Toronto-based Maple, which allows people to access a doctor 24/7 by text or video, has raised $4 million in a Series A.
The round was led by an undisclosed large private corporation with expertise in medical cost containment and operations, and included the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund and Jeff Fettes, co-founder of 24-7 Intouch. So far, the platform has been used by 20,000, and has attracted 100 doctors.
Speaking with BetaKit, CEO and co-founder Brett Belchetz said the company is using the funding to invest in its technology, which is all developed in-house, and marketing to get more users aware of the platform. “Due to some of our existing relatioships, we have an interesting opportunity to expand to the US and beyond, so some of that funding is earmarked to support that expansion,” he said.
“About half of the patients that I see in the emergency room are people who don’t have emergencies.”
– Brett Belchetz
The service allows users to access health services for $49, including diagnosing and prescription delivery. Asked if this creates a situation where those who can afford to get access can receive better care than those who cannot, Belchetz said that the hope is for the cost to either be lowered in the future, or for the Canadian government to recognize the value of virtual care through the success of services like Maple.
“We would love to see this be a service broadly funded by the government,” he said. “Across the world, every other part of the world has changed. The way that we buy movie tickets, travel, the way we do everything — all of this has changed, except for the doctor’s visit. We radically transformed the way a doctor’s visit occurs, but the rest of the healthcare system isn’t equipped to interface that. If you look at things like laboratory testing, specialist referrals, X-Rays, none of these things were ever built to interface with a purely electronic visit.”
He adds that for minimum wage workers, going to a walk-in clinic can take several hours a day, meaning that they lose out on pay waiting for free healthcare; with the faster service of Maple, they would get those hours back. At the same time, having virtual care would alleviate the stress on hospitals having to deal with pressing, but non-life threatening health situations.
“I’m an emergency room doctor, and I can speak to the fact that about half of the patients that I see in the emergency room are people who don’t have emergencies. These are people with common primary care problems — so people with urinary tract infections, sinus infections — but they go to emergency room because they can’t afford to wait seven days to see a doctor for something that’s not an emergency, but a pressing issue to deal with,” he said. “If we can take half of the visits out of our overburdened hospitals and have them done virtually, and if you think of space that would open up, this is what the 21st century of health care should look like.”
Sun Life is partnering with Maple, and including a direct link within its app for insurance members. Working with insurance partners that provide employee health insurance is also part of the startup’s growth plan to make the service more accessible and affordable.
“We always have a doctor on standby to help. When we spoke to Canadians, the need that needed to be met was this ability to see a doctor at times that standard doctors were not open.”
Photo via Burst