags patients for the team to review. But Mehl hopes this process will be increasingly assisted by AI.

“We assume yellow flags from what they told us in the entry test or from their exercise feedback or therapy feedback. Or from the interactions they have with their motivational coaches,” he explains of how the case review system works now. “Then [the case review team] has a look at them and decides if they should see an external medical provider partner and at what time.”

“Over time this should get more and more automated,” he adds. “We hope that we can make this better and better with machine learning over time and show that we can optimize the treatment path much better than just having this manual oversight. And that’s a huge challenge. If you think about what you need to do to get there I think it will define our product roadmap for years… But that’s also where the most value is to increase the quality of care. If not you just have siloed solutions everywhere… and the patient suffers because the treatment path is torn apart and it doesn’t feel like one thing.

“We will always need this clinical oversight. But where we can use machine learning is to help these medical professionals to look at the right patients at the right time. Because they cannot look at everybody all the time so there needs to be some filtering. And I think that filtering — or that triage — that can be really done by machine learning.”

Would Kaia ever consider becoming a healthcare provider itself? Combining a telemedicine service with some digitally delivered treatments is something that Sweden’s Kry, for example, has done — launching online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatments in its home market back in 2018 while also offering a telehealth platform and running a full healthcare service in some markets.

Mehl suggests not, arguing that telemedicine companies are by necessity generalists, since they are catering to “the top of the funnel”, handling and filtering patients with all sorts of complaints — which he says makes them less suited to focus deeply on catering to specific disease.

While, for Kaia, it’s deeply focused on building tech to treat a few specific diseases — and so, likewise, isn’t best suited to general medical service delivery. Partnering with medical service providers is therefore the obvious choice.

“I think about the patient journey and for the telemedicine companies… they might have some treatment paths integrated but they’re never as good as completely owning one chronic disease as we can be,” he says. “Most of chronic disease patients they just want to start a treatment because they talked with so many doctors. They want to find something that helps them and then at the right moment talk to the right medical professional. So that’s a difference in how telemedicine companies are doing it.

“The other question is how much of the medical provider job of the treatment path do we want to internalize? And we really are a tech company. We’re not very keen on becoming a medical provider. And we see that there are so many amazing medical providers in the landscape here — in different countries — that during COVID-19 had to become more digital, so it’s easy to partner with them, and why would we want to learn how to run a hospital where there are all these people who did it for decades and are really good at it, and we are really good at tech.”

“It’s really cool for the patient in the end. They know they get the best of both worlds and it’s optimized and ideally these offline medical providers get data from us so they can make better decisions — so they can also have a higher quality of decision-making because they have more data than just talking with a patient for two minutes. They can see our complete dashboard and how the patient progressed over time and everything — so the quality of decision-making gets higher.”

The U.S. overtook Europe as Kaia’s biggest market in recent years so it’s inexorably been focusing a lot of energy on serving its growing number of U.S. customers. The size of the addressable market in the U.S. is also massive, with ~100M chronic pain patients in the country, or around a third of the population.

But Kaia continues to develop its proposition in a number of European markets, including Germany which was where the business started. Mehl says its team in Munich is looking at how to make a recent reimbursement law for app-based health treatments will work for it in practice. It hasn’t yet obtained the necessary reimbursement code for doctors there to start prescribing its tech to their patients but it’s taking steps to change that.

At the same time, Mehl concedes that learning how to make doctors want to prescribe its app is an “open challenge” in the market.

“Some startups started doing it but — at scale — I still think there have to be some learning to be made to really scale it up,” he says of the German app prescriptions, adding that it’s preparing to hand in its application in relation to its COPD app which it will be bringing to market in Europe with a pharma partner.

“We also closed a partnership with a pharma company for Germany, UK and France to distribute our app through the pulmonologists — which is pretty cool. So we’re launching that partnership now,” he adds. “That will be exciting to see where the prescriptions start.”

