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Telemedicine is booming during the coronavirus, with a slew of different companies in the space raising money as more people take advantage of being able to see a doctor from the comfort of their own home while the coronavirus rages.
Now you can add Carbon Health to that list, which announced on Monday that it raised $28 million in an extended Series B round from existing investor DCVC. This follows the company's initial $30 million Series B from a year ago from Brookfield Growth Partners, DCVC, founders from Flatiron Health and Clover Health, Builders VC, Bullpen Capital, Javelin Venture Partners and Two Sigma Ventures.
With this latest funding , Carbon Health has now raised to $75 million in venture funding, and the company will use the funding to keep up with the increased demand it is seeing in virtual care thanks to COVID-19.
An increase in virtual care
Carbon Health combines telehealth and in-person care. With its app, patients can manage appointments, billing, pharmacy refills and lab results from their phone. They can also talk with doctors and staff for quick answers to their questions. The company also offers primary and urgent care clinics, which don't require a membership or fees from the patient.
The company first began screening for coronavirus in early January, Eren Bali, co-founder and CEO of Carbon Health, told me. It began by adding some pre-appointment check-ins, such as asking people if they had traveled to Wuhan, China in the prior 14 weeks, and it immediately found two patients who had just flown from Wuhan to California, and had visited its clinics.
"Luckily, those patients were tested and they were not infected but we started realizing that this problem was in our doors immediately," said Bali.
As a result, the company quickly began expanding its virtual care capabilities, putting potentially at risk patients into 14 day quarantine, and doing remote, daily check-ins with them to see if their symptoms changed. It also developed a Coronavirus Assessment Tool, which has now assessed over 14,000 coronavirus concerns, and developed COVID-19 Mobile Clinics to bring testing to people who need it.
"We just decided to put a testing center in all our clinics ASAP. We shut down primary care so that primary care clinicians could move to more of a COVID-focus, a more urgent care type of approach. We moved most of our care to virtual care," Bali said. "Essentially, we asked, assuming this is not contained, 'What is our responsibility to our community that we serve? What is the maximum we can do?'," said Bali.
Carbon's virtual care visits have now seen a 900 percent increase since the start of the coronavirus, both from people who were worried about coronavirus, but also from people who are not at risk, but who prefer to handle their health problems problems at home. The big difference now is that, while virtual care used to be mostly for low acuity problems, it's now, by necessity, being used for higher acuity, more complex problems as well.
"We can compliment more complex care and surprisingly both providers and patients who are using virtual care for the first time have been enjoying quite a bit. They realize that with the right setup, you can actually do a lot more than they thought they’d be able to do virtually," said Bali.
Carbon Health now offers virtual care in 16 states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Virginia. The plan is to be in all 50 states by this summer.
Doubling down on clinics
Prior to coronavirus, Carbon Health had been laying out plans to expand its primary and urgent care clinics; earlier this year it opened its second clinic in Pasadena, its fourteenth overall, with a plan to open 100 clinics around the country by next year.
Even now, though, the company is going full throttle ahead with that plan. In fact, Bali told me, clinics were seeing an increase in volume when coronavirus first hit, which then slowed down after the shelter placed orders in California. Still, he says that Carbon Health hasn’t been hit as hard as other companies, which might have to do, in part, because of partnerships with the City of San Francisco and County of Los Angeles to expand testing, as well as the fact that no healthcare professionals in Carbon's clinics have so far been infected.
"We’ve been doing a really good job protecting and our protocols are pretty strong. Maybe people realize, because we have so much testing and controls, that coming to our clinic is probably safer than going to a grocery store right now. We have much stronger protective equipment. So, our volume is down but not as much as other clinics," he said.
Still, though, the company's expansion plan might have to slow down for reasons outside of its control, namely because there's nobody who can build the clinics right now, as construction had to be halted due to the virus.
"We couldn't continue construction, so we’re behind on our physical clinic scheduling because of COVID-19, but we are still planning to move forward with them. At the end of the day, as a technology enabled company we are so good at responding to a dynamic problem like COVID-19."
Bridging the gap between virtual and physical care
In just the past two months, Carbon Health has tripled its staff from 100 to more than 300 employees, and it has plans to double, or maybe even more than triple, that number again by the end of year to between 600 and 1,000 employees.
Specifically, the company has been hiring pediatric and mental health providers, as those are two areas where the company saw the biggest need, Bali explained.
"Mental health is a much bigger need than it was before, so we realized we need a much stronger integration between mental health and physical health. It needs to be a much stronger part of people’s urgent care and primary care type of services. It was better for us to own those services so that, for example, if you ask people to self isolate and if they get depressed, and they become unproductive, we can actually help them," he said.
"With pediatrics it was a similar situation. We always had pediatrics at our clinics, but we realized that more and more people will need to do complex pediatric care at home. These were obvious needs that came up with this coronavirus issue and then we realized that the existing solutions weren’t integrated into the care as much as wanted."
Going forward, Carbon Plans to find even more ways to bridge the gap between virtual and clinical, especially now that virtual care only going to be more popular among those people who have now been forced to try it.
"Even if there was a cure and the whole COVID-19 thing ended, the total consumption and utilization of virtual care is now going to be much higher because people are now realizing it can be just as good as the clinical care for a lot of different problems. Not 100 percent of the cases, but that ratio is going to go up and up as you get more sophisticated about virtual care," said Bali.
"So far, though, healthcare has been too binary, with physical versus virtual. Our mobile clinic is almost like a stepping stone between virtual and clinics. People are doing virtual visits, they’re talking to a doctor and getting assessed for their risk factors and everything, and then maybe they’re needing to get tested. The equipment is in our mobile testing clinic and then the doctor can follow up with the results with the patient. We are going to get more creative. We are going to be seeing a lot of ideas coming out of Carbon Health around that concept."
(Image source: carbonhealth.com)
Update: Carbon Health has informed VatorNews that the total amount raised was actually $28 million, not $26 million as originally disclosed. This piece has been updated to reflect the accurate number.
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