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Virtual Care Regulatory Round-Up: Ro’s Z Reitano & Virtual-First’s Power to Control the Care Journey

by JESSICA DAMASSA, WTF Health

“What happens when there is a massive shift of where the beginning of a journey occurs…that sort of affords the opportunity for everyone after that to be disintermediated.” So says Zachariah “Z” Reitano, co-founder & CEO of Ro, arguably one of the most successful OG virtual-first care companies which has been providing telehealth-plus-testing-plus-pharmacy-delivery (and now a whole lot more) via its Roman and Rory brands since 2017.

As health tech companies – and now, more and more incumbent orgs and retail health providers – evolve their own “omnichannel” strategies, we talk to Z about Ro’s direct-to-patient care model, and what we can learn from its successful operation and expansion as one of the first “digitally native” healthcare providers.

To Z, the technology is just an enabler to a larger shift in how people are ultimately gaining more control over their health. Technology can turn luxuries into commodities, he says, and, at Ro, that’s translating into a concept they’re calling “goal-oriented healthcare,” which is basically providing the “luxury” of giving a patient what they want, when they want it; easily, conveniently, and affordably.

In short, Z explains: “Patients come to us, and they say what they want to achieve: ‘I want to lose weight…I want to have a child…I want to improve my mental health…I want to improve my skin…I want to have better sex.’ And then, we help them from beginning to end in the most convenient and effective way possible.”

The role of digital in all this is critical. It allows for costs to be stripped out, for providers to be able to practice at the top of their licenses, and for data to be shared between provider and patient asynchronously (aka conveniently.) But, it sounds like what’s most exciting about ‘virtual-first’ to Z is the “first” part – having the opportunity to initialize the relationship with the patient, then “raise the standard of where we guide people afterwards, and have the opportunity to disintermediate and really heavily influence the entire patient journey.”

Oooohh – can’t hear enough about this! Tune in to find out more about how Z sees virtual-first care as changing patients’ relationships with the healthcare system AND, because we had to talk a little policy too, get his thinking on how barriers like state licensure that are often looked at as constraints to ‘virtual care at-scale’ might also be evolving to help enable that shift.

* Special thanks to our series sponsor, Wheel – the health tech company powering the virtual care industry. Wheel provides companies with everything they need to launch and scale virtual care services — including the regulatory infrastructure to deliver high quality and compliant care. Learn more at www.wheel.com.

Virtual Care Regulatory Round-Up: Telehealth & Digital Care ‘State-of-Play’ by Nathaniel Lacktman

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Just as HHS extends the Covid-19 public health emergency waivers until July, we kick-off a brand-new monthly interview series about the state-of-play for all things telehealth and digital care policy and reimbursement. Called the WTF Health Virtual Care Regulatory Round-up, we’re partnering with our friends at Wheel to feature health policy experts, lobbyists, health plan folks, and other virtual care experts and insiders who can keep us updated on the changing regulations and what they will mean to those health tech co’s whose businesses rely on virtual care.

Attorney-to-the-stars-of-telehealth, Nathaniel Lacktman, who chairs the Telemedicine & Digital Health Industry Team at Foley & Lardner and is a Board member of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), kicks the series off for us with an update on those public health waivers and how he is coaching health tech businesses in preparing for the inevitable transition of care that will come when they come to an end.

What will happen to patients who live across state lines from their virtual care providers? What business decisions need to be made to avoid abandoning patients and maintaining continuity of care? Nate’s not bullish on a federal national license, but there are some cases where cross-state patient-provider relationships can continue to exist – they just might not work for everyone’s business model.

And, on the subject of telehealth business models, Nate gives us his take on where he thinks reimbursement will be headed, how policy around virtual prescribing will be impacted post-pandemic (particularly around controlled substances), and whether or not Medicare’s originating site requirement will be put back in place. We also get Nate’s perspective on which virtual care business models seem to be working best among health tech startups and what legal risk those more ‘reckless’ players might be creating for the rest of the field without even realizing it. Great education on virtual care and what’s happening in the space RIGHT NOW. Watch!

