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Phreesia's CEO hopes today's strong listing is 'blazing a trail' for 2019's remaining digital health IPOs

The digital health mainstay closed its first day of trading roughly 40% above its set price, and looks forward to expanding its business as a public entity.
By Dave Muoio
04:02 pm

Photo Credit: NYSE

It's been an exceptional Thursday for Chaim Indig, CEO and cofounder of 14-year-old digital health stalwart Phreesia. Since ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s opening bell at 9:30 a.m. sharp, he’s watched his company’s shares fly back and forth in the general range of $24 to $27 per share — about 40% to 50% above the initial $18 asking price. 

“All of us were up there [on stage with the bell]. It was a special moment, one I will remember for the rest of my life,” Indig told MobiHealthNews this afternoon. “It was like a ‘Sweet 16’ for the company, … but what’s amazing is the reception as we went on our road show for the public market [offer]. It was really inspiring, and a lot of the things that got me excited was listening to folks on the investor side that had been patients and used our products. It makes telling the story of what we do a lot easier.” 

Despite playing a role in patient intake, payment, appointments and other administrative tasks since its founding in 2005, Phreesia has always kept a relatively low-key profile compared to the rest of digital health’s advance guard, Indig said. The company initially focused on hardware in the form of specialized waiting room tablets, but opened up to a broader focus on software and mobile products — like the PhreesiaMobile app for at-home check-in — in the time since. 

The company also raised more than $100 million over the past few years, most recently with a $34 million round in 2017

"In fiscal 2019, we facilitated more than 54 million patient visits for approximately 50,000 individual providers, including physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, in nearly 1,600 healthcare provider organizations across all 50 states," the company wrote in its S-1. "Additionally, our Platform processed more than $1.4 billion in patient payments during this time.”

By Indig’s account, the leadership team felt that now was “the appropriate time” to make a splash in the public market based on its size, team and visibility within the market. Of course, it does also help that the company was able to record a profit in its most recent fiscal year. 

“We’ve actively thought of ourselves as a public company for quite a bit of time before we went to market, and we thought it was very important before we went public to demonstrate profitability, which we did last year,” Indig said. “We’ve been executing on the same strategy for many years, and expect to do so [for], many years in the future, which is to improve the healthcare experience for patients, providers and staff. We see ourselves as the digital front door of the healthcare experience, and this has just been another platform for us to engage the public in what we do. And frankly, we think it might even accelerate our growth.” 

June’s news of Phreesia’s IPO plans — along with those of other companies such as Livongo or Peloton — finally cut short what many analysts saw as a market-wide drought of new digital health public offerings. Being the first among these players to actually list makes Phreesia something of a bellwether, a role that Indig hopes could have a positive impact on the rest of the budding sector. 

“I hope [our strong opening is] a positive catalyst. I think the market needs more digital innovation in healthcare, and more companies going public, and I wish them the best of luck,” he said. "Frankly, I think it will help lead the innovative change we all hope and want in the healthcare ecosystem, and the wellness ecosystem. I’m excited, and I hope that we are blazing a trail for others to follow.”

Still, not every digital startup seeking a successful exit should be eyeing an IPO. Rather, Indig stressed that listings such as Phreesia’s and those of its digital health contemporaries should be a means of scaling a successful business and, subsequently, introducing meaningful change within the healthcare landscape — not a payday for entrepreneurs looking to cash out.

“I don’t think all companies should or want to be public companies, but I do think that at least here at Phreesia we don’t think about this as an exit. We think about this as, really, a license to continue growing our company and executing our mission,” he said. “I think one of the problems is when people do think of IPOs as an exit. If I know some of the other companies that are going public, I think they also think the same way [as us], which is [that] this is just giving them the ability to grow their organizations, and really impact the lives of patients and providers all across the country. And that’s a pretty nice way to live your life.”

With that in mind, Indig said that once the excitement of the listing dies down it will be back to work for his growing company.

“After I sleep for about 24 hours and reacquaint myself with my family — which I haven’t seen much of in weeks — I’ll probably get back to work and continue with the team, growing the business and executing,” he said. “And that’s generally how we thought about the business: one foot forward for weeks at a time. This was a really fun morning and we’re really happy with how it’s turned out, and we look forward to having PHR, Phreesia, as a publicly listed company.” 

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