Amid 'tripledemic,' text-based pediatric care startup Summer Health extends free trials to parents

Summer Health, a text-based pediatric care startup, is offering free monthlong trials to parents with children sick with RSV, flu or COVID-19 in an effort to combat the "tripledemic."

As emergency rooms and clinics fill up, the company hopes to alleviate the burden on providers and parents by offering quick access to its clinicians. Summer Health operates in all 50 states and aims to deliver a 15-minute response time to users. Its clinicians rely on photos, videos and texts to assess a child and can prescribe medications or facilitate referrals as needed.

Parents can sign up for a trial through the end of the year and cancel anytime without committing to a paid subscription, the company told Fierce Healthcare, which is $20 a month. 

"I firmly believe that no family should have to wait several hours to receive necessary care for their children,” Ellen DaSilva, CEO and co-founder of Summer Health, said in an announcement. “So many children can get assessed and cared for virtually, thus easing the wait times in emergency rooms and clinics for those who truly need in-person care.”

Summer Health is experiencing a 400% increase in visits for respiratory concerns compared to summer and early fall. 

The company says it can help manage 85% of cases that come its way from home and that it has a notably higher capacity to treat than a standard pediatrician practice because of its message-based care. It also has a waitlist of pediatricians interested in administering care through the platform, DaSilva told Fierce Healthcare. 

Patients often stay in touch with Summer Health clinicians even after being referred out, she noted. “We’re really that pediatrician in your pocket,” she said.

The company is currently partnering with Photon Health to prescribe medications like Tamiflu and amoxicillin at a time when the FDA is declaring shortages of these drugs. Through Photon, Summer Health clinicians can access a medication finder that helps identify pharmacies near patients that have their prescriptions in stock. Eventually, Summer Health hopes to expand the finder to patients, DaSilva said.

While current "tripledemic" cases are spiking a lot in urban areas, DaSilva said, “the unfortunate reality is it’s just everywhere.” She expects this to continue through winter, with norovirus also expected to spike in the next few weeks. 

To recruit patients, Summer Health is taking up consumer advertising and asking parents to share the service with their communities. The provider has seen an uptick in sign-ups through word-of-mouth referrals, DaSilva said. 

The startup, launched in July, has raised $7.5 million in funding led by Sequoia and Lux Capital. In addition to care for RSV, flu and COVID-19, it can answer other child health and development needs and operates 24/7. It also offers specialty care related to sleep, nutrition and newborn consulting. Additional specialties will launch in the coming weeks, DaSilva said.