Mehl professes himself a fan of Germany’s approach to digital healthcare — saying that it makes it easy to obtain a general reimbursement code which then gives the app-maker a year to prove any cost savings and deliver the care they say they do — couching that as a compromise between the “really long” process of getting approval for a medicine and the data-driven needs of startups where founders need to be able to show traction to get investment to build and grow a business in the first place.

“Healthcare’s already tough because you have to do clinical trials and it’s already a bit slower. So a longer approval process makes it even more difficult to launch something useful and I can see the UK, France, the Nordics bringing out some similar legislation to facilitate that,” he adds.

“We expect in other European countries — and in other countries in generally, like Canada, Australia and in Asia too — that they update their regulation to cover digital therapies. And then that will be good because we will know how to get apps prescribed and we know the other way, like in the U.S., [i.e. without needing to go through a doctor first]… And so with our app being so scalable we could easily launch in these countries compared to other companies in the market that are more reliant on one specific healthcare system or on hardware or anything that limits the scalability.”

 

#artificial-intelligence, #balderton-capital, #canada, #chronic-disease, #chronic-pain, #digital-health, #eurazeo, #europe, #fundings-exits, #germany, #health, #healthcare, #heartcore-capital, #kaia-health, #machine-learning, #mobile-devices, #munich, #new-york, #omada, #optum-ventures, #pain, #physera, #physical-therapy, #telehealth, #telemedicine, #united-states

Kry closes $312M Series D after use of its telehealth tools grows 100% yoy

Swedish digital health startup Kry, which offers a telehealth service (and software tools) to connect clinicians with patients for remote consultations, last raised just before the pandemic hit in Western Europe, netting a €140M Series C in January 2020.

Today it’s announcing an oversubscribed sequel: The Series D raise clocks in at $312M (€262M) and will be used to keep stepping on the growth gas in the region.

Investors in this latest round for the 2015-founded startup are a mix of old and new backers: The Series D is led by CPP Investments (aka, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board) and Fidelity Management & Research LLC, with participation from existing investors including The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, as well as European-based VC firms Index Ventures, Accel, Creandum and Project A.

The need for people to socially distance during the coronavirus pandemic has given obvious uplift to the telehealth category, accelerating the rate of adoption of digital health tools that enable remote consultations by both patients and clinicians. Kry quickly stepped in to offer a free service for doctors to conduct web-based consultations last year, saying at the time that it felt a huge responsibility to help.

That agility in a time of public health crisis has clearly paid off. Kry’s year-over-year growth in 2020 was 100% — meaning that the ~1.6M digital doctors appointments it had served up a year ago now exceed 3M. Some 6,000 clinicians are also now using its telehealth platform and software tools. (It doesn’t break out registered patient numbers).

Yet co-founder and CEO, Johannes Schildt, says that, in some ways, it’s been a rather quiet 12 months for healthcare demand.

Sure the pandemic has driven specific demand, related to COVID-19 — including around testing for the disease (a service Kry offers in some of its markets) — but he says national lockdowns and coronavirus concerns have also dampened some of the usual demand for healthcare. So he’s confident that the 100% growth rate Kry has seen amid the COVID-19 public health crisis is just a taster of what’s to come — as healthcare provision shifts toward more digital delivery.

“Obviously we have been on the right side of a global pandemic. And if you look back the mega trend was obviously there long before the pandemic but the pandemic has accelerated the trend and it has served us and the industry well in terms of anchoring what we do. It’s now very well anchored across the globe — that telemedicine and digital healthcare is a crucial part of the healthcare systems moving forward,” Schildt tells TechCrunch.

“Demand has been increasing during the year, most obviously, but if you look at the broader picture of healthcare delivery — in most European markets — you actually have healthcare usage at an all time low. Because a lot of people are not as sick anymore given that you have tight restrictions. So it’s this rather strange dynamic. If you look at healthcare usage in general it’s actually at an all time low. But telemedicine is on an upward trend and we are operating on higher volumes… than we did before. And that is great, and we have been hiring a lot of great clinicians and been shipping a lot of great tools for clinicians to make the shift to digital.”

The free version of Kry’s tools for clinicians generated “big uplift” for the business, per Schildt, but he’s more excited about the wider service delivery shifts that are happening as the pandemic has accelerated uptake of digital health tools.

