The Plano startup PediaQ, which offers an on-demand mobile app for pediatric urgent care services, has closed on a new round of funding and is pivoting to accept insurance from its patients.
PediaQ allows parents of sick children to use an app to summon a nurse practitioner to their home or workplace. Jon O’Sullivan, the company’s founder and CEO, said it closed a funding round in August for $1.2 million, all culled from local investors. That money has helped propel the company into suburban communities surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth. The product launched in August after a “soft launch” in May. It’s now available to parents in Plano, Southlake, Keller, the Park Cities, North Dallas, McKinney, Allen, Lewisville, and Colleyville. PediaQ now employs 27 nurse practitioners, three of which are full-time. The rest are part-time.
“Our business model is such that we guarantee that we will have a nurse practitioner at your home within an hour of making the request,” O’Sullivan says. “The reality is, in Dallas, you can get to a lot of places—especially after 6 p.m.—relatively quickly. Our NPs can cover a pretty good geographic area.”
The company is part of a growing number of nimble startup companies harnessing smart phones to call for urgent care services. In Dallas, there’s also Mend, which is primarily targeted at adults, although a number of others exist on either coast. This includes Pager, which has the backing of Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar. O’Sullivan has lofty goals—namely, he hopes to partner with a health system. And to do that, he’ll need to build volume and retain a positive reputation.
“I was on a call today with a healthcare company that has emergency rooms. We’re getting on their radar because they see us as a great way to partner and be in the marketplace,” he said. “When there are people who don’t need an ER, they can refer to us. Or if someone needs to go to an ER, we can steer them to an appropriate facility.”
Many healthcare experts say the timing is right to pair up. These startups are usually more technologically savvy than the large-scale operations that dominate healthcare markets, including Dallas. They don’t need the same approval from lawyers and boards of directors and administrators. They read their customers and their needs and shift their business models to meet them where they are. For the large-scale folks O’Sullivan would like to target, a partnership is an easier and less capital-intensive way to harness technology.
“You’re starting to see more and more of those pop up around the country,” says Ceci Connolly, the Health Research Institute leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. “I think the big question for the traditional healthcare companies is how nimble can they be in this new environment? How quickly can they adapt? Can they integrate some of these new technologies? can they also really bring about a cultural shift in the way that they’ve operated? So certainly we’re identifying phenomenal opportunities but there are going to be big challenges, especially for some of the large entrenched incumbents.”
In October, D CEO covered a few new innovative models for healthcare delivery. Dr. David Albert, a serial entrepreneur based in Oklahoma City, told me something very similar: “Entrepreneurs are looking and seeing that there’s no consumer convenience: you wait and wait and wait and your doctor isn’t in the office, or the ER wait is hours.”
For now, O’Sullivan says he’s building data from his patient visits to present to insurance companies. Many parents have requested the app accept insurance—currently, it’s $150 flat for house calls—and he’s engaged a healthcare services company he once invested in to help outsource the billing. He won’t say how many patients he’s averaging, but the company has “hit our goal so far.”
“In every market we’re in, we will eventually partner with a healthcare system,” O’Sullivan says. “We view that as part of the continuum of care, and healthcare systems just don’t have an on demand house-call strategy at this point in time.”