Beyond remote visits for fevers and sore throats, patients are seeking out virtual specialty care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Startup Summus Global, which connects patients with medical specialists, reported earlier this year that the utilization rate of its platform jumped by 3.1 times between January 2020 and January 2021.
The startup scored $21 million in series B funding to enhance its virtual care platform. Sator Grove Holdings led the round of investing, and participants also included Outsiders Fund, Savoy Capital and Teamworthy Ventures.
Comprising more than 4,000 specialists across 48 hospitals, Summus offers a software as service (SaaS) platform that serves as a navigator service to connect patients in virtual sessions to specialists. Providers specialize in preventive care, chronic conditions and complex diagnoses. Summus connects patients to specialists in areas such as allergies, child development issues, chronic issues, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and cancer.
Founded in 2015, Summus sells to both employers and large health systems, including academic medical centers.
With the funding, Summus will ramp up partnerships with health systems and medical Centers of Excellence, the company said.
“We have tremendous relationships with Centers of Excellence across the country, but we're going to deepen those relationships,” Julian Flannery, the company’s founder and CEO, told Fierce Healthcare.
Flannery said that Sator Grove’s permanent capital structure appealed to him as an investing partner.
Meanwhile, Rick Buhrman, co-founder and co-CEO of Sator Grove Holdings, said the Summus platform offers providers improved decision making and access to top medical talent. In a statement, he said the company decided to invest in Summus because the company has extensive experience scaling marketplaces that focus on person-to-person interactions.
“Our investors really saw a unique model in the market that really straddles the second opinion category and the navigator category with a really high-quality virtual specialty care model,” Flannery said.
Summus is a marketplace for providers to engage on the platform, Flannery noted. He called it a “marketplace for medical expertise.” He describes Summus’s business model as “curated person-to-person interactions that help people make better medical decisions.”
The Summus virtual care platform represents a new category for virtual care that sits in between navigation and second opinions as they decide treatment options for patients.
“We really believe that the connection between the healthcare consumer and the physician is critical in healthcare, so we're able to facilitate those virtual visits across any health question and serve as a digital front door for employees inside of employers,” Flannery said.
“We've designed a platform that has attracted leading doctors across really all specialties and subspecialties that can engage with our members within hours and days,” Flannery continued. “And we can do that across any health question.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought growth to the Summus platform with membership growing by 11 times in 2020, according to the company. Patients were comfortable using telehealth during the pandemic, noted Outsiders Fund investor Austin McChord and CEO of Casana, a remote monitoring vendor.
“Over the last year, we have seen a dramatic increase in the usage of virtual care services out of necessity due to the pandemic. People have grown accustomed to the ease and convenience of engaging with doctors by video, which is not something they’ll readily give up.” McChord said in a statement.
Summus reports that 76% of consumers plan to use virtual care platforms following the COVID-19 pandemic.
McChord sees growth for the virtual healthcare market going forward.
“As the virtual care sector continues to grow, consumers will demand a higher-quality user experience, network of doctors and impact on their healthcare experience,” McChord said. “Summus is well-positioned to be at the forefront of this new paradigm in healthcare.”