“For me the biggest thing has been that [telemedicine is] now very well established, it’s well anchored… There is still a different level of maturity between different European markets. Even [at the time of Kry’s Series C round last year] telemedicine was maybe not something that was a given — for us it’s always been of course; for me it’s always been crystal clear that this is the way of the future; it’s a necessity, you need to shift a lot of the healthcare delivery to digital. We just need to get there.”

The shift to digital is a necessary one, Schildt argues, in order to widen access to (inevitably) limited healthcare resources vs ever growing demand (current pandemic lockdown dampeners excepted). This is why Kry’s focus has always been on solving inefficiencies in healthcare delivery.

It seeks to do that in a variety of ways — including by offering support tools for clinicians working in public healthcare systems (for example, more than 60% of all the GPs in the UK market, where most healthcare is delivered via the taxpayer-funded NHS, is using Kry’s tools, per Schildt); as well as (in a few markets) running a full healthcare service itself where it combines telemedicine with a network of physical clinics where users can go when they need to be examined in person by a clinician. It also has partnerships with private healthcare providers in Europe.

In short, Kry is agnostic about how it helps deliver healthcare. That philosophy extends to the tech side — meaning video consultations are just one component of its telemedicine business which offers remote consultations for a range of medical issues, including infections, skin conditions, stomach problems and psychological disorders. (Obviously not every issue can be treated remotely but at the primary care level there are plenty of doctor-patient visits that don’t need to take place in person.)

Kry’s product roadmap — which is getting an investment boost with this new funding — involves expanding its patient-facing app to offer more digitally delivered treatments, such as Internet Cognitive Based Therapy (ICBT) and mental health self-assessment tools. It also plans to invest in digital healthcare tools to support chronic healthcare conditions — whether by developing more digital treatments itself (either by digitizing existing, proven treatments or coming up with novel approaches), and/or expanding its capabilities via acquisitions and strategic partnerships, according to Schildt.

Over the past five+ years, a growing number of startups have been digitizing proven treatment programs, such as for disorders like insomnia and anxiety, or musculoskeletal and chronic conditions that might otherwise require accessing a physiotherapist in person. Options for partners for Kry to work with on expanding its platform are certainly plentiful — although it’s developed the ICBT programs in house so isn’t afraid to tackle the digital treatment side itself.

“Given that we are in the fourth round of this massive change and transition in healthcare it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to invest in great tools for clinicians to deliver high quality care at great efficiency and deepening the experience from the patient side so we can continue to help even more people,” says Schildt.

“A lot of what we do we do is through video and text but that’s just one part of it. Now we’re investing a lot in our mental health plans and doing ICBT treatment plans. We’re going deeper into chronic treatments. We have great tools for clinicians to deliver high quality care at scale. Both digitally and physically because our platform supports both of it. And we have put a lot of effort during this year to link together our digital healthcare delivery with our physical healthcare delivery that we sometimes run ourselves and we sometimes do in partnerships. So the video itself is just one piece of the puzzle. And for us it’s always been about making sure we saw this from the end consumer’s perspective, from the patient’s perspective.”

“I’m a patient myself and still a lot of what we do is driven by my own frustration on how inefficient the system is structured in some areas,” he adds. “You do have a lot of great clinicians out there but there’s truly a lack of patient focus and in a lot of European markets there’s a clear access problem. And that has always been our starting point — how can we make sure that we solve this in a better way for the patients? And then obviously that involves us both building strong tools and front ends for patients so they can easily access care and manage their health, be pro-active about their health. It also involves us building great tools for clinicians that they can operate and work within — and there we’re putting way more effort as well.

“A lot of clinicians are using our tools to deliver digital care — not only clinicians that we run ourselves but ones we’re partnering with. So we do a lot of it in partnerships. And then also, given that we are a European provider, it involves us partnering with both public and private payers to make sure that the end consumer can actually access care.”

