Like many in digital health Michelle Davey, cofounder of Texas-based vendor of telehealth services and staffing company Wheel, has her own connection to the space. She grew up in rural Texas with an autoimmune disease that was undiagnosed for 15 years, due to lack of access to care.
While this access issue remained in the back of her mind, she started her career in recruiting and operations, working everywhere from Medtronic to Google. Finally, she landed in telemedicine.
“When I found telemedicine, that was the moment where my personal passions and professional life really came together,” Davey told MobiHealthNews. “After working at a telemedicine company trying to scale over to a care offering, I quickly realized that if virtual care wanted to realize its full potential, there needed to be a workforce infrastructure to support that, and that is what we are building here at Wheel.”
The company is built on the idea that if you put the clinician first the end result will be healthier patients. Davey noted that unhappiness among clinicians leads to bad patient experiences.
“It really is important to take care of [clinicians] and protect them, to also enable them to work in the 21st century and a modern way, [and] to enable them to provide the highest quality of care [in order] to provide access,” she said. “So, I believe that by doing that, and really starting with the workforce, we can enable a totally different healthcare system virtually.”
Davey, who cofounded the company with current president Griffin Mulchaey, said that the relatively young company has quickly expanded during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When we first started two years ago … we founded it with a mission to connect clinicians to innovative health care companies and telehealth. We went around thinking because of where healthcare was, it was going to take at least five years to actualize that mission. [During COVID-19] everything has kind of accelerated. We were saying 18 months to really realize that mission. Through the innovation of the industry, we really said this is happening now. How can we scale these offerings to more clinicians, more clients and, in return, more patients to receive the access of care that we all deserve?”
Just before the pandemic, the company scored $13.9 million in Series A funding. Davey said that one of the keys to her success is finding the right investors.
“I found the most important thing is finding investors who believe in the mission we are building towards,” she said. “They gave us a check with a slide deck and a dream. We weren’t there yet with building that, but we had this big dream and then brought in the capital to execute it. On this series A round, we brought in partners who could help us accelerate that.”
Beyond just the funds, Davey said she was looking for experienced investors to help support and guide the company.
“What I was looking for during that raise was somebody to help scale but also who understood our vision and sees that vision the same way we do, [and] additionally, someone who could help. I am a first-time founder. We are a scaling company, and I think any founder should not be afraid to ask for help, especially from their investors, so I was looking for people that really wanted to lean in and help scale that offering in some way,” she said.
But life at the helm of a health startup isn’t always smooth sailing. Davey said that she learned that founding a company meant juggling a lot of balls, including meeting the needs of clients and staff, as well as navigating the market.
“I always knew that I loved building, and I built inside of a lot of people’s companies and helped scale their offerings. But I think the journey as a founder and entrepreneur is one that isn’t taken lightly,” she said.
“What I learned in that time is how to break down really big problems into really small problems, and how to accomplish those, and really put one foot in front of another.”