- Mobile app-based telehealth vendor 98point6 has inked deals with Boeing, Chipotle, convenience store chain Circle K and daycare operator KinderCare to provide virtual primary care for their 500,000 combined employees as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate the shift to a virtual-first delivery model.
- Seattle-based 98point6 has 3 million members under contract, so the additional 500,000 from Thursday's announcement represents 16% growth for the five-year-old startup.
- 98point6's clinic volume has more than tripled since the start of this year, with 40% of patient visits related to coronavirus concerns. Over the past month, the company has also tripled its physician workforce to meet demand.
The coronavirus outbreak is acting as a strong tailwind for telehealth companies, including mobile app players like 98point6 and K Health and more traditional platform vendors like Teladoc, AmWell and Doctor on Demand. A bevy of digital health and remote monitoring companies are reporting skyrocketing patient demand as consumers look to receive medical care within their homes to tamp down on potential virus transmission.
Chipotle inked a partnership with 98point6 on Jan. 1, before the brunt of the pandemic hit the United States. But the coronavirus and subsequent stay-at-home orders caused the Mexican fast-casual chain to quickly expand the relationship, according to Marissa Andrada, Chipotle's chief people officer, to make it easier for its roughly 83,000 employees to access telemedicine.
98point6 currently has more than 200 commercial contracts with employers, health plans and other retail partners, and its services are also offered direct-to-consumer at a cost of $20 for the first year and $120 for the second. The startup provides virtual primary care with an AI-based chatbot that screens patient symptoms and directs users to a physician if needed.
98point6 first added coronavirus screening questions to its workflow in January and has since released a COVID-19 assessment tool based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and a new dashboard with average wait times for visits and other relevant information for patients.
The 240-employee company raised $43 million in Series D funding earlier this month, including investments from Goldman Sachs and BlackRock's CEO, among others, bringing its total funding to $129 million to date. It's one of the largest app-based payers. Tel Aviv-based K Health, which offers primary care via text, has raised $97 million overall and is adding 10,000 to 15,000 users per day, according to co-founder Allon Bloch.
The flurry of interest in telehealth is likely to ease in the second half of this year, analysts say, as states slowly begin to reopen their economies and hospitals and doctor's offices restart non-essential procedures and treatments. But the influx of new users bodes well for virtual care adoption in the long-term as, prior to the pandemic, patients and doctors alike were leery of digital medical delivery.
Teladoc, for example, significantly hiked its full-year guidance Wednesday following increased first-quarter volume, expecting to provide between 8 million and 9 million visits in 2020 and close out the year with 50 million members at least. Commercial and federal payers alike have waived cost-sharing for COVID-19-related telehealth visits or otherwise expanded reimbursement, and the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act benchmarked $200 million to beef up providers' telecommunications infrastructure.