Another batch of startups in the digital healthcare delivery space talk a big game about ‘democratizing’ access to healthcare with the help of AI-fuelled triage or even diagnosis chatbots — with the idea that these tools can replace at least some of the work done by human doctors. The loudest on that front is probably Babylon Health.

Kry, by contrast, has avoided flashy AI hype, even though its tools do frequently incorporate machine learning technology, per Schildt. It also doesn’t offer a diagnosis chatbot. The reason for its different emphasis comes back to the choice of problem to focus on: Inefficiencies in healthcare delivery — with Schildt arguing that decision-making by doctors isn’t anywhere near the top of the list of service pain-points in the sector.

“We’re obviously using what would be considered AI or machine learning tools in all products that we’re building. I think sometimes personally I’m a bit annoyed at companies screaming and shouting about the technology itself and less about what problem you are solving with it,” he tells us. “On the decision-support [front], we don’t have the same sort of chatbot system that some other companies do, no. It’s obviously something that we could build really effortlessly. But I think — for me — it’s always about asking yourself what is the problem that you’re solving for? For the patient. And to be honest I don’t find it very useful.

“In many cases, especially in primary care, you have two categories. You have patients that already know why they need help, because you have a urinary tract infection; you had it before. You have an eye infection. You have a rash —  you know that it’s a rash, you need to see someone, you need to get help. Or you’re worried about your symptoms and you’re not really sure what it is — and you need comfort. And I think we’re not there yet where a chatbot would give you that sort of comfort, if this is something severe or not. You still want to talk to a human being. So I think it’s of limited use.

“Then on the decision side of it — sort of making sure that clinicians are making better decisions — we are obviously doing decision support for our clinicians. But if it’s one thing clinicians are really good at it’s actually making decisions. And if you look into the inefficiencies in healthcare the decision-making process is not the inefficiency. The matching side is an inefficiency side.”

He gives the example of how much the Swedish healthcare system spends on translators (circa €200M) as a “huge inefficiency” that could be reduced simply — by smarter matching of multilingual clinicians to patients.

“Most of our doctors are bilingual but they’re not there at the same time as the patient. So on the matching side you have a lot of inefficiency — and that’s where we have spent time on, for example. How can we sort that, how can we make sure that a patient that is seeking help with us ends up with the right level of care? If that is someone that speaks your native language so you can actually understand each other. Is this something that could be fully treated by a nurse? Or should it be directly to a psychologist?”

“With all technology it’s always about how do we use technology to solve a real problem, it’s less about the technology itself,” he adds.

Another ‘inefficiency’ that can affect healthcare provision in Europe relates to a problematic incentive to try to shrink costs (and, if it’s private healthcare, maximize an insurer’s profits) by making it harder for patients to access primary medical care — whether through complicated claims processes or by offering a bare minimum of information and support to access services (or indeed limiting appointment availability), making patients do the legwork of tracking down a relevant professional for their particular complaint and obtaining a coveted slot to see them.

It’s a maddening dynamic in a sector that should be focused on making as many people as healthy as they possibly can be in order that they avoid as much disease as possible — obviously as that outcome is better for the patients themselves. But also given the costs involved in treating really sick people (medical and societal). A wide range of chronic conditions, from type 2 diabetes to lower back pain, can be particularly costly to treat and yet may be entirely preventable with the right interventions.

Schildt sees a key role for digital healthcare tools to drive a much needed shift toward the kind of preventative healthcare that would be better all round, for both patients and for healthcare costs.

“That annoys me a lot,” he says. “That’s sometimes how healthcare systems are structured because it’s just costly for them to deliver healthcare so they try to make it as hard as possible for people to access healthcare — which is an absurdity and also one of the reasons why you now have increasing costs in healthcare systems in general, it’s exactly that. Because you have a lack of access in the first point of contact, with primary care. And what happens is you do have a spillover effect to secondary care.

“We see that in the data in all European markets. You have people ending up in emergency rooms that should have been treated in primary care but they can’t access primary care because there’s no access — you don’t know how to get in there, it’s long waiting times, it’s just triaged to different levels without getting any help and you have people with urinary tract infections ending up in emergency rooms. It’s super costly… when you have healthcare systems trying to fend people off. That’s not the right way doing it. You have to — and I think we will be able to play a crucial role in that in the coming ten years — push the whole system into being more preventative and proactive and access is a key part of that.

