Zipnosis recently announced it raised $17 million in Series A funding to expand marketing and sales efforts. Founded in 2008, the Minneapolis-based company provides a platform so providers can create virtual care access for patients. Zipnosis' clients currently covers about 17 health system customers including Fairview Health Services, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Group Health, and John Muir Health. Co-founder and CEO Jon Pearce recently spoke with Healthcare Dive to discuss what exactly virtual care is, startup culture, and how that affects the healthcare industry.
Healthcare Dive: Is 'virtual platform' a different way of saying 'telemedicine' or 'telehealth services?'
Pearce: It’s broader than telehealth. Telemedicine is typically restricted to phone or video-based care so when we talk about virtual care, we do operate phone and video as ways for patients to interact -- but we also have three other ways in which patients can get access to our health system partners. One of them is an asynchronous adaptive interview that allows the patient to enter all their symptoms the physician can review in their downtime in the clinic. It’s a much more efficient way of treating patients. We extend that through a boarding pass called a ZipTicket, where a patient starts their encounter online and the platform would be smart enough to [suggest when a patient should go into a physical providers’ office].
How is it different from other health IT services?
Pearce: [EMR] systems are designed to provide a framework to build a technology. What we do is different. As part of our service, our platform is continuously updating the clinical algorithms so they reflect best practices. They are updated based on usage patterns across the country so our clients are getting continuous improvements, which is something the EMR companies just can’t do. That’s a huge asset when you talk about clinical quality and patient safety.
Do you consider yourself a startup at this point?
Pearce: We’re a growth-stage company is how I would frame it. We were profitable in 2014 and we have a business behind it, so it’s not just a hope and a dream. There are still a lot of aspirations, don’t get me wrong.
You see many talks about the "Uber of blank" and startup culture, and in healthcare there are large talks about how that will materialize. Where do you see the industry going in that regard?
Pearce: There are two trends. I’m obviously a biased party because it reflects our business but I think, first of all, the concept of telemedicine is going to die and what’s going to be more prevalent is this notion of access strategies. The companies that are going to be able to provide multiple ways for patients access and then put them on one platform are going to be successful. The second is evolving the business model out of chasing transactions as a revenue to something that is a lot more sustainable and malleable in an evolving reimbursement environment.
What are your thoughts the “Uber of blank” since you’ve been around longer than Uber has been in public consciousness?
Pearce: It’s interesting. As a startup, you think it’d be great to be Uber or Slack or something like that. Uber has a real sustainable business behind it but some [startups] are based on funding and hopes and dreams...The companies that will be successful in healthcare might be a little less sexy, but will be fundamentally better businesses and provide more transformative value. And I think we attract those types of entrepreneurs. It’s going to be really hard if not impossible to have any one healthcare Uber-like company. Not that there couldn’t be.
As far as transformative quality, how does that guide your business model and where do you think those qualities can fit into healthcare?
Pearce: The first is changing where and how patients connect for care. You have to be able to leverage the technology and if you don’t assume that, then you’re not going to be transformative. I think that application in technology and healthcare is still lagging from other industries so there’s a catch-up that healthcare has to do. Fortunately, there are a lot of precedents in other service industries. The second is about being realistic and being transformative in the payment model, not thinking of this as a cash register and every visit that goes through [brings in revenue]. Part of our mission in the next five years is transforming where and how patients and providers connect for care. The next part of our business will be transforming who pays for healthcare and that’s a very different perspective.
Do you see any place where there is smart funding or capital going into the industry that individuals should be on the lookout for?
Pearce: Anything in chronic disease or medication management is really interesting, especially for patient readmissions. Those are really big problems that can be solved with fairly easy technology solutions and basic gaming theory and psychology behind it. I don’t think those are very heavy lifts and individuals investing in that are going to be very successful.