Wellinks has raised $25 million in series C funding for its virtual platform for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the company announced Wednesday.
The company links medical devices like pulse oximeters with a mobile app, which can connect patients with health coaches and rehabilitation therapy tools. It’s the first of its kind, the only company to deliver an integrated virtual solution for treating COPD, according to Alex Waldron, Wellinks CEO.
“No one has created a fully integrated solution that brings all of these things together, and that’s where the power is,” he told Fierce Healthcare. “Having a piece of it is good, but you’re not going to approach everything the patient needs until you put it all in one system in a way that’s convenient for them, the providers and the payers.”
COPD is a common and costly disease as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., with $49 billion spent related to the condition last year.
The condition can cause significant long-term disability as lung tissue deteriorates and oxygen concentration decreases in the body, leading to shortness of breath that can make daily activities more difficult for the estimated 16 million Americans suffering from the disease.
Yet COPD patients often face challenges to accessing care, Waldron said. Many patients live in rural areas, and difficulties with breathing can make it difficult to seek in-person care.
“These patients, unfortunately, don’t have a great way for them to be monitored over a period of time, and often they don’t have access to pulmonary care on a regular basis,” he said.
With its integrated solution, Wellinks offers options for real-time and long-term disease management from the patient’s home, he said.
The company began developing COPD solutions with its pocket-portable Flyp Nebulizer, which received Food and Drug Administration approval in 2017. New Wellinks patients will receive a kit with a spirometer and pulse oximeter, plus an optional nebulizer, and health coaches can help them download the software and connect their devices to the app for daily monitoring.
Consistently recording certain metrics like the patient’s oxygen saturation and receiving regular feedback from coaches can also help lower long-term healthcare costs, Waldron said.
“If that patient starts to slide, there’s the ability to intercede and help the patient understand that their values are going down over time, and they can actually do something about their disease before their disease does something to them and they get admitted back into the hospital,” he said.
The funds from the series C round will be used to develop more partnerships with payers and providers, as well as to expand Wellinks’ team and to support future studies on the platform’s efficacy, the company said in a statement.
Wellinks announced an IRB-approved pilot study of its platform in January, led by a professor in the Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
The results are being submitted for publication, Waldron said, with plans in the works to conduct a larger-scale study in the near future.
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of integrated solutions for chronic care management, Waldron said, opening more opportunities for longitudinal care.
“Now with solutions like with what we have, you have the ability to actually follow these patients and provide them with a level of help that just didn’t exist before,” he said.