Investors back ORO Health’s telemedicine vision with $3 million CAD seed round

ORO Health

Backed by the success of its virtual dermatology company, a Montreal startup is expanding its telemedicine offerings.

ORO Health announced a round of seed financing today worth $3 million CAD. The funds will go toward helping ORO accelerate the development of its telemedicine platform, and aid in its commercialization and licencing.

“Our solution is something that is going to help with the access of care that everybody faces,” said Dr. Émilie Bourgeault, a dermatologist, and one of ORO’s three founders, along with her two partners, Dr. Marc-André Doré, a dermatologist, and Jean-Philippe Doré, a business analyst.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the immense opportunities offered by telemedicine.”

The mix of capital and loans came from a range of private investors including MCI Onehealth, a healthcare tech firm with a network of clinics; a private group of investors, TGIC2; and Desjardins Capital. The seed round closed at the end of July, and is ORO’s first injection of funding.

ORO grew from the success of the founders’ other company, DermaGo, which they call Canada’s first virtual dermatology clinic. They launched DermaGo in 2018 after hearing that patients faced a two to three-year wait to access dermatologists.

The founders quickly discovered they had to create their own platform from scratch as they couldn’t find any “plug-and-play” solutions, and contracted out the platform’s development. During its first two years, DermaGO enabled 10,000 Canadian patients to obtain a diagnosis from a certified dermatologist for minor skin conditions in just a few hours, without the need for a prior referral from a general practitioner.

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The COVID-19 pandemic provided considerable momentum to DermaGO, which registered rapid growth approaching 700 percent this spring, compared to the same period last year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the immense opportunities offered by telemedicine,” said Marie-Hélène Nolet, the chief operating officer for Desjardins Capital.

Since developing DermaGo, Bourgeault said they’ve had many other professionals contact them, saying they’d like to have a solution comparable to DermaGo, which Bourgeault still runs today.

“That’s why we created ORO Health,” Bourgeault said.

She calls ORO Health a modular-based solution tailored to different clinics or professionals and what they need. The difference between the DermaGo platform and ORO is the technology team is in-house with an integrated AI platform to help with efficiency in consultations.

Currently, the AI still focuses on dermatology. Bourgeault said the company created an algorithm that helps with diagnostic efficiency with patients, using images collected from consultations over the last three years with DermaGo.

ORO Health will allow doctors in all disciplines to use the telemedicine service and customize the platform to their specifications.

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Bourgeault said telemedicine is seeing a lot of development. Global consultants McKinsey & Company note that investment in virtual care and digital health attracted three times the level of venture capitalist digital health investment in 2020 than it had in 2017. Furthermore, during the pandemic, the use of telehealth has exploded with providers seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients virtually than before, according to the article.

However, Bourgeault maintains that many of the other telemedicine companies focus more on a traditional care model, which means scheduling an appointment with a physician. ORO plans an asynchronous offering, where a doctor will consult a file a patient has submitted, and draw up a treatment plan. The patient can then look over the consultation at their leisure.

Consults can be delivered by video, but Bourgeault said ORO’s specialty will be creating “world-class clinics that we will export as a PasS (platform-as-a-service)” with a business turnkey approach.

“You don’t have to take time off at 2:30 in the afternoon to have a chat with the physician, who’s going to be late because he or she has other appointments,” Bourgeault said.

She added that the biggest challenge the 12-person company faces is adopting the best model for commercialization, but noted ORO has a strong board of four to help with different scenarios for such things as licencing.

“We want to quickly grow and quickly take the market,” Bourgeault said. “So we’re going to draw on people who have done it before so we can get coached along the way.”

ORO’s board includes, among others, Christian Trudeau, president and founder of Services Conseils Optimista Inc., a group of management and strategic guidance consultants who assist entrepreneurs.

Trudeau has also served as CEO of a number of major companies, including Airmedic, Transcontinental Interactive, Centria Commerce and BCE Emergis.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.