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98point6 Raises $43M to Tackle COVID-19

On-demand primary care startup 98point6 is having a brilliant start to 2020. The startup announced that it had raised $43 million in a Series D financing, with the funding to be used to expand the company’s artificial intelligence-enabled telemedicine platform.

The funding round had participation from Goldman Sachs’ merchant banking division, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal, former Goldman Sachs CFO David Viniar and Frazier Healthcare Partners Managing Partner Nader Naini. To date, the startup has raised $129 million.

98point6, ended 2019 by announcing that the service is now available in all 50 states and Washington D.C.. It will use the money to hire triple the number of its physicians by the end of April.

Presently, the company, which was founded in 2015, has 241 employees.  Its target is to reach 350 by 2021. 98point6 has more than 200 commercial contracts with employers, health plans and retail partners.

The company has seen a massive surge in users; it closed 2018 with just below 850,000 users, but this number has since ballooned to more than 3 million. As per VentureBeat, about 40 percent of patient visits are due to coronavirus-related concerns.

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In a statement, the Seattle-based startup said its membership had grown by 200 percent since the beginning of the year.

Of the growth associated with the new coronavirus, 98point6 CEO, Robbie Cape said: “We know that it’s growing, and in some ways I wish it wasn’t growing quite so fast. Our membership has grown very dramatically over the last four weeks. Our existing members are using us more.”

Cape added: “I think the entire world is having an opportunity to see the value of remote medicine, and I think as a result we’re gonna see a dramatic increase in not only the percentage of Americans who are regularly taking advantage of remote care capabilities, but I think we’re also going to see a shift in the expectations that the nation has of remote care capabilities.”

To accommodate the spike in membership, 98point6 said it was launching the first-of-its-kind patient dashboard, which allows patients to see average wait times from the previous day as an indicator of what the current day could bring.

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Brad Younggren, the chief medical officer at 98point6, said: “Virtual care plays an important part in enabling self-quarantine and physical distancing to help flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19. At 98point6, we will continue working side-by-side with our partners to respond as market needs evolve, and we’re as committed as ever to bringing accessible, quality care to patients across the country.”

The Bizjournals website reported that 98point6 began focusing on COVID-19 responses in early February, and at the beginning of March shifted 100 percent of its focus to the pandemic. The company plans to continued focusing on the virus until it subsides.

As of April 8, the U.S. had recorded 406,693 COVID-19 cases, with 13,089 deaths confirmed.

What the company does

98point6 employs machine learning and automation, helping doctors optimize and complete tasks that do not require direct physician interaction. Instead of having doctors ask administrative questions and gather patient history or chart information, 98point6’s AI technology does it for them. The company is pioneering a new approach in primary care, where deep technology is paired with board-certified physicians with the hope being to make primary care more accessible and affordable — leading to better health and reducing the cost of care.

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Cape explained that 98point6’s AI determines the most relevant information to gather from the patient, also in a natural dialogue format. On the back end, it’s trained to ensure that physicians are presented with material related to each patient’s complaint. Clinicians can respond in-app using a secure messaging tool, where they can text, exchange photos and videos, or refer more complicated cases to in-person physicians or specialists.

At the conclusion of each virtual visit, patients get a personalized care plan outlining any necessary prescriptions and lab work. Subsequent notifications alert them when said prescription is filled or lab results are ready, the VentureBeat website reported.

98point6 is in the same space as K Health, which earlier this year raised $48 million in a Series C financing to scale its model, expand primary care to mobile devices, and expand to international markets.

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