Mobile doctor visits startup First Opinion has gained $6 million in Series A funding, led by early-stage health investors Polaris Partners. Previous investors contributing to this round include True Ventures, Felicis Ventures, Scrum Ventures and Monashees Capital.
A seed round of $2.6 million brings the total investment amount to date to $8.6 million.
The app works by letting patients communicate with physicians via text. Granted that doesn’t sound very novel when we’ve been texting for a while. It could also seem glaringly backwards in an age when we have thousands of doctors at our fingertips via video through our smartphones these days.
However, First Opinion believes that tech doesn’t address the majority of the population. “We’re really just going to where the population lives. The population will never pay $40 for half of a doctor visit through any type of communication method, including video,” says CEO McKay Thomas.
Based on the trajectory and funding of Doctor on Demand, First Derm and other telemedicine type startups, Thomas would appear wrong on the assumption that people won’t pay that amount. However, he brings up a good point. Roughly 90 percent of the American population owns a cellphone, but only 58 percent of the U.S. uses a smartphone, says Pew Research. OEM puts that number at 72 percent. This means that a good chunk of the population is left in the dark when it comes to reaching their doctor digitally.
Brian Chee from Polaris Partners will join the board at First Opinion. He believes the investment will help First Opinion address a real problem in healthcare – overcrowded doctors offices. “We invested in this company because it has the power to transform an ineffective process for the better, by reducing both doctor and patient loads and out-of-pocket expenditures for patients,” he notes.
Those on the app are assigned the same doctor to work with each time. They text the doctor questions they have about their health and get a response in 24 hours. They can text an unlimited amount of questions and get answers for free. However those who want a faster response can purchase a monthly subscription starting at $9. Those patients receive a text response within five minutes.
A few of the drawbacks are in the form of the communication itself. Texting can be cumbersome. It’s much easier to have an on-demand, face-to-face conversation via video. It’s even easier to submit an online form or a picture of your problem with your smartphone, should you want to skip the physical visit. There are already apps out there that do this. The previously mentioned Doctor on Demand app is well-equipped for just that. AmWell, Video Medicine and a few others do something similar here. All are designed to reduce wait times and actual visits to the doctor. First Opinion seems to be a cheaper solution for those who are looking for a cheap or free alternative that doesn’t involve a video visit.
Not everyone wants to physically see their doctor. And sometimes you just might have a question while waiting in line and not want to pay $40 for an answer. First Opinion seems sort of like a throwback ChaCha meets WebMD in this way. It’s a simple idea that promises secure texting with a trained physician for free or the price of a Hulu subscription.