Last month I got sick for the first time in a while. I developed a bad cough and other symptoms. Getting an appointment with my doctor, though, was not easy. After having already felt bad for two weeks, at least, it took another week to get in to see him.
Healthcare software-as-a-service solution Bright.md has noticed this problem, and it has a solution: automate the process of healthcare, make it so that simple cases can be solved in minutes, thereby freeing up the doctor's time for patients who really need their care.
The company has just raised a $3.5 million Series A funding round, it was announced on Tuesday. The round was led by Oregon Angel Fund, with participation from Seven Peaks Ventures and Stanford-StartX Fund.
Bright.md has previously raised a $1 million round of seed funding from Seven Peaks Ventures, along with Portland Seed Fund and Oregon Angel Fund, in October.
Founded in 2014, the Portland, Oregon-based Bright,md is a developer of a virtual care solution to improve efficiencies and reduce costs in the delivery of care for non-acute conditions.
"The problem we are solving is several fold. The challenge from the patient side is that healthcare is miserable. It's hard to deal with, and the experience of care is miserable, especially when you're feeling your worst," Ray Costantini, co-founder and CEO of Bright.md, told me in an interview.
"There is a 30% gap, meaning there are 30% less primary care providers than there is demand, and patient wait times are becoming incorrigible. In Boston patient wait time has reached 66 days, and even in the best markets patients are looking at five to seven days. When you're feeling awful that not what you're looking for."
The problem on the provider side is that patients are expecting more convenient and timely access, and there is pressure for them to do telehealth, Costantini says "bring no efficiency or value, in fact it slows things down, and takes more time to deliver care."
Bright.md attempts to solve these problems buy taking the less urgent, simpler cases and completely automating them. It's SmartExam acts as a virtual physician assistant that enables primary care providers to deliver efficient remote care, though not in the same way as a telemedicine service.
"We think of ourselves differently from telemedicine, which has been happening a long time. Remote delivery of care, we've been doing that for the half dozen years. We've been doing it over the telephone for the last 100 years, and with the telegraph and Pony Express before that," Costantini said.
"How do we create more value and efficiency? We're a healthcare automation support company, that provides a virtual physician assistant.
Here's how it works: if a patient has the flu, fever and muscle aches, they call their provider to get an appointment and they hear that its days to weeks, or even months, to see the doctor, which makes no one happy. With Bright.md's software as a delivery system, that patient can, instead, go online and do a smart exam, which will be able to diagnose their issue.
"We have automated a huge chunk of time that the provider spends dealing with predictable, low level administrative tasks. Our AI engine interviews patients, and asks questions to better understand what's going on," said Costantini.
"It know what question it should ask, and what it shouldn't ask, and it can determine if the patient should get escalated to different level. It can suggest a diagnosis, treatment, and give patients a chart note. Through that process, we can do things like automating bills and patient follow up more consistently, and make them higher quality."
Through Bright.md, an appointment that would have taken 15 to 20 minutes, for something like the flu or a UTI, can takes as little as 90 seconds of provider time.
"There are things they didn't want to do anyway, but were necessary. We are letting them delivery higher value, freeing up their time so they can focus on those complex patients who have a lot of challenging needs," Costantini told me.
"Because we're taking simple visits and making them more efficient, we are freeing up capacity. Doctors can now spend more time with those people. Doctor's have 20 minute slots that they fill up, whether you have an ingrown toenail or chronic complications. We are taking some of those 20 mins slots, and making it so that they take 90 seconds."
This creates return on investment, not just in terms of time, but money as well. Since the visits are so short, patients pay less than co-pay prices, sometimes $20 or less. Insurers like this because they get to reimburse at a lower rate, while physiians are able to increase per visit margins by five times or more.
Bright.md is now covering tens of thousands of patients per month, and will use this funding to expand that service through new implementations and expanded client engagements.
The company is working with a dozen major healthcare delivery systems, including two largest in the country, and will be expanding to new partners, to give access to more patients.
It will also use the funding to hire, expanding its 15 person team. It will be adding to its development team, who will build out features that are important for partners. It will also be expanding content group, which is in charge making the software work and streamlining communications.
And it will be adding to its Partner success group. Since healthcare delivery systems aren't familiar with how to use tools like this, the company partner with them to ensure success, integration, implementations, optimization, and workflow management.
"I want to emphasis that we already have a great team, a fantastic team. I've got more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience in digital health services, building up telemedicine and telehealth," Costantini told me.
"My co-founder Mark is a 12 year veteran at Bain & Co, our VP of engineer has 20 years of development experience, our Head of content has 18 years experience in content management, our head of partner success worked at Epic for 11 years, where he headed the implementation and integration team. The quality of people building and leading the company, supporting our clinical partners, is something we're excited about."
Ultimately, Bright.md sees itself as a company that is ready to bridge the gap of where healthcare is ultimately heading.
"This is a very exciting time, where business models are realigning and where value to patients is becoming increasingly important. Because of that, healthcare automation is going to be incredibly important," said Costantini.
"More than half of a physicians time is low level administrative tasks, and this is not the way that these highly trained and valuable healthcare resources ought to be getting spent. That is where we see the future of healthcare going, and where we see ourselves playing in it is by lowering the cost of care."