(Updated with comments from HealthBeat.)
SAN FRANCISCO – Reputation.com founder Owen Tripp is not the kind of entrepreneur who wants to solve small problems. For his new venture, Tripp tells me he has an ambitious solution that will someday “fix health care.”
Tripp’s startup, ConsultingMD, has secured a $10 million funding round led by venture firm Venrock, the health-focused venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family. The mission is to create a virtual clinic where patients are served by the top doctors in the world.
Above: ConsultingMD founder Owen Tripp
“We don’t believe you need a network of thirty thousand doctors to be effective,” said Tripp [pictured above with cofounder Dr. Lawrence "Rusty" Hoffman] in an interview with VentureBeat. “We would rather use the same 750 doctors who achieve successful outcomes again and again.”
Tripp unveiled the funding as well as ConsultingMD’s first product on stage at VentureBeat’s HealthBeat conference today.
“There is a ton of friction between the top experts and the patients who most need them,” Tripp said during an onstage conversation with Bryan Roberts, a partner at venture capital firm Venrock. “We take away all the friction.”
ConsultingMD offers patients the opportunity to consult a leading medical expert for a second opinion — and receive a detailed response in about 48 hours.
Patients are asked to submit some brief details about their case, and sign a release. ConsultingMD’s team will begin assembling a file with a full medical record, demographic information, relevant images, tests, and so on, and select a specialist from the network to take a closer look. ConsultingMD even does optical character recognition and handwriting recognition on the printed files to make them searchable.
The technology is HIPPA-compliant and cloud-based, so doctors can safely review a case in any location, given them what Tripp calls a “virtual clinic” on their iPads. The goal is to make the process user-friendly and efficient for doctors as well as patients.
“Great doctors want to do great medicine, and they’re handcuffed by the technology they have to use,” Tripp said.
Specialists like Dr. Berchuck, director of Gynecologic Cancer Research at Duke University, are already signed up. ConsultingMD offers top doctors the opportunity to review a higher volume of medical cases.
Even in its trial period, physicians were able to access and share opinions on rare cases they might not otherwise have been exposed to. Another draw is the boost in income for top-notch physicians.”As our brand grows, so too will the celebrity of our doctors,” said Tripp.
For patients, it means avoiding flying halfway across the country, or paying exorbitant medical fees for an in-person visit.
ConsultingMD won’t accept just any doctor to its network. “We never went out and perused the phone book for doctors,” Tripp explained. “We made invitations based on recommendations and are getting more in-bound requests each week than we can handle.”
This exclusivity makes sense in light of the business model. Tripp expects the richest and biggest companies like Pepsi and Home Depot to pay for its employees to access ConsultingMD. Large enterprises pay $6 per employee each month; some cases may be covered by insurance. Individuals can also pay for a second opinion – the average cost is $3,750.
“I am a little allergic to the term ‘corporate wellness,” he explains. “I think wellness is something we ought to do as a country.”
But corporations are increasingly offering top-quality and concierge health care to retain employees. An Adecco SA study stipulated that 55 percent of corporate execs view health care benefits as their biggest challenge.
In an interview, Tripp revealed plans for a second product, an online service that helps patients locate and schedule a visit to the top specialist in their area.
“ConsultingMD has decentralized this medical expertise and improves the lives and health of people through technology,” said Roberts, who will join the company’s board.