PlushCare nabs $8M Series A to prove telehealth can go mainstream

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Today, PlushCare, a telehealth service, is announcing an $8 million Series A led by GGV Capital with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Exponent. Telehealth is anything but new, Teladoc, now public, was founded in the early 2000s to provide remote care over video conference, but PlushCare aims to accomplish what others have thus far been unable to do — actually get people comfortable enough with the concept to use it.

Similar in structure to apps like Airbnb and Uber, PlushCare lets users conference with doctors of their choosing, on-demand, for non-emergency situations. CEO, Ryan McQuaid, explained that 70 percent of all doctors visits and trips to the emergency room are unnecessary.

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PlushCare co-founders Ryan McQuaid and Dr.James Wantuck

Such a statistic makes the value proposition for PlushCare evident to a health insurance industry plagued by increasing healthcare costs. Unfortunately, many existing telehealth players, including the OG Teledoc, have struggled to prove out their economics and maintain critical partnerships. McQuaid noted that for services like CVS Minute Clinic, partnerships with telehealth providers can actually cannibalize revenue.

“As the market for telehealth grows, this category will have an increased relationship and influence over areas like diagnostic testing, pharmaceuticals, etc,” noted Jeff Richards, Managing partner at GGV capital.

But in the short term, rather than obsess over strategic partnerships, PlushCare seems perfectly content focusing on direct to consumer growth. And instead of prioritizing things out of their control, PlushCare has been putting its resources into growing out its network of doctors. PlushCare actually differentiates by only accepting applications from doctors who have graduated from top 50 U.S. medical schools.

This screams of overkill for a service that provides non-emergency care for things like flu and neck pain, but that goes to show how much the company is focused on creating consumer trust. Many other industries, like the world of college test prep, are forced to adopt a similar model with little else to differentiate on outside of cost. To that end, PlushCare is doing that too by putting a stop to network access fees that drive down savings for infrequent telehealth users.

“We also believe over time we will see legislative officials create more and more opportunity for consumer-driven healthcare offerings that lower cost and increase patient satisfaction — both of which PlushCare does well,” added Richards.

Strategically, PlushCare is confident about its go-to-market timing. For the last few decades, heterogeneous statewide regulations have made it very difficult for telehealth services to rapidly hit national scale. To date, PlushCare is operating in 15 states that encompass much of the east and west coasts but has plans to expand nationwide.

Similar barriers exist with stratified patient records which remain a barrier to a seamless patient experience. Quest Diagnostics, the clinical laboratory services company, just signed a partnership with PlushCare to provide hundreds of lab tests — but while doctors on the platform will be able to see that information, and PlushCare makes it possible to export patient data, it’s still wonky at best to interface between your telehealth provider and your primary care physician.

This is going to be crucial because, as McQuaid explains, the company sees itself as a quality care portal, not just a telehealth service — but to become that, it has to have some degree of ownership over an entire ecosystem of data.