Lemonaid Health gets $11M for text-based telemedicine app

By Heather Mack
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San Francisco-based Lemonaid Health, which offers a simple, text-based telemedicine app, has raised $11 million in Series A funding. Novartis Venture Fund and Hikma Ventures led the round, with participation from Correlation Ventures, Adaptive Healthcare Fund, Vega Ventures and 415 Ventures. The company last received funding in 2015, and the latest investment brings Lemonaid’s total capital to date to around $20 million.

Lemonaid’s app, which is available in 14 states, can be used for treatment across eight clinical areas that typically require medication prescriptions, such as urinary tract infections, acid reflux, sinus infections and hair loss. Visits are $15 no matter what condition is assessed, and the company aims for the whole process from answering health history and condition-specific questions to the doctor’s review and prescription writing (which Lemonaid sends electronically to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice) to be completed in two hours.

While some states, like Ohio, require Lemonaid clinicians to host a short video visit with a patient before moving forward with the rest of the virtual interaction, the app’s primary feature is using asynchronous, algorithm-powered texting.

“We believe healthcare is moving more and more to a world of algorithms as a mechanism to improve outcomes and reduce costs, and we think of ourselves as providing assistance and guidance to doctors to make clinical decisions driven by those algorithms embedded in the technology,” Lemonaid CEO Paul Johnson told MobiHealthNews. “The latest funding will be put towards further optimizing our algorithms and AI to expand the range of medical areas we can treat.”

Johnson said the company will be partnering with labs to offer test ordering and results reports through the app, and they will be announcing new clinical coverage areas in the coming weeks. One new addition will be treating high cholesterol, which Johnson said is a “stepping stone” into management of other chronic conditions. The app will primarily function as a medication adherence tool for people with chronic conditions, but Lemonaid also plans to bring in elements of coaching.

“Our mission and goal is to offer a wide range of services across clinical areas, but sticking with our medicine-driven, relatively straightforward approach,” Johnson said.

Lemonaid will also look towards expanding their geographic footprint. The service, which is run by telemedicine startup Icebreaker Health started in California and Pennsylvania, and expanded into Michigan and New York in late 2015.

Johnson said the company sees telemedicine as impacting healthcare delivery in two waves: first, with video visits, and the second with more sophisticated algorithms within easy-to-use technology. Lemonaid is on that second wave, Johnson said, it because it allows the company to scale up and also quickly adapt to changing clinical guidelines.

“It really enables us to become more standardized and high quality at the same time, so we can keep passing on our service to more people in more parts of the country,” Johnson said. “A lot of companies have followed that traditional, first wave of live videos, but the industry doesn’t have to stop there. If other industries did that, then making travel plans online would be Skyping with a travel agent, or online banking would be Skyping with a teller. I understand healthcare is unique and there are a lot of other things to consider like privacy and safety, but we can still figure out ways to better use the technology. It always pains me when I’ve been on video visits and the first question someone asks is ‘How can I help?’ because the technology is good enough that they should really already know that.”