Special thanks to our series sponsor, Wheel – the health tech company powering the virtual care industry. Wheel provides companies with everything they need to launch and scale virtual care services — including the regulatory infrastructure to deliver high quality and compliant care. Learn more at wheel.com.

Inside Wheel’s $150M Series C: CEO Talks “Long Game” for Stealthy Virtual Care Infrastructure Biz

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Wheel’s CEO Michelle Davey says the white-label virtual care startup’s $150M Series C – led by notable health tech mega-funders Lightspeed Venture Partners & Tiger Global – is “really about the long-game.” We get into the details of this purposeful funding round and what it means for the future of Wheel, as well as the play-by-play analysis of what happened over the past 9 months, since the company closed its $50M Series B. (FYI: Wheel’s total funding is at $216 million to-date.)

Wheel is currently running behind-the-scenes for an undisclosed client list of brands, facilitating 1.6 million virtual visits a year for digital health companies, digital pharmacies, retailers, and, now, even traditional healthcare providers. That number is expected to triple by the end of 2022, and we get into what’s fueling that growth and whether or not Michelle believes that this institutional push toward online care will persist as the pandemic wans and the world continues re-opening.

Armed with this fresh funding, how will three-year-old Wheel continue to differentiate its offering from legacy telehealth infrastructure providers like Amwell and Teladoc? How will it win against their legacy relationships with legacy healthcare providers? Or, is Wheel’s big bet on the continued scaling of what Michelle calls “next generation healthcare”? Wheel has added A LOT of tech to its own infrastructure recently, providing asynchronous options, better clinician matching, more triaging and navigating, and, with this funding, are is now talking about adding “diagnostic services” to round out their service line. What, exactly are we talking about here in terms of business model evolution? Tune in and find out what this stealthy startup is up to!

Meet Wheel: The Mysterious, White-Label Telehealth Startup Bolstering ‘Next-Gen’ Virtual Care

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Stealthy telehealth startup Wheel just closed a $50M series B and CEO Michelle Davey is here to reveal the mystery behind the company’s very behind-the-scenes approach to selling white-label virtual care. The business model is built on a network of clinicians that Wheel has curated and credentialed specifically for virtual care delivery – for a rotating cast of clients, under any brand, at any time. Unlike the market-leading incumbent telehealth co’s that also sell virtual care infrastructure, Wheel does NOT have a patient front door, isn’t angling for one, and is so protective of its clients’ brands that Michelle won’t even name names about who her company is working with. She simply describes her clientele as those in the biz of “next gen” virtual care: retail players, care-plus-pharmacy-delivery startups, asynchronous care providers, labs, remote patient monitoring companies, and so on.

Wheel experienced 300% year-over-year growth — and 1200% growth from Q4-2020 to Q1-2021 — but is it sustainable as the pandemic wans and other plug-and-play telehealth infrastructure services also gain market traction and funding? And, what about the common criticism that telehealth is too transactional and that both patients AND physicians prefer the opportunity to build deeper relationships? Do providers really want to practice for multiple companies at the same time? We get a look inside Wheel’s 90% clinician retention rate to see what else might be satisfying the clinician’s need to connect, and talk about areas for growth now that the company’s received fresh funds.

#Healthin2Point00, Episode 210 | Babylon acquires Meritage IPA, Ro acquires Modern Fertility & more

This week on Health in 2 Point 00, we’ve got big money, acquisitions, CVS Health starting its own decentralized clinical trials business, AND we’ve got Morgan Health. On Episode 210, Jess asks me about Babylon buying Meritage IPA, looking to add their digital front end to this doctors’ network, and Ro acquiring Modern Fertility for $225 million. Next, telehealth company Wheel gets $50 million in a Series B and digital pathology startup PathAI gets $165 million. Finally, SymphonyRM gets $25 million in a Series B. —Matthew Holt

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