First Opinion has raised $1.4 million in new funding from True Ventures and returning investor Felicis Ventures. This brings the total raised by the text-a-doctor service to $2.6 million. Prior backers include Greylock, Yuri Milner, and 500 Startups.
The iOS app, which matches users with a doctor they can text with questions, also launched a new version of its service. First Opinion allows one free consult every month. Additional ones start at $12 for a package of three sessions with the same doctor. The update makes doctors available 24-hours a day and the company says questions are usually answered within nine minutes.
Founder and CEO McKay Thomas says that First Opinion was built initially for expectant parents, including women timing contractions and trying to figure out when to go to the hospital. Other use cases include people with chronic illnesses or conditions like insomnia, headaches, and anxiety.
To protect users’ privacy, First Opinion’s signup process asks only for a first name and email address. When I tested the app, it took about five minutes to match me with a doctor, but that may be because I used it late at night.
I was paired with Dr. Ankita, whose profile says she’s answered more than 1,500 questions on First Opinion. I asked her if I should have blood work done to test my iron levels since I’ve been feeling fatigued lately. We spent about 30 minutes texting about possible causes and solutions for my tiredness.
At the end, Dr. Ankita said that I should indeed have my blood tested, which I had been hoping to avoid, but the session left me armed with questions to ask my physician.
First Opinion’s new funding will be used to hone a matching algorithm created by co-founder and CTO Jay Marcyes, who formerly worked at Plancast and Path. It makes pairing doctors and patients more time-efficient and creates more compatible matches, First Opinion says. The app’s previous version took more than 15 minutes to make a match, but the startup says it can now take as little as 30 seconds.
To make the matching process faster, First Opinion worked with COO Dr. Vik Bakhru, a Philadelphia-based physician who also has a MBA from The Wharton School, to staff the app so patients can get responses no matter what time of day or night it is.
Thomas says that about “85% of all visits to a family doctor are what we call ‘rejected visits.’ This is where someone pays $30+ to get five minutes with a doctor who essentially says something like ‘come back if it gets worse.'”
Texting with one of First Opinion’s doctors first can potentially help patients decide if they really do need to seek a healthcare provider or, as it did with me, help prepare them so they can make the most out of their limited time in a clinic or hospital.