Scouting Report-Wheel: Moving Virtual Care Forward Toward True Omnichannel Care
This week Wheel raised a $150M series C round bringing its total raised to $216M since the company was founded in 2018, and follows the company’s $50M series B just last May. Wheel’s fundraising round was led by Lightspeed Ventures and Tiger Global with participation from existing investors CRV, Silverton Partners, and Tusk Venture Partners. New investors Coatue and Salesforce Ventures also joined the round. According to the company, it will use the funds to continue to grow headcount, broaden its virtual care platform, particularly in diagnostics, as well as expand its onboarding and educational programs.
According to the Austin Business Journal, Wheel had twice the number of patent visits in Q4 2021 as it did during all of 2020.
According to Wheel internal data, standing up and scaling a virtual care service on your own costs an average of $15MM and takes approximately 15 months.
The McKinsey 2020 Virtual Care Study claims that approximately $250B or ~20% of all outpatient, office, and home health spend, could potentially be virtualized.
A study by Nuance and HIMSS found that 97% of doctors and 99% of nurses surveyed had experienced burnout at some point in their working life.
According to Forbes, the idea for the creation of Wheel goes back to when CEO and co-founder Michelle Davey was a child and had to undergo over a decade of being “ferried between doctors for her to be diagnosed with an autoimmune condition.” After several stints working in healthcare and recruiting, Davey returned to healthcare to work at a telehealth startup to do recruiting. Thinking her previous recruiting experience would give her a leg up in her new role, she was quickly surprised to learn that it had not. In 2018 this led Davey and her co-founder Griffin Mulcahey to found a matching market for virtual healthcare providers called Enzyme which subsequently became Wheel. According to the firm’s website, Davey and Mulcahey felt that “no one was looking out for those at the center of the healthcare engine: the clinicians on the “front lines” and decided to found Wheel as “the industry’s first model for delivering high-quality virtual care at scale by empowering clinicians and providing new efficiencies for healthcare companies.” According to the company, Wheel helped facilitate 1.3M patient visits in 2021and expects that number to grow by approximately 3-fold by year-end 2022.
Unlike some of its competitors which offer branded virtual care services, Wheel offers a private or “white-label” platform that empowers companies to quickly and easily launch virtual care services on its own by providing them with the appropriate back-end infrastructure and software. In addition, while Wheel is helping traditional healthcare providers like hospitals and physician practices offer virtual primary care services, it is also helping non-traditional players like retailers, pharmacies, and employee benefit programs create their own virtual care programs under their own brand. Wheel claims that using their platform is much more efficient in terms of both time and money than standing up and scaling a virtual care service on your own, which their internal data shows costs an average of $15MM and takes 15 months. Moreover, as we noted in our earlier Scouting Report on Wheel (please see Scouting Report-Wheel: Moving Virtual Primary Care Forward 09/21/21) Wheel has been looking to expand the breadth of its services beyond just virtual primary care for some time and is slated to use some of the proceeds from the round to increase services in labs, and diagnostic care. Interestingly given Wheel’s roots in physician recruitment and staffing, Wheels has a strong background in some of the technical issues involved in scaling a virtual care business. As Davey noted to Forbes about founding the business, one of “the biggest sticking point[s] to scaling digital health startups was understanding the regulations across all 50 states and recruiting licensed clinicians.” Moreover, as noted in our prior article, Wheel continues to experience a strong retention rate of more than 90% even in the face of over 60% growth in its clinician network this past year. Wheel currently has approximately 150 employees (up from 120 in August) and now expects that to increase to 300 by year-end 2022. Wheel charges its customers a base fee for its software and then an additional fee per consultation.
While Wheel’s last fundraising appeared to be more about the need to keep pace with the explosive growth and market opportunity in digital care created by COVID, this round appears to be more about the transformation to virtual-first care. As CEO Davey noted to MedCity news, in order to move healthcare forward and truly deliver on virtual-first care we need the infrastructure that can deliver “anytime, anywhere” care, which they are helping to create. While the pandemic created a newfound acceptance of digital health, “companies were still struggling to meet their patient’s needs”. However, as Davey notes “the funding puts the company in a strong position to speed the transition from telehealth to virtual first care.” For example, according to the McKinsey 2020 Virtual Care Study “approximately $250B or ~20% of all Medicare, Medicaid, and Commercial outpatient, office, and home health spend, could potentially be virtualized.” Nevertheless, while a great deal of care can be virtualized, virtual first is really about creating a less expensive, more accessible triage point for entry into the system and should begin to enable a true omnichannel experience like consumers experience in most other industries. Davey states, “by leaning on technology, healthcare organizations can more easily triage a patient’s care need and determine the best care setting”. Virtual first brings healthcare much closer to other industries by bringing patient care to the patient at the time and place they desire as opposed to the other way around. Importantly in a time of labor shortages, virtual primary care also provides a mechanism to address the issue of physician burnout, where over 90% of doctors report experiencing at least one symptom of burnout in their lives. By giving them the ability to create their own virtual practice with a much lower infrastructure incidence of burnout can be reduced. While important issues like broadband access and ensuring patients receive culturally relevant care still need to be addressed, virtual first care and technology are changing the nature of healthcare delivery.
Wheel Raises $150M in Quest to Move Beyond “telehealth 101” to Virtual-First Care, Wheel Raises $150 Million Series C to Power the Virtual-First Care Revolution, Behind The Screen: Meet The Startup Powering Telehealth