Ro is a winner of FierceHealthcare's Fierce 15 awards. See our other honorees here.

Telehealth continues to grow, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ro is a player in this space that focuses on the patient. In fact, the New York City-based company was formed to provide an end-to-end platform that handles diagnosis, medication delivery and ongoing care.

“Ro’s mission is to build a patient-centric healthcare system,” Ro CEO Zachariah Reitano told Fierce Healthcare. “We aspire for Ro’s vertically integrated primary care platform to be a patient’s first call for all of their healthcare needs.”

As part of this end-to-end health care strategy, Ro announced in December that it had acquired in-home care software company Workpath. The deal adds in-home care and diagnostics to Ro’s offerings. Healthcare providers affiliated with Ro will use Workpath’s application programming interface (API) to request in-home care or diagnostic services for patients rather than sending them to a doctor’s office. That same day it also announced a partnership with Quest Diagnostics to process its lab tests and help Ro’s patients manage chronic conditions.

The company already offers Roman and Rory, which are digital health clinics for men and women, respectively. It also operates a smoking cessation platform called Zero.

“Looking ahead, as more healthcare shifts to be delivered virtually or in-home, Ro will continue to expand the types of conditions treated and services offered through our platform,” Reitano said.

Since Ro was founded in 2017, it has raised $376 million. In July it received a round of $200 million series C funding. In addition, it has expanded care to 98% of primary care deserts, which are areas with a lack of primary care doctors. Ro now helps patients in every state and added more than 100 employees in 2020, including nurses, physicians, data scientists and engineers.

Fierce insights from Ro co-founder and CEO Zachariah Reitano:

What is your best piece of advice for launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?

Zachariah Reitano (Ro)

Understand the flow of money. Only by doing so can you understand the incentives that drive the behavior of every stakeholder. That is one of the primary reasons that Ro’s services are cash-pay. Our cash-pay model means we are responsive to the needs of our patients, and that patients can hold us accountable. We either make their life better or we go out of business. Too many healthcare organizations are not incentivized to respond to the needs of patients because the patient is not their customer. My advice is to make sure you don’t lose sight of the interests of the most important stakeholder, the reason we all do this in the first place: the patient. 

What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?

There have been so many failures, it’s hard to pick just one. I think that’s important. My biggest lesson about failure came from my dad, who taught me from a young age to both embrace it and despise it. If you don’t absolutely hate failure, you’ll too easily accept it when it happens, but if you’re scared of it, you’ll never push yourself.

What is the book you recommend to other healthcare leaders?

David Goldhill's book “Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know About Health Care Is Wrong.” Goldhill’s writing and our conversations have had a profound impact on my views on the ideal healthcare system. I admire his unwavering view that patients should be in complete control of their healthcare, even when that idea is not prevalent among the healthcare establishment.

What is your prediction for how the healthcare industry will change in 2021?

One of the most consequential and longest-lasting impacts of the pandemic will be the paradigm shift in where a patient’s journey starts. We are seeing the adoption of a digital-first mentality, in which patients first check if they can access high-quality care virtually and then are guided to in-person care if it’s most appropriate for their needs. This shift will force more competition, greater transparency, and as a result, higher quality care at lower prices.

In light of the national conversation that is happening right now, what advice would you offer to healthcare leaders seeking to make a real impact on systemic problems of racism?

Leaders should listen and learn from their teams as well as broader society about how the healthcare community can contribute to meaningful progress toward equality and justice. Ro is building our company, our technology and services through the lens of healthcare equity—from our online visits to our branding and treatment plans. We are working to ensure that our employees and our patients see reflections of themselves at Ro, from leadership positions at our company to the providers that practice on our platform. Ultimately, it’s important for those in healthcare to recognize that we have an opportunity to help address the frankly embarrassing inequities in our healthcare system—including racial disparities in access and health outcomes.