“We want to make it very, very simple for the patients — that they should be able to reach out to us and we will direct you to the right level of care.”

With so much still to do tackling the challenges of healthcare delivery in Europe, Kry isn’t in a hurry to expand its services geographically. Its main markets are Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and the UK, where it operates a healthcare service itself (not necessarily nationwide), though it notes that it offers a video consultation service to 30 regional markets.

“Right now we are very European focused,” says Schildt, when asked whether it has any plans for a U.S. launch. “I would never say that we would never go outside of Europe but for here and now we are extremely focused on Europe, we know those markets very, very well. We know how to manoeuvre in the European systems.

“It’s a very different payer infrastructure in Europe vs the US and then it’s also so that focus is always king and Europe is the mega market. Healthcare is 10% of the GDP in all European markets, we don’t have to go outside of Europe to build a very big business. But for the time being I think it makes a lot of sense for us to stay focused.”

 

#accel, #artificial-intelligence, #canadian-pension-plan-investment-board, #covid-19, #digital-health, #digital-healthcare, #europe, #fundings-exits, #germany, #health, #healthcare, #johannes-schildt, #kry, #machine-learning, #machine-learning-technology, #national-health-service, #nhs, #sweden, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Vietnam-based healthcare booking app Docosan gets $1M seed funding led by AppWorks

Based in Ho Chi Minh City, Docosan helps patients avoid long waits by letting them search and book doctors through its app. The company announced today it has raised more than $1 million in seed funding, which is claims is one of the largest seed rounds ever for a Vietnamese healthtech startup. The investment was led by AppWorks, the Taiwan-based early-stage investor and accelerator program, with participation from David Ma and Huat Ventures.

Founded in 2020, the app has been used by about 50,000 patients for bookings and now has more than 300 individual healthcare providers, ranging from small family pediatric clinics to neurosurgeons at large private hospitals, co-founder and chief executive officer Beth Ann Lopez told TechCrunch. Providers are vetted before being added to the platform and have on average 18 years of clinical experience.

Lopez said advance doctor bookings aren’t the norm in Vietnam. Instead, people who use private healthcare providers have to “choose between over 30,000 private hospitals and clinics spread across the hospital with huge variations in price and quality. This is why people use word of mouth recommendations from their family and friends to choose a healthcare provider. Then they show up at a hospital or clinic and wait in line, sometimes for hours.”

Docosan’s users can filter providers with criteria like location and specialty, and see pricing information and verified customer reviews. It recently added online payment features and insurance integrations. The company, which took part in Harvard’s Launch Lab X plans to launch telehealth and pharmacy services as well.

For healthcare providers on the app, Docosan provides software to manage bookings and ease wait times, a key selling point during the COVID-19 pandemic because many people are reluctant to sit in crowded waiting rooms. Lopez said another benefit is reducing the number of marketing and adminstrative tasks doctors have to do, allowing them to spend more time with patients.

The startup plans to expand into other countries. “Docosan is a solution that works well anywhere with a large, fragmented private healthcare system,” said Lopez. “We would all benefit from a world in which it’s as easy to find a great doctor as it is a book a Grab taxi.”

In press statement, AppWorks partner Andy Tsai said, “We noticed Docosan’s potential early on because of its participation in the AppWorks Accelerator. Docosan’s founders demonstrated strong experience and dedication to the healthcare issues in the region. We are proud to be supporting Docosan’s vision of better healthcare access for all.”

#asia, #docosan, #health, #healthcare, #healthtech, #southeast-asia, #tc, #telehealth, #vietnam

On-demand pediatrics app Biloba adds prescriptions and raises $1.7 million

French startup Biloba has raised a $1.7 million funding round (€1.4 million) a few months after launching its pediatrics app that lets you chat with a doctor whenever you have a question. In addition to raising some money, the startup also recently added in-app prescriptions.

