A company is seeking to improve behavioral healthcare access to patients in rural areas by using telemedicine.
1DocWay, a Philadelphia-based company, is focused on growing the business in areas where an urban hospital is surrounded by countryside, like many parts of the Midwest. It provides access to psychiatrists to people who suffer with mood disorders through an Internet video linkup.
Samir Malik, the CEO and co-founder, said its business model is to expand the hospital’s network. He said there are thousands of clinics that are staffed by nurses and technicians but may lack a physician to focus on mental health issues. It helps expand the hospital’s patient base, but it also helps patients feel like they are doing something to make themselves better. Hospitals pay a fee for the service.
“Our biggest objective is to make healthcare more accessible to people in underserved areas,” Malik said.
Malik was part of DreamIt Venture’s New York City summer class last year. A Wharton student, he was one of the winners of a $10,000 Wharton School of Business’ Wharton Venture Award at the end of March.
Telemedicine is a growing area of interest in the unrelenting drive by healthcare facilities to cut costs. Still, there has been some concern over how if at all physicians could be reimbursed for time spent communicating with patients on the Internet. About 12 states have passed mandatory reimbursement mandates and 130 private payers offer some sort of reimbursement, according to 1DocWay’s website. Those states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.
Malik estimates there are about 35 to 50 telemedicine companies with behavioral healthcare services that account for about five to 10 of them. One such company, iCouch, was in Blueprint Health’s inaugural class. Despite the number, he said there is plenty of room for all of them.
“We’re not at the stage where the competitive environment requires differentiation just yet,” Malik said. “We want to establish a brand in the behavioral health space, but when the time is right we can certainly think about expending to other areas.”