Zipnosis preps virtual visit offering for launches at University of Alabama, UCLA

By Jonah Comstock
09:37 am
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ZipnosisMinneapolis-based telemedicine startup Zipnosis has been quietly setting up its online telemedicine service since 2010. The company's concept is simple: provide a low-cost, online avenue for people to get diagnoses and prescriptions for some of the most common and addressable ailments.

Now, after five years of validation with Fairview Health in Minnesota (where Zipnosis is based) the company is branching out and working with other provider partners, starting with the University of Alabama-Birmingham Health System this summer. Zipnosis has raised about $1.3 million in seed funding and angel investments so far, CEO Jon Pearce told MobiHealthNews, and the last of that was raised in 2011.

"We all saw that [Zipnosis] was potentially very powerful, we wanted to prove it," he said. "We've had a paying customer with Fairview who's kept the lights on for us, and we just wanted to be patient and say 'We're going to hit the market when we have very clear impact on care delivery and know that it works.'"

Zipnosis doesn't do synchronous visits by video or phone, but instead relies entirely on software interactions to treat simple ailments like bronchitis or pink eye. Patients pay $25 per "visit". The system is platform agnostic on both sides, but Pearce said 35 percent of patients and 90 percent of doctors use a mobile device. Because doctors can do their part of the treatment in about two and a half minutes on average, Pearce said, hospital systems often don't have to hire any new staff. Instead their doctors can treat Zipnosis patients in their marginal down time.

"As you think of all the access points for care, from urgent care to ER to primary care, we just add another delivery point that's completely virtual," said Pearce. "So, unlike a ZocDoc or an iTriage that are really focused around scheduling or managing information, we go right into the heart of it and [aim to impact] care delivery. And then if we can't treat them virtually, we've got the triage tools to then get them to the right level of care within the system."

At Fairview, Pearce says the system led to a 2,000 percent increase in clinical capacity and a savings of about $92 per patient. The company is now focused on attracting additional health systems for its white-labeled "powered by Zipnosis" offering. The company also offers a branded version for employers and individual consumers, but it's not currently a key focus area.

"We've got about 55,000 covered lives," Pearce said. "We're not pushing that. We're really focused on the health system, and just running a few pilots with employers to understand how the system integrates and just how you push it through the benefits design. It's not a big focus for us right now. It's just kind of a slow play and we'll probably turn it back on a little bit more in the next year."

In addition, provider partners can enter into a "strategic alliance" with Zipnosis, where they get a discount on the system in exchange for providing the physician support for a certain Zipnosis market.

University of Alabama, which approached Zipnosis last year, will roll out the system this summer. Additionally, UCLA Medical Center Chief Innovation Officer Molly Coye mentioned to attendees at HIMSS in Orlando last month that UCLA will also be partnering with Zipnosis. The company will be seeking additional partners as well as raising money to scale the product more quickly.

"Our goal is to make the office visit relevant again," Pearce said. "It's not right for everybody. Some people just really want to have a hands-on experience and they need to have a face-to-face consultation, but there's a huge population that just doesn't. ... For people that are really sick, or people that want to pay for that hands on experience, great. But this is a choice in the marketplace and one that we believe will continue to be chosen because it's ultra convenient and it's ultra cost effective."

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