TORONTO – Toronto-based Oncall Health Inc. has raised CA$7.9 million (US$6 million) in series A funding to help health care organizations lessen COVID-19’s impact on their EMR and other operational programs. An even more ambitious goal, said CEO Nicholas Chepesiuk, is to streamline delivery of virtual health care across a range of small to large U.S.-based organizations “in a way that makes sense for their brand and their workflow.”

“Today, we have more than 7,000 primary care, mental health and paramedical service providers across North America using Oncall,” Chepesiuk told BioWorld. “What we need to do is structure the product and infrastructure to support the next 70,000 providers by helping them launch and scale up their own virtual care programs.”

Tracking it all

Twenty years ago, remote, two-way interaction between patients and caregivers was enough of a development to generate very large investments in telehealth companies – followed in quick order by a plunge in valuations of telehealth companies across the U.S. Scroll forward to 2020, and we’re again upbeat about a telehealth market worth an estimated $560 billion and that has broadened out to a more ambitious virtual health care market.

A case in point is Oncall’s effort to help clinics, hospitals, digital health startups and insurers launch their own virtual care platforms using tools that dwarf our initial dalliance with telehealth: customer relationship management software to better manage communication with current and potential clients, a public application-programming interface that allows applications to talk to each other. And, yes, EMR integrated within often very complex electronic institutional frameworks.

Chepesiuk’s engineers also have built a real-time analytics dashboard to facilitate patient triage and other point-of-care decision-making. Equally important is the ability to track health care outcomes, he said. “What we can do with Oncall is show a health organization the changing results over time, either at an aggregate level for all an organization’s patients or at an individual patient level.”

How to build all this out for a stronger presence in the U.S. market? “Shopify,” Chepesiuk answered. In the same way Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. helps retailers small and large sell their products online, Oncall plans to bring small clinics, as well as medium and large health care organizations, online “in a way that is secure and that fits with their own branding and workflow.

“We want to make it as simple for a health care provider to launch their own virtual practice or a large health care brand to launch their own virtual program. That’s where we believe our technology really excels,” said Chepesiuk.

As added proof, Oncall’s CEO cited a new electronic prescription function called Oncall Rx, which will allow doctors to prescribe medications through the main platform. An interesting wrinkle is that potential software vendors or health care organizations needn’t tie themselves exclusively to the Oncall platform. “They can just license Oncall Rx as a stand-alone tool,” said Chepesiuk.

COVID-19 a driving force

The successful series A funding round this month led by San Francisco-based early-stage venture firm Base10 Partners came as obvious good news to Chepesiuk and his colleagues. “Base10 has an outstanding track record scaling up companies at our stage of development,” Chepesiuk noted. His own virtual care tech and services platform got its first major boost when Oncall raised CA$2 million in seed funding in April 2019.

One year later with the emerging pandemic, investor interest in virtual care took off as medical staff and their employers wondered aloud how they’d cope when not being permitted to see their patients face to face. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that COVID has spurred an incredible amount of adoption of virtual care,” said Chepesiuk. “And from a regulatory perspective, it accelerated new technologies that people have been waiting for decades to happen in this space.”

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