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London-based telemedicine startup Zava has raised €28 million ($32 million) in a Series A investment from HPE Growth. Zava is a digital healthcare provider that connects patients with an online doctor in minutes, and allows medicines to be delivered directly to patients’ homes.
Founded in 2011, the startup raised an angel round of $1.4M back in 2012 from a Hamburg investor and was profitable until the end of 2018. The telemedicine company plans to use the new funds to integrate its service into healthcare systems in Germany, UK and France. Zava will use the investment to build out its world class team in order to accelerate growth and expand its products as part of its ambitions to become the world’s leading digital healthcare provider. The funding will also help expand Zava’s business in existing markets, enabling it to first become a pan-European company and then expand worldwide.
Zava’s mission is to build accessible and reliable healthcare, while significantly reducing costs. Since it founding, Zava has provided over three million paid consultations across six European markets – one million of which took place in 2018. Monthly, almost 100,000 patients access Zava from the UK, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland to seek advice, tests or treatment for an expanding list of conditions.
The platform now offers treatments for certain chronic conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, sexual health products, contraceptives, antibiotics, and STI test kits, as well as solutions for skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
“In a world of an ageing population and rising costs, healthcare systems are at a breaking point,” said David Meinertz, Zava co-founder and CEO. “Barriers are put in people’s way that stop them from getting the support they need. Zava exists to break down these barriers – costs, access & information. Enabling people to do more of what matters to them. Zava’s mission is to build healthcare that is accessible, dependable and a fraction of today’s cost.”
Clinical questionnaires are the base of patient doctor interactions on Zava platform. These save time for both patients and doctors, while maintaining quality and ensuring safety.
The company’s early profits have been produced by paid services offered either directly to patients, or via insurance companies or partner-pharmacies. The company intends to open up a dual system in the UK — by winning business from the state funded National Health Service so the product is offered to their patients free-at-the-point-of-use, while continuing to sell directly to patients.
Patients fill in an online medical questionnaire, which is then read by a member of Zava’s team of in-house doctors/clinicians, as part of the remote consultation. Any test kits and/or medicine the doctor orders can then be sent by mail or an order can be sent to a pharmacy from which the patient can collect them.
“Zava provides reliable and convenient access to a qualified clinical team, via written communication, which drives an effective patient:doctor relationship,” says co-founder and CEO David Meinertz. “The questions we ask in our written questionnaire are exactly the same questions a GP would ask — but the patient can do this in their own time, meaning their answers are often more thorough.”
“Our patients feel more comfortable not having to discuss medical conditions that they might find embarrassing face-to-face, so we often find our patient answers are very direct,” he adds.
The patients choose Zava products for both convenience and time saving. The typical Zava patient is a man or a woman, between 20 and 40 who lives in a big city.
“They are patients who are dissatisfied with their current healthcare options and they’re willing to try something new,” Meinertz says. “They want to avoid a face-to-face interaction or an inconvenient appointment. Accessibility and reliability are the most important factors to them.”
Although this tech-savvy target demographic may prefer to try an app rather than make a traditional trip to the GP, they will remain customers only if the service continues to rise to their expectations.
The challenge for telehealth companies like Zava remains to find a way to keep patients satisfied with the service, according to their needs, as it continues to grow. The company will have to find new ways to convince patients they have a growing connection with their remote doctors. Otherwise, an app, no matter how good, won’t long keep its novelty.
Zava connects patients to a doctor online in a matter of minutes as do many similar companies, but, unlike many others, it does not provide video consultations.
Zava seems to be ‘lower tech’ compared to some of the other digital health startups which aim to gain a younger, tech-savvy generation of patients — such as London-based Babylon Health, which uses an AI chatbot in its telehealth service.
This difference could actually be a good move, since it appears that people do not fully trust all technological advancements related to healthcare, according to a recently run UserTesting study. Five healthcare chatbot apps – Ada, Mediktor, Your.MD, Symptomate, and HeathTap – were tried, to see whether consumers liked getting medical information about their possible diagnosis from a healthcare chatbot. Results proved people don’t like completely relying on them.
Therefore, what Zava may lose in rapidity by asking patients to fill in a detailed questionnaire to access remote healthcare versus a chatbot-style Q&A with a patient, it could gain on a longer term, if the company can prove it thus lowers the risk of errors and misdiagnosis, and helps create a stronger connection between patient and app, as it now claims.
As previously said, the growth opportunity its investors are funding is to expand across Europe, and then worldwide. In addition Zava wants to aid over-stretched state healthcare services. To that end, Zava is preparing to make a sales pitch to systems in the UK, France and Germany.
Hopes are high concerning the process. Commenting on the Series A funding in a statement, Harry Dolman, partner at HPE Growth, added: “Zava offers a unique and highly scalable model to deliver a more convenient healthcare experience to patients while radically improving the efficiency of healthcare professionals, enabling healthcare systems to reduce the overall costs associated with primary care.”
“We’re delighted that our latest investment will help fund the research required to enter this space in the UK, Germany and France,” says Meinertz of the Series A. “We feel passionately about the transformation of primary care and the Zava healthcare platform is primed to support it.”
It remains to be seen whether Zava will deliver what it promised, especially since Meinertz says the new money will also help expand Zava’s medical and technology capabilities, the goal being to offer “many new services for patients across Europe”, with women’s health a near term focus, and the intention of launching into two more European markets by 2021 a more distant, but equally ambitious project.