Originally published by Tech Crunch on January 19, 2022
When Michelle Davey was first building Wheel, a healthcare platform that helps staff clinical workforces, she had to convince investors on two visions: one, that consumers will soon demand high-quality virtual care, and two, that the behavior will change so dramatically that her startup would build vital, underlying infrastructure to scale hybrid medical workforces.
“We’re seeing the entire industry race towards the same direction, and that’s to serve more patients virtually — everything from traditional healthcare players like insurers to very large retailers such as Walmart and Amazon,” she said. “But, what we’ve seen in the early days of this innovation is a lot of point of care solutions…and a refragmentation of the patient experience.”
Davey’s vision to reinvent the back-end of virtual healthcare clicked amid the pandemic, when telehealth startups soared in usage and impact as visits went online. Soon enough, she had another evolution of her three-year-old startup: Wheel needed to evolve from an urgent care model to a more comprehensive platform that could help any program power the patient journey — from primary care to pediatrics to chronic condition management.
With hopes of providing a more holistic infrastructure to telehealth services, Wheel announced today the close of a $150 million Series C round co-led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Tiger Global. New investors Coatue and Salesforce participated in the round, along with existing investors CRV, Tusk Venture Partners and Silverton Partners. The company last raised a $50 million Series B in May 2021, bringing its total known funding to date to $216 million.
The money will help Wheel offer its platform to more companies seeking to sell holistic, virtual care service to patients. The startup wants to now be able to help patients start at a telehealth visit, but then get directed to labs, diagnostics or even an in-person visit. “While it may seem obvious, [this] transition in health care is not trivial, it requires new clinical protocols, new regulation, regulation considerations, new software and infrastructure and an entirely new workforce to deliver that care across the continuum,” Davey said.
Wheel isn’t the only startup with a pitch to help point-care solutions broaden their services to reach wider consumer patient population. Providers and healthcare startups have access to white-label solutions such as publicly listed Teladoc and Truepill, which have been around for a long time and have powered the operations of unicorns like Hims and Hers, Nurx and GoodRx as they look to scale in a compliant but efficient manner; simultaneously companies like SteadyMD have built an “AWS for healthcare” that combines digital recruiting with EMR integrations, doctor-patient communication channels and prescription referrals.
Turnkey solutions bring up a series of questions, such as the importance of building infrastructure in-house versus outsourcing it, or if it makes sense to rely on a third-party for staffing a practice. Many startups view their clinician base as their core competitive advantage, so leaning elsewhere for sourcing takes away some of its value proposition.
“This isn’t a churn and burn third-party service,” she said. “We are really focused on the clinician and how do we enable them to practice at the highest value of their care. Wheel’s clinician network has grown over 60% this year, with 90% retention, she said.
She attests part of the retention to the fact that Wheel built its telehealth visit workflows inside one platform so clinicians wouldn’t have to patchwork different services when dealing with patients. Additionally, the scale of the platform helps clinicians access “a whole different dimension” of work, toggling between in-person care, virtual care or a flexible mix of them both.
To date, Wheel has helped conduct 1.3 million patient visits.