Biloba’s concept is surprisingly simple. It’s a mobile app that lets you reach a general practitioner and a nurse whenever you have a medical question about your child. The service is available from 8 AM to 10 PM.

When you start a conversation, it looks like a messaging app. You can send and receive messages but also send photos and videos. There’s no real-time video conversation, no appointment. The company says that you usually get an answer in less than 10 minutes.

Last year, Biloba raised a €1.2 million pre-seed round. This year’s €1.4 million’s seed round is led by Aglaé Ventures and ID4. Existing investors Calm/Storm Ventures, Inventures, Acequia Capital and several business angels are also participating once again.

A text conversation will never replace a visit to the pediatrician. And there are many medical interactions and milestones after a baby is born. But you may have questions and you don’t want to wait for the next appointment.

And if it’s a relatively harmless issue that doesn’t need an in-person appointment, Biloba can now issue prescriptions. You receive the prescriptions in the app and it is accepted in all French pharmacies. The startup uses Ordoclic for that feature.

Biloba thinks people shouldn’t pay per consultation — even though people are particularly well covered by the French national healthcare system and private health insurance. Instead, the startup has opted for a subscription model.

Parents pay €12.99 per month, €24.99 for a three-month subscription or €79.99 per year. After that, you can start as many conversations as you want. Biloba subscriptions aren’t covered by the French national healthcare system.

Basically, if you can afford a subscription, Biloba can increase the frequency of interactions with doctors, which should lead to better medical advice.

Image Credits: Biloba

#biloba, #europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #health, #pediatrics, #startups, #tc, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Creator economy’s slow burn

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and  and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s rigamarole of news. Alex took some well-deserved time off, but that meant we got to poke a little fun at him and create a Special Edition segment to start off the show.

Jokes aside, this week was yet another spree of creator economy, edtech, and new fund announcements, with fresh and unexpected news hailing from Natasha’s home state, New Jersey.

Here’s what we got into:

What a show! We’ll be back with the full trio next week, and until then, stay safe and thank you for listening.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#clubhouse, #early-stage, #edtech, #equity, #equity-pod, #health-tech, #healthcare, #index, #masterclass, #mental-health, #netflix, #new-jersey, #patreon, #podcast, #tc, #telehealth, #walnut

Nabla is building a healthcare super app for women

Meet Nabla, a French startup launching a new app today focused on women’s health. On Nabla, you’ll find several services that should all contribute to helping you stay on top of your health. In short, Nabla lets you chat with practitioners, offers community content, helps you centralize all your medical data and will soon offer telemedicine appointments.

Nabla’s key feature right now is the ability to start a conversation with health professionals. You can send a message to a general practitioner, a gynecologist, a midwife, a nurse, a nutritionist, or a physiotherapist.

While text discussions are not going to replace in-person appointments altogether, they can definitely be helpful. By increasing the number of interactions with health professionals, chances are you’ll be healthier and you may even end up booking more in-person appointments.

Other French startups have been providing text conversations with practitioners. For instance, health insurance company Alan lets you message a general practitioner — but you have to be insured by Alan. Biloba also lets you chat with a doctor — but the company has been focusing on pediatrics.

Nabla has a different positioning and offers this feature for free — there’s a limit as you can only send a handful of questions per month though. If it’s a common question, you may find the answer from the community. Nabla’s doctors will curate community content as well.

Using a free product to talk about your health feels suspicious. But that’s because the startup is well-funded and plans to launch premium features.

Image Credits: Nabla

The startup has raised $20.2 million (€17 million) and is already working with a team of doctors who are ready to answer questions from the company’s first users — or patients. Investors in the company include Xavier Niel, Artemis, Rachel Delacour, Julie Pellet, Marc Simoncini and Firstminute Capital.

One of the reasons why Nabla could raise so much money before releasing its app is that the three co-founders have a track record in the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder and CEO Alexandre Lebrun previously founded VirtuOz, which was acquired by Nuance, and Wit.ai, which was acquired by Facebook. More recently, he’s worked for Facebook’s AI research team (FAIR).

