Forbes says the average wait time for a doctor’s appointment in the US in 2017 was 24 days. For people suffering with chronic conditions that need immediate care, this is 24 days too many. This is why 98point6, a new Seattle-based healthcare company, offers an “on-demand primary care service” that delivers “personalized consultation, diagnosis and treatment to patients” exactly when they need it, through a secure, subscription-based mobile app service.
So instead of long, painful weeks of waiting to meet your doctor, and miserable hours spent in suspiciously sticky waiting rooms, 98point6 lets you just have a virtual doctor’s visit when you need it, where you want it, how many ever times you choose to use it.
So how does it work?
Founded by entrepreneur Robbie Cape, 98point6 is a mobile phone app that brings together deep technology and board-certified medical professionals to provide reliable, confidential, text-based medical consultations and services to patients.
The app’s AI technology gathers patient history (of patients above the age of 18), updates their charts, performs other administrative tasks, and asks basic questions to collect diagnostic information. Patient profiles are automatically built by the system, avoiding redundancy at the next virtual visit.
The “Automated Assistant” uses Natural Language Processing (NLP), which allows patients to make their complaints in as few or as many words as they feel comfortable. “[Sometimes], we get several words from the patient (‘my head hurts’), and in others we get multiple paragraphs. This helps create a natural dialogue, even in the context of a machine/human interaction,” says Cape to VentureBeat.
Once the initial administrative work and basic questions are resolved, a certified, primary healthcare physician (a full time employee of the company) steps into the process to ask further questions, diagnose the patient, and answer any health-related queries. The certified physicians can also recommend lab work, write prescriptions (automatically sent to your local pharmacy), or recommend that you visit a primary healthcare provider in person for further consultation.
The company says that in beta testing, its system enjoyed a 93% resolution rate, and the whole process takes under 20 minutes from start to finish, including first time user sign up.
Who does it work for?
98point6’s model is likely to address some of the acute problems plaguing the healthcare industry in the US today. The Association of American Medical Colleges found that the US would face a projected shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by the year 2030, and the National Association of Community Health Centers reported in 2014 that 62 million Americans have “no or inadequate access to primary care due to the shortage of physicians”.
98point6 increases access to doctors and medical care
An app like 98point6 increases public access to primary physicians and ups the chances of being able to ‘meet’ a doctor at a time when the country faces a dire shortage of them. Further, with the adoption of a technology like this, the time of medical practitioners working outside of tech-based apps could be better served treating only those who really need physical consultations, with a huge number of everyday, easily-curable ailments being screened out through virtual consultations.
98point6 requires no insurance, and allows for an unlimited number of consultations (at $20 a year for the first year, and $120 a year after that for individuals. It also has provisions for employer-sponsored plans) and is also likely to bring down the cost of primary health care for a number of Americans.
The app could improve the quality of primary healthcare itself, by focusing and streamlining the work of medical practitioners. And if widely adopted, it could also increase the overall health of the population: the company’s own research claims that adding a single primary care physician to a population of 10,000 people reduces that group’s mortality rate by 6%.
Who is 98point6?
Founded in 2015, 98point6’s founder and CEO Robbie Cape was a former founder of family scheduling app Cozi, which he worked on for a full ten years before selling to Time Inc., and before that, he put in 12 years at Microsoft. 98point6’s Chief Product Officer Larry Engel also worked at Microsoft for 20 years before joining Cozi as its Chief Product Officer. Other employees include Starbucks veteran Steven Hurwitz and Cozi’s former VP of Marketing Samantha Bergin, who also spent time as a manager at both Amazon and Starbucks. The company currently boasts 110+ employees, and a 16-person medical advisory board.
Although the service launched in earnest only early this May, 98point6 has received a total funding amount of $86.3M, through four funding rounds. It received $50M from its latest round of Series C funding, led by the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs. The funding will reportedly be used to enhance its automation capabilities, grow the company’s product and physician teams, and add new features.
Given that the telehealth industry is growing steadily (a 2018 study by Transparency Market Research says that the industry was worth $6B in 2016 and expected to be worth $19.5B by 2025) its not surprising that the app has a number of competitors, like MDLive, HealthTap, DocHalo, Teledoc and HaloDoc.
98point6’s current annual revenue is under $1M, which is well behind its top competitor, MDLive, whose annual revenue is $16.5M, and Healthtap, whose annual revenue of $8.8M. When asked by GeekWire about the company’s competition, 98point6 founder Cape responded rather positively, “We absolutely believe that the market is so interesting, dynamic, and large that there is an opportunity for all of these companies to be successful. There is that much work to do.”
While all of 98point6’s full-time doctors are currently based in Seattle, they’re licensed to practice in all the states in which the app is functional. However, the apps operations vary slightly due to the differences in regulations in various states (a patient in New York, for example, is required to first have a 30 second video call with a physician before receiving text-based medical services). Available on the Apple App Store, Google Play and its website, 98point6.com, it is currently operational in 40 states and Washington DC, and plans to be operational in all 50 states by early 2019.
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