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The company saw engagement with its platform grow 139 percent in the first half of 2020
The first half of 2020 set a record with $5.4 billion invested in the healthtech space, putting it on track for its largest year ever. Notably, a good chunk of that funding came from telemedicine, which accounted for $926 million, or a total of 17 percent of that investment. Companies like Amwell, Medici, 98point6, SonderMind, Maven and SilverCloud Health were among those able to take advantage of the pandemic, and the patient's increasing desire to access care while still at home.
Sadly, COVID is still a big problem, and so investments into the space don't seem to be slowing down either: telemedicine platform Doctor On Demand announced on Wednesday that it raised $75 million in Series D financing led by global growth equity firm General Atlantic, with participation from existing investors. This is the company's first funding since it raised $74 million over two years ago, and it brings its total raised to $239 million.
Founded in 2012, Doctor on Demand, connects patients to a board-certified doctor in their state or they can schedule an appointment for later; all they have to do download the app, provide a list of their symptoms. Patients connect to physicians using video visits, with each one costing $40 for a 15-minute appointment. If the call goes over the allotted time, patients have the ability to pay another $40 for the same amount of time.
Doctor On Demand works as both a direct-to-consumer platform, as well as enterprise distribution channel, in which it signs up enterprise clients who then offer the service to their employees. That meams patients can pay for the visit with their Health Care Spending Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or their credit card. Doctors can also write prescriptions for patients when appropriate, which will be covered by the patient's insurance plan.
In the first half of 2020, the company saw record usage on its platform, growing 139 percent, for COVID-19 screenings, routine health issues, chronic conditions and behavioral health. The company more than doubled the number of people it covers in the past six months, to 98 million, and it has now provided patients with over 3 million virtual visits.
As such, the company was also forced to double the number of doctors on its platform to 700 in the last few months, Hill Ferguson, CEO of Doctor On Demand, told me in an interview.
"We were growing nicely before the pandemic hit. It was a situation where we had a growing number of clients bringing on Doctor On Demand as a healthcare provider for their populations, but after bringing on a client you had to communicate out to that population, educate them on the benefits of virtual care and then wait for them to actually need the care and so it was a bit of a slower build, if you will," he said.
"We were growing quite nicely and had a fair number of really strong growth years in recent history, but it never felt like we were getting the attention and the engagement that we thought would ultimately come one day. It's unfortunate that it takes a pandemic for people to make the changes around reimbursement and communicate the value of virtual care and give people the option and the opportunity to see a doctor on their time, from their home. It's nevertheless been an effective way for people to find out about us."
Early on in the pandemic, Doctor On Demand was already taking charge, launching its COVID health assessment on February 28; the tool initially allowed patients to take a self assessment, though it eventually evolved into what Ferguson calls a "lightweight diagnostic."
"We used it as a way to really filter patients who we didn't think needed care to go wait and then come back as symptoms changed. For people who were high risk and expressing symptoms, we were able to effectively give them a fast pass at the front of the line," he explained.
"That's kind of a risky thing to do in healthcare, and it kind of runs counter to how we built our offering, where we want to be very democratic about our service. We think a lot of what we're doing is democratizing access to healthcare, but in cases like this it felt like the right thing to do to make sure that the people who had chronic conditions, who were elderly, who maybe even were frontline health care workers, got preference and were able to get to the front of the line for seeing a doctor. So, we use that tool as a way to triage cases as part of our product offering."
Even at even at the height of the pandemic, though, COVID cases only made up at 20 percent of the cases that Doctor On Demand was seeing every day, while the rest were typical things that patients would normally have gone to see a doctor in person about.
"COVID related cases dropped down into the single digits, but it’s recently come back up into double digits with some of the resurgence with cities reopening. You've seen on the national news with cases climbing again, so it has climbed again but it's not a majority of our cases. People are using us for diabetes treatments, mental health issues, just more of the standard cases, but the COVID related ones are something that sort of ebbs and flows for the overall reported cases that we see on national news."
The increased growth the company saw is a large part of what was behind the drive to raise this funding now; the original plan was to wait until next year, Ferguson told me, but those plans were upended by COVID and the opportunity the increase presented.
In its press released Doctor On Demand said it will use the new funding to invest in "growth and further expand access." That means building out its technology platform, expanding its Behavioral Health practice, and further investing in its Virtual Primary Care offering "where we’re seeing early traction and growing interest from our health plan and employer partners."
The company will also be expanding its product and engineering teams "to support our accelerated roadmap to offer enhanced and new product and feature offerings to our customers and growing patient population."
"Taking capital now gives us the opportunity to invest ahead of schedule in some areas, like our virtual primary care and behavioral health offerings that are going really well, and expanding our practice and our clinical team and offerings, so that we can provide a platform to more people. It’s great to be able to be in a position to do that," Ferguson said.
The big question surrounding telehealth and virtual care in the COVID era going forward is: have we crossed a threshold, meaning people will now want telemedicine when COVID is over, or will the numbers go back when people have the chance to do in-person visits again? Even as the pandemic is still thriving, virtual visits have already started to dip from where they were a couple of months ago.
Ferguson, though, doesn't it see virtual are going away any time soon, at least not if companies in the telehealth space can create deep and ongoing relationships with their patients.
"COVID-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of virtual care. Consumers and doctors adopt virtual care, they can use it for more than urgent care: up to $250 billion of current US healthcare spend could potentially be virtualized. The telehealth naysayers, like the lobbyists for status quo, limited access, brick-and-mortar healthcare, will point to recent dips in virtual visits as ambulatory care providers welcomed patients back into their facilities. But, those dips are more likely reflecting telehealth models that are virtual extensions of doctors’ offices," he told me.
"Doctor On Demand doesn’t operate in that model. We are a fully-staffed virtual care practice. As a result, we’re seeing consistent and increasing usage across patient demographics, including seniors and patients in rural settings. I really believe that virtual care can sustain its surge if we focus on forging relationships with patients, and not just celebrate when we fill a pandemic-created gap.”
(Image source: doctorondemand.com)
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