Co-founder and COO Delphine Groll has been heading business development and communications for two major media groups Aufeminin and My Little Paris. And Nabla’s co-founder and CTO Martin Raison has worked with Alexandre Lebrun at both Wit.ai and Facebook.

In addition to text conversations, Nabla shows all your past interactions in a personal log. You can connect that log with other apps and services, such as Apple’s Health app, Clue and Withings. This way, you can see all your data from the same app.

As you may have guessed, the startup truly believes that machine learning can help when it comes to preventive and holistic care. By default, nothing is shared with Nabla for machine learning purposes. But users can opt in and share data to improve processes, personalization and more.

Eventually, Nabla wants to optimize the interactions with doctors as much as possible. The startup says it doesn’t want to replace doctors altogether — it wants to enhance medical interactions so that doctors can focus on the human and empathetic part.

Nabla plans to launch a telemedicine service so that you can interact with doctors in real time as well as a premium offering with more features. That’s an ambitious roadmap, and it’s going to be interesting to track Nabla over the long run to see if they stick to their original vision and find a loyal user base.

#europe, #france-newsletter, #fundings-exits, #health, #healthcare, #nabla, #startups, #telehealth, #telemedicine

Everlywell acquires two healthcare companies and forms parent Everly Health

Austin-based home lab testing kit startup Everlywell is expanding its scope considerably with two acquisitions, and a transformation that includes the establishment of a new parent company led by Everlywell CEO and co-founder Julia Cheek. The new entity, called Everly Health, will now offers services including at-home lab testing kits and education, population-scale testing through a U.S.-wide clinician network, telehealth and payer-supported/enterprise self-collected lab test.

This is a big move for Everlywell, which was found in 2015 (and which was a finalist in TechCrunch’s 2016 Disrupt SF Battlefield completion). The company has steadily iterated on its offerings, expanding its at-home testing from fertility products, to food sensitivities and allergies, and last year, to at home COVID-19 test collection.

Everly Health’s business now includes not only that kind of at-home consumer diagnostic and personal health education, but also many relationships through PWNHealth, which will rebrand to Everly Health Solutions, with health plans, employers and labs across the U.S.

Everlywell itself was actually a longtime partner of PNWHealth, which is what Cheek told me an in interview actually helped make the acquisition make so much sense to both companies. They’d been working together for years, and that collaboration had only deepened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we found over the last year, was we were collaborating on all these different enterprise partnerships to offer solutions, and so our cultures are really well aligned, and our teams have worked closely together,” she said. “And we both share this common ethos that we felt the urgent need to help people and to save lives, but also this discipline around consumer-friendly and enabled care, grounded in diagnostics.”

Overall, Cheek said that the decision to go out and acquire the pieces of the puzzle needed to deliver a more comprehensive care offering was partly driven by the pandemic, but that really just drove an acceleration of what Everlywell was already beginning to see before COVID-19. Freshly capitalized with the $175 million it raised last December, the startup was in a position to make some bold moves in order to make the most of the moment.

“Before the pandemic, but especially during and looking out to post-pandemic, we have just seen this massive acceleration of the need for consumer friendly testing services,” she said. “Our business has continued to grow exponentially, even since normal doctor’s appointments resumed, orders of magnitude, 300% growth. We sat back and said, since we believe healthcare is in a watershed moment post-pandemic, where do we think we need to actually be to be able to offer a full-service diagnostic solution as this entire space grows. So it’s Everlywell as a consumer friendly brand, but it’s also this massive enterprise need for home testing, and broader consumer diagnostics.”

The new acquisitions do add some complexity to Everly Health’s business, since its Everly Health Solutions also serves a number of customers that would be considered competitive with Everlywell. Cheek points out that both businesses have a demonstrated track record of security and data integrity, compliant with HIPAA standards, and says that they’re setting up a strict firewall that will result in “complete data independence” of Everly Health Solutions to ensure there’s no possibility of anti-competitive behavior.

The companies will however share customer experience, design and product resources, however, and the plan is to build a unified brand focused on high-quality customer engagement across the board.

