Summer Health launches out of stealth to provide access to pediatricians via text message

For many parents, a child's bump or scrape turns into a visit to urgent care after hours because a pediatrician can't be reached.

These trips often mean waiting for hours to be seen by a doctor and getting hit with hefty out-of-pocket costs.

Ellen DaSilva has been in that position herself as a parent of two young children and was frustrated with limited options for timely medical advice or care.

"We were the parents who would find ourselves in the emergency room at 10 o'clock at night with our three-year-old because he fell off the bed and then being told after three or four hours of observation that he's probably fine," DaSilva said in an interview. "We're certainly the parents who have had to deal with these either minor bumps and bruises or developmental questions during off-hours and haven't really found a place to turn."

DaSilva, who had experience in the digital health market as an early executive at Hims & Hers, decided to tackle the problem by focusing on the smartphones that most patients already carry in their pockets. 

DaSilva and co-founder Matthew Woo launched Summer Health, a telehealth messaging platform that aims to answer patients’ medical questions via text in 15 minutes or less. 

The startup is essentially bringing the information economy to healthcare, a market where Google Search is still predominantly the first turn, according to DaSilva.

"We want to radically simplify access to care. We believe in this very simple mission that all Americans should be able to text a phone number and get care within 15 minutes. It is pretty surprising to me that something like this doesn't exist," she said.

The startup is getting backing from big-name investors. Summer Health secured $7.5 million in total seed funding in a round co-led by Alfred Lin at Sequoia Capital and Deena Shakir at Lux Capital. Other investors include Chelsea Clinton’s Metrodora Ventures, Box Group, Shrug Capital, Springbank Collective, Coalition Operators and Moving Ventures along with and Kate Ryder (Maven), Andrew Dudum (Hims & Hers), Amira Yahyaoui (, Alyssa Jaffee and others.

Summer Health is starting with pediatrics by offering message-based concierge services for urgent care and developmental care. Parents can text to get answers to questions about their children's rashes, congestion, colds and even COVID-19.

"We're also happy to help parents with the developmental milestones," DaSilva said. "For example, parents may want to ask a pediatrician, 'How do I sleep train my four-month-old?' or 'Is it time to start serving solids to my child?'

"All these questions that you would ask a pediatrician but perhaps can't get access to? We are happy to answer," she noted.

Summer Health is available nationwide in public beta and costs $20 per month. The company works with licensed pediatricians in all 50 states.

three smartphones with screenshots of Summer Health mobile app
Summer Health offers access to a pediatrician via text message (Summer Health)

"No one is served well by the current system: not parents, not children, not doctors, and not clinics," Shakir said via email. "Everyone is multi-tasking, and yet, pediatric care remains mired in age-old processes that require parents to take time off from work and doctors to take overtime to cover all the needs of our children today."

One in 4 parents will take their children to urgent care in a given year, with costs that can quickly add up to hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars a year, not accounting for lost wages and time, she noted.

Shakir added, "Message-based healthcare is so valuable here: it provides the intimacy and immediacy that parents require with the remote flexibility and income potential that pediatricians are looking for."

The company's service helps improve access to care as 60% of patients wait two weeks to see a primary care doctor. This is compounded by the increasing shortage of physicians. One in 5 doctors plans to leave the industry in the next two years, according to a survey from the American Medical Association.

"Anecdotally, we're hearing that in pediatrics that ratio is worse. So for any parent who has had difficulty getting in touch with their pediatrician, it's not because your pediatrician doesn't want to work. They're often quite frankly overworked and understaffed. We want to be here to augment your primary pediatrician to help with those moments where your traditional pediatricians office might not be able to help," DaSilva said.

Summer Health is helping bring the benefits of remote work to pediatrics, enabling providers to add low-touch, flexible remote work streams for supplementary income, she noted.

The company will use the $7.5 million in seed funding to invest in growing the platform. Summer Health plans to expand into other areas of medical care.

"We're pretty focused and dialed in right now on the pediatrics category, but we're starting to see signs of interest from adults to handle adult medicine. Specialty care, both in pediatrics and adult medicine, are all very natural extensions of our platform, and we're going to be driven by customer demand as we work through that growth," DaSilva said.

The Summer Health team includes Wu, who joined from WhatsApp, as well as former executives from Uber, Microsoft, Boston Children's Hospital and Cameo.

At digital health company Hims & Hers, DaSilva was the company's first business hire, serving as director of business development and head of strategic partnerships, and she helped lead it through its IPO.

While working at Hims & Hers, DaSilva said she became aware of the tremendous possibilities of telehealth.

"The pandemic really indicated to me that we're still underserving this market, and there's still such a great need to expand telehealth," she said.

According to a McKinsey survey, by May 2021, 88% of Americans had used telehealth services. And 77% of clinicians believe that new, nontraditional care ventures including on-demand telehealth, retail clinics and concierge medicine either are maintaining or improving patient health outcomes, a PwC Health Research Institute survey found.

"With standards like that, we know that telehealth is just scratching the surface. So I'm bringing my experience from Hims & Hers, learning about this asynchronous modality and learning about how patients especially millennials and Gen Z want to interact with the healthcare system and bring that as we build Summer Health," DaSilva said.

Summer Health is among a crop of new startups focused on pediatric care, and investors are pouring money into the sector.

Last year, online pediatric behavioral health startup Elemy secured $219 million in a series B funding round that vaulted it to unicorn status.

New York-based startup K Health banked a $132 million series E round last year and also launched K for Parents, a virtual pediatrics offering. The artificial-intelligence-powered telehealth service offers parents access to a pediatrician to remotely diagnose and treat children ages 3 to 17. 

Startup Brightline scored $72 million to fuel the national expansion of its virtual behavioral health solution designed specifically to support children, teenagers and their families.

Pediatric teletherapy provider DotCom Therapy banked a $13 million series A funding round. The company provides speech, behavioral, mental health and occupational therapy to children through its online, face-to-face platform, Zesh.

A new venture fund, Swiftarc Ventures, the first fund targeting telehealth startups, launched with $75 million for innovative enterprise solutions in the market. Swiftarc is focused on solutions in three key areas: mental health, obesity and pediatrics.