Summer Health pockets $12M series A to grow text-based pediatric service

Summer Health, a pediatric telehealth messaging service launched just 18 months ago, picked up $11.65 million in series A funding to build out its technology platform.

The startup developed a telehealth messaging platform that aims to answer patients’ medical questions via text in 15 minutes or less. The service is a text-based companion to a family's primary pediatrician.

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.

Summer Health founder and CEO Ellen DaSilva has been in that position herself as a parent of three children and was frustrated with limited options for timely medical advice or care.

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. She teamed up with co-founder Matthew Woo to launch Summer Health in July 2022.

The text-based service, rather than a video-based telehealth platform, makes it accessible to more parents, DaSilva said.

"I feel so passionately that tech is a great equalizer. Everybody has access to be able to send a text message. You don't need to understand complex technology to be able to use Summer Health," she said in an interview. "The other thing I love about is the pseudo-synchronous nature. The fact that you can be doing something, whether it's your job, or sitting at your kid's soccer game or taking care of something for yourself, you can be doing that and getting care for your kid in a very intimate three-dimensional way that is also very visually rich, as we accept photos and videos."

The series A round was led by Lux Capital, doubling down on its seed investment, and new investor 7WireVentures. Existing investors Sequoia Capital, Box Group and Metrodora Ventures also participated in the round as well as another new addition, Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda French Gates fund. 

In August 2022, the company raised a $7.5 million seed round. Summer Health did not disclose its valuation.

"What's so special about this group of investors is that they're all parents, and every single one of them actively uses the product," DaSilva said.

A long-time Summer Health user as a mom of three children, Alyssa Jaffee, partner at 7WireVentures, said the company's service resonates with parents looking for real-time medical guidance and access to care.

"At 7Wires, we invest in companies that empower people to become better stewards of their own health. We think about healthcare technologies and services to meet people where they are. We have done a bunch of work in pediatrics and we were looking for the white space that a company like Summer Health could solve," said Jaffee in an interview. Jaffee also joined Summer Health's board, along with Alfred Lin of Sequoia Capital, Deena Shakir of Lux Capital and Chelsea Clinton of Metrodora Ventures.

Summer Health has serviced more than 30,000 visits to date.

"Many digital health companies do not have this kind of traction and this kind of uptick in this short period of time. That was, for us, a big message and an indication that the problem was extremely acute and extremely real," Jaffee said.

The market dynamics for digital health investing have changed since the funding boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Jaffee noted there are investment opportunities for companies that tap into a real and growing need.

"There is capital out there. There are funds that have dry powder and are looking to invest in amazing companies," she said. "The tailwinds for great companies are still there, and great companies do get funded."

She added that 50% of 7wireVentures' limited partners are strategic organizations—so employers, health plans and health systems. "There is a real appetite among employers and health plans, in particular, to partner with a solution like Summer Health."

In November, the company expanded its longitudinal primary care model with lactation support, sleep training, developmental milestone tracking and long-term pediatric care.

Summer Health will use the series A funding to build out its technology platform, DaSilva said.

"We have a lot more that we need to build. We are meaningfully expanding the scope of our platform," she said, adding, "We're also starting to look at things like visual diagnostics and testing for kids so that we can move more into the home, not only for urgent care, but also for that longitudinal primary care."

"We're also using the funding to hire great people, both on the tech and go-to-market side as well as physicians to broaden the scope of our platform, and then for growth as well," she said.

Summer Health is available directly to consumers, and companies offer it as a benefit to their employees. The company also is exploring other distribution channels.

"We want all 75 million children in this country to have access to Summer Health, and we feel that the best way to engage the healthcare system is a multipronged approach, so we are working with new mediums of dissemination of our products," DaSilva said.

In a blog post, DaSilva outlined broad goals to get its products into the hands of all families, including the 33% of children who live in pediatric care deserts and those covered by Medicaid.

On the tech side, Summer Health has moved forward to leverage generative AI to help power back-end administrative work for its providers. The company partners with OpenAI to develop a medical visit notes feature, which uses GPT-4 to automatically generate visit notes from a doctor’s detailed written observations. Notes are then quickly reviewed by the pediatrician before being shared with parents.

As Summer Health explored potential partners, OpenAI stood out, because its platform offered leading large language models along with the ability to provide business associate agreements to fulfill HIPAA compliance, according to the company in a case study.

"We've built a platform that pediatricians love, and part of that is because we've built great technology for pediatrician, a lot of which is automated through OpenAI," DaSilva said.