Text-first telemedicine platform CirrusMD raises $20M

Steven Loeb · April 1, 2021 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/5214
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The company saw a 150 percent increase in active members over the last year

Before the pandemic, telemedicine was something of niche space, where only eight percent of patients had even tried these services. Then COVID came along and suddenly it become overcrowded: there was so much money flowing into this space in 2020, with investments rising 139% year-to-year to $4.3 billion, that suddenly companies needed to find a way to differentiate themselves among the Amwells, Teladocs, MDLives, and Carbon Healths.  

CirrusMD is one company that stands out by connecting doctors and their patients via text, creating on ongoing dialogue.

That idea has piqued the interest of investors, as CirrusMD has raised a new round of funding, a $20 million Series C led by Blue Venture Fund, with participation from 7wireVentures, Drive Capital and the Colorado Impact Fund. This brings its total amount raised to $46 million.

Patients are able to connect not only to a doctor on the CirrusMD platform, but also to specialists, pharmacists, behavioral health professionals, and even non-clinical resources, such as schedulers and financial services (though CirrusMD does not offer these services itself). 

By offering a chat-first virtual care solution, the Denver-based company can create an ongoing dialogue that other telemedicine companies can't; patients can get answers to their questions in a timely manner, while doctors can easily follow up to see if their treatment is working. The texts sent between the doctor and patient are self documented, so there is a complete record of the entire interaction.

CirrusMD partners with large health plans, and also self-insured employers. As a result, most patients are never charged for accessing the platform, though some with high deductible plans may have a small co-pay. 

Like others in the space, CirrusMD was forced to response quickly to the COVID virus; that included developing an in-app questionnaire developed within the first few months of the pandemic, which helped determine a users' risk for COVID-19.

By stratifying patients based on their risk profile, the company was able to immediately identify and begin helping those most likely to have contracted the virus, Andy Altorfer, co-founder and CEO of CirrusMD, told me. 

"Because our platform was built to elegantly scale, and was battle-tested with some of the largest health plans and integrated delivery networks in the U.S., we were well-situated to handle the surge of patient volume that the pandemic ignited," he said.

"As a result, even during the peaks of telehealth usage, wait times for users to connect with our doctors have still averaged less than 60 seconds."

The pandemic also resulted in the company seeing major growth over the last year, with a 150 percent increase in active members to nearly 10 million users across all 50 states. It also doubled the size of its CirrusMD Provider Network.

In addition, CirrusMD added and expanded care across multiple clinical specialty areas, including internal medicine, pediatrics, and obesity medicine. In particular, the company spent the last 12 months going deeper into behavioral health, an expansion that grew out of the increasing demand for behavioral health resources, accelerated further by mental health issues arising from COVID.

"There was an urgent need to help people manage escalating depression, anxiety and stress. We were able to do so by putting expert resources in place who can assess the whole person, including behavioral health," Altorfer said.

"Our model is to deliver integrated, longitudinal care. So, when a patient begins their encounter with a CirrusMD physician, our clinician is quickly seeking to understand their physical condition, their mental state and any contributing environmental factors. By adding clinical psychiatrists to our team, we’re able to identify and understand underlying issues — such as anxiety and depression — that may initially present as medical ailments."

CirrusMD says the new round of funding will "carry the company through its next phase of growth," which means growing its clinical network, including scaling its existing behavioral health services, and adding new speciality areas. It will also continue to scale its operations and processes, while also investing in sales, business development, and customer success.

The funding will also toward accelerating CirrusMD's product roadmap, which will include adding capabilities that provide real-time resources to the patient in the context of care, and expanding its capability in navigating users to their plan and employer benefits and resources. The company is also planning for partnerships that broaden coordinated care, automation that supports its provider efficiency model, and accessibility to care for the underserved and underinsured.

"Because our emphasis is on whole person care that is integrated and longitudinal, our product focus is on delivering a solution that will scale to fit these needs," said Altorfer. 

Though telemedicine has seen huge gains over the last year, the jury is still out on whether or not patients will continue to access these services once the pandemic ends. Have they now gotten used to it, so they'll continue to use it even when they don't have to? Or will they go back to the way the used to access care previously? Altorfer believes it will be the former. Or, as he put it to me, "The genie is out of the bottle."

"The pandemic introduced a huge swath of the population to telehealth, and they experienced its convenience, quality, and improved access to care first-hand. Millions of people are now conditioned to integrate telehealth into their care journey," he said.

"Because our users can directly connect with a physician in under a minute and have their issue resolved on our platform 83% of the time, we consistently see patient satisfaction rates of 95%. With those kinds of numbers, we expect high levels of telehealth utilization to remain even after the pandemic subsides."

(Image source: cirrusmd.com

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