Nurx CEO Varsha Rao is confident that the boom in virtual care seen during the COVID-19 pandemic is here to stay.
"This has accelerated telehealth as an option for patients by about a decade. Patient trust in telehealth has grown dramatically. Telehealth is becoming a primary option, not a secondary form of health or even a third option," Rao told Fierce Healthcare.
She added, "I don’t think we’ll go back to pre-COVID levels ever."
Looking to capitalize on the growth its seen during the health crisis, the women's health startup raised an additional $22.5 million in May for its Series C round.
New investors Trustbridge, Comcast Ventures, and Wittington Ventures participated in the round along with existing investors Union Square Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund.
The company will use the capital to "scale out its teams on all fronts," by doubling its staff of medical providers and hiring more engineers and operational staff.
Nurx, a women's health startup, seeks to make birth control more accessible and affordable by shipping it direct to consumers. The San Francisco-based telehealth company also focuses on what it calls "sensitive health services," such as providing STI testing, HIV prevention with PrEP, at-home HPV screening and herpes treatments.
Rao said Nurx is the largest "digital practice" for women's health having provided over 1 million virtual consultations since it launched in 2015. The company is now in 30 states and Washington D.C., covering 90% of the population, according to the company.
Nurx also plans to launch a treatment for headaches and migraines as a new service this month.
The five-year-old company has raised $113 million to date and expects to reach profitability by early 2021, Rao said.
Nurx will generate $150 million in annual revenue based on its run rate, she said.
The digital health company was on the path for healthy growth even before the COVID pandemic, Rao said.
"And then COVID struck and there was tremendous uncertainty in the whole world. We saw a tremendous surge in need and demand for contraception and sensitive health services," she said.
Nurx has seen a 75% increase in new patient requests for birth control with 250,000 total new requests. Demand for other sensitive health services have grow has doubled, she said.
"That was really where the genesis was in even raising capital to be able to scale the business and meet the demand," Rao said.
Nurx is now providing care through telehealth visits to 300,0000 patients on a monthly basis and offers an all-in-one service by connecting patients, medical providers, and pharmacies in a single platform, the company said.
Rao joined Nurx as CEO in April 2019 with executive experience at Airbnb and Clover Health under her belt.
"I became an early angel investor in 2016. I was attracted to the mission of increasing access to healthcare and contraception in particular. Nurx’s mission to empower consumers by increasing accessing healthcare, that spoke to me," she said.
Rao said adding migraine treatment to its list of services helps to penetrate a largely untapped market. Data show that 38 million people in the U.S. experience migraines, and 85% of people who experience migraines are women (an estimated 1 in 4 women experience migraines).
Migraine conditions often carry a stigma as it primarily impacts women and can be related to hormonal fluctuations, Rao said.
"This is something that is meaningful to me personally. I've dealt with migraines for 15 years, as I'm also raising a family and focusing on my career," she said. "I couldn’t find a doctor who could help me and my were often symptoms dismissed. And we hear that from patients as well."
She added, "We can offer this treatment in a way that is unique and meet these patients' needs."
Nurx also plans to work with health plans to allow patients to have their telehealth consultations covered by insurance. Nurx patients already can get their medications covered by insurance.
The company is one of the few direct-to-consumer digital health companies that takes insurance, Rao said.
Direct-to-consumer digital health is a growing market including companies such as Hims & Hers that focuses on both men's and women's health. Nurx competitor Ro recently landed $200 million in funding. Back in February, women and family health startup Maven scored $45 million in series C funding with some high-profile backers.
Like other digital health executives, Rao observed the blockbuster Teladoc-Livongo deal as a validation of the value of virtual care.
"It clearly shows that telehealth is on a lot of people’s minds," she said. "It also shows that it can be challenging for companies like Teladoc that are only handling acute conditions and they want to be able to engage with patients in an ongoing manner and have a deeper relationship. Livongo brings that to the table as it has gone deep on diabetes."
Nurx has no plans to try to cover every health condition, she said.
"We aim to go deep on sensitive health and have an ongoing relationship with patients. Birth control and migraines, these are conditionss that people want to treat on an ongoing basis," she said.