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The company raised a $13.9 million Series A round of funding
Telemedicine is becoming ubiquitous in healthcare. According to the AMA, more than three-fourths of hospitals in the United States now pay for telehealth services. On top of that, almost every state Medicaid program has some form of coverage for telehealth services, in addition to increasing coverage from private insurers. The traditional way of seeing a doctor is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
And, yet, there are still many problems with these services, including an inability for telemedicine companies to scale.
"Access to care is one of the most critical issues in the United States. We recognize that we’re on the precipice of a healthcare crisis: a clinician shortage. Healthcare companies are operating on a one-to-one model that limits clinicians to a single organization at a time, which ultimately limits patient access to quality care," said Michelle Davey, CEO and co-founder of Wheel, a company that launched earlier this week with a $13.9 million Series A funding round led by CRV, with participation from Tusk Venture Partners and Silverton Partners.
"Virtual care has the potential to make a massive impact on how care is delivered and accessed by patients. For clinicians, it also provides more flexibility in how and when they see patients. However, the virtual care market previously didn’t have infrastructure in place to scale."
Wheel solves these problems by giving doctors access to training in telehealth, which the company calls "Webside Manner," while also connecting those physicians, nurse practitioners, and PAs to telehealth companies. It's providing companies with access to more physicians, and the physicians with more opportunities to reach more patients through companies that Wheel has vetted for them.
The idea, Davey told me, is that the company is "helping both healthcare companies and clinicians improve the experience and quality of virtual care."
"Wheel takes on the key challenges of the industry, which is access to a flexible workforce of quality clinicians, and the tech-enabled infrastructure required to mobilize it rapidly and compliantly, enabling digital health to thrive in order to tackle healthcare’s largest problems," she said.
"Wheel goes a step beyond simply pairing clinicians with patients; we provide these companies a tech-enabled platform powered by a scalable nationwide network of clinicians specializing in virtual care."
The value for its clients, Davey said, is that it reduces the overhead that companies have to pay in regards to recruiting, training and managing a nationwide team of clinicians.
"By taking on critical workforce management functions, as well as the technology required to match the right clinician to the right patient, Wheel adds significant value to our clients’ bottom line," she explained.
In terms of the company's business model, Wheel's client's only pay for the services they use on a per-patient-encounter basis, making it different from traditional locum tenens or clinical staffing models, which are usually paid in a model that is fixed and inflexible.
Wheel, which changed its name from Enzyme Health, has now raised a total $15.6 million, including its seed round in November 2018. The company plans to use the new funding to build out its infrastructure, which includes technology and support services for both clinicians and health organizations.
It will also go toward building out its team, which currently consists of 16 people, which it plans to double or triple this year.
Part of the power of digital health and telemedicine, Davey said, is that they have "the power to revolutionize the way we access care, regardless of our socio-economic or geographic limitations," but she also acknowledges that "it’s had a very slow start, despite so much effort to mobilize its impact."
"First-generation telemedicine paved the way but failed to achieve the reach we hoped it would, for a number of reasons. Historically, telehealth utilized a one-to-one model of care, where physicians generally worked only for a single care provider. It also was primarily centered around urgent care, restricting patient access to specialists, chronic disease management and behavioral health treatment," she explained.
Davey now sees that model changing, with the market shifting from what she sees as "the outdated model of telemedicine services replicating in-person doctor-patient relationships, to a new virtual care model," one that will have "entirely new ways of caring for patients." That might include remote patient monitoring for chronic conditions, virtual lab services for improved at-home screening, and better methods of diagnosing and treating common illnesses.
"Wheel was designed precisely to support this entirely new healthcare delivery paradigm," Davey said, and the service will be especially important with the looming clinician-shortage crisis.
"Virtual care can make a tremendous impact on patient access and care delivery. At Wheel, we believe that by building the infrastructure that powers healthcare's digital revolution and championing clinicians on the front lines of patient care, we will create the momentum needed to move the industry forward," she told me.
"Our vision is to help clinicians and the industry deliver better care for all."
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