Everly Health hasn’t released the financial details of the transaction, but it has shared shared that PWNHealth CEO Sanjay Pingle will be acting in a transitional role in the combined company for the time being, and will serve on the board of Everly Health. Investors in PWNHealth, including Spectrum Equity, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield corporate VC Blue Venture Fund will also retain an ownership stake in Everly Health.

#acquisitions, #articles, #austin, #battlefield, #ceo, #everlywell, #firewall, #healthcare, #ma, #science-and-technology, #spectrum-equity, #tc, #technology, #telehealth, #united-states

Ro raises $500M to grow its remote and in-home primary care platform

Healthcare tech startup Ro has raised $500 million to help fuel continued growth of its hybrid telehealth/in-home primary care platform, which also includes a growing pharmacy business as the company pursues a strategy of vertical integration to optimize delivery and reduce costs for clients. The company’s latest raise is a Series D round, and means it has now raised over $876 million since its 2017 founding.

That may seem like a lot of money, but as Ro fo-founder and CEO Zachariah Reitano told me in an interview, it’s actually “peanuts” when it comes to the healthcare industry – which is part of why they founded the company in the first place.

“Sometimes people talk about how great it is to be in the healthcare arena, in tech circles,” Reitano said. “They say, ‘Oh, healthcare is a $4 trillion market – it’s so massive.’  But that’s the worst thing in the entire world; it’s awful how large it is. And I think what we have the opportunity to cut it in half with technology.”

That’s what Reitano says will be the primary focus of this round of funding: Fueling its efforts around vertical integration of healthcare services and technology, to further the eventual end goal of reducing costs to patients through the efficiencies realized in that process.

“To me, what I’m really excited about is being able to continue to invest in that infrastructure and add even more,” Reitano told me. “We’ll continue to invest in telemedicine, we’ll continue to invest in our logistics and pharmacy, and continue to invest in in-home care, as well as the connection between the three, and then we’ll also invest in additional diagnostics, remote patient monitoring – so collecting and distributing devices to patients to go from reactive to proactive care.”

Ro’s model focuses on primary care delivered direct to consumer, without involving any payer or employer-funded and guided care programs. The idea is to reduce costs through vertical integration and other efficiency engineering efforts in order to get them to the point where they’re effectively on par with your out-of-pocket expense with co-pays anyway. Reitano explained that the insurance system as it exists in the U.S. now only effectively masks individual costs, making it less clear that much of what a person pays out in healthcare costs comes out of their pocket anyway, whether it’s through taxation, or employers allocating more of the funds they have available for compensation to healthcare, vs. take-home pay.

Image Credits: Ro

That’s what’s behind Ro’s recent push into operating its own pharmacies, and growing that footprint to include more all the time. Reitano told me that the company will have 10 pharmacies by the end o this year, and 15 by the end of next, all placed strategically around the country to ensure that it can provide next-day shipping to patients at ground shipping rates pretty much anywhere in the U.S.

Doing that kind of vertical optimization has enabled Ro to offer 500 common drugs at $5 per month, including treatments for heart disease, anxiety, depression and diabetes — with a plan to ramp it to 1,000 drugs available at that price by year’s end. That’s roughly equal to the co-pay required for many insurers for the same treatments.

Meanwhile, Reitano says Ro has seen big changes in the healthcare system generally that favor its model and accelerate its hybrid care plans owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would say that there are two most profound impacts of the pandemic on the healthcare system,” he said. “One is that it simultaneously shed light on all of the inequities for the entire country to see, right at the same time where we all cared about it. So those things were sort of known for the people impacted day to day — the geographic inequity, the financial inequity, the racial inequity. If someone felt that that inequity, then they would talk about it, but it wasn’t something everyone cared about at the same time. So this massive spotlight was shed on the healthcare system. And the second was that everyone’s healthcare journey now starts online, even if it is going to end in person, it will still start online.”

Ro’s model all along has espoused this time of healthcare delivery, with remote care and telehealth appointments handling most day-to-day needs, and follow-up in person care delivered to the home when required. That obviously generate a lot of efficiencies, while ensuring that older patien