Photo courtesy of AristaMD.
AristaMD’s eConsult is part of changing healthcare model.

Photo courtesy of AristaMD. AristaMD’s eConsult is part of changing healthcare model.

As of March 6, just 6% of primary visits at UC San Diego Health were virtual. Recently that percentage became more than half, according to Epic, the nation’s largest electronic health records company. That number and other similar ones from around the country are boosting AristaMD’s plans for it eConsult platform as it further establishes itself in the virtual and telehealth space.

“EConsult has absolutely never been busier,” said AristaMD Inc.’s CEO Brooke LeVasseur. “In the last two weeks, we’ve had more calls than in the last five years.”

AristaMD, a digital health company that provides a proprietary eConsult solution to connect primary care providers (PCPs) with timely, documented specialist insights has raised $18 million in a Series B funding.

According to AristaMD, the round was led by Cigna Ventures and MemorialCare Innovation Fund, with participation from Avalon Ventures, CU Healthcare Innovation Fund and Stanford Health Care. AristaMD plans to accelerate expansion of its eConsult platform across the country, the company said.

“Specialist referral wait times currently plague the U.S healthcare system,” said Brant Heise, managing director of MCIF. “AristaMD’s eConsult solutions provide a mechanism to better match the acuity level and clinical needs of the patient with the right provider and setting.”

‘Virtual First Solution’

The backers are looking to expand care efficiently. “Cigna is squarely focused on improving access to affordable, predictable and simple care — quickly and efficiently connecting customers to the most effective health care providers, how, when and where they need it,” said Tom Richards, global lead strategy and business development at Cigna. “Our partnership with AristaMD, and its virtual-first solution, will accelerate how we deliver on that promise, working together to drive greater connectivity between primary care providers and extensive networks of specialists to improve outcomes and lower costs for the people we serve.”

AristaMD said, “we are committed to continue working toward our goal of transforming primary care to improve population health outcomes by improving and better allocating healthcare resources.”

The Platform

LeVasseur said the company with 35 full time employees has so far raised $40 million. “We have users in 43 states,” LeVasseur said. “We are close to expanding to the entire country.”

AristaMD’s eConsult platform allows the primary care physicians (PCPs) to submit a case to a specialist. The specialist has 24 hours to review the case. It is asynchronous so it is not real time video. Most of the specialists have full-time jobs and are doing this in down time, the company said.

“You want it to fit the tasks in their (specialists) daily workflow,” LeVasseur said. “Our eConsult is available through Epic (electronic health records company). That has opened up the health system market and any system on Epic. It is a requirement that specialists don’t have to leave the EHR. The specialists are not doing this from the couch at home.”

“We route a case to a particular specialist who is told they have 24 hours to respond,” said CEO LeVasseur said. “The background, clinical history, lab results and images are provided through a portal in the platform. The specialist returns a treatment pathway for that patient.

The final step for the specialist is to check a box saying it is OK to treat at PCP site or it is recommended that a patient be seen in person by a specialist.

According to LeVasseur, “At the end of eConsult, we have PCP tell us did this impact the care plan. Did this avoid a face to face visit. From data on every case,75% of the time eConsult avoids face to face that would have occurred.”

COVID-19

“We’ve had a provider shortage before, I cringe thinking how it will be post COVID,” LeVasseur said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the urgent need for new, improved care models. “We have to find ways to get care to the people who need it on an ongoing basis,” LeVasseur said. “Pushing them off does not work for 100 plus million people in U.S. with one or more chronic conditions. EConsult is an effective way to get them the care they need.

“Take a diabetic patient, you can send an eConsult. You can find out how to adjust their meds or provide treatment modifications without having to see the patient.”

Asked about competition, LeVasseur mentioned New York-based RubiconMD Inc. a venture backed company.

However she was adamant on the best company. “We’ve (AristaMD) been proven best in class,” said LeVasseur. “Our differentiated features set us apart from anyone in the market. We have strong tech chops proven through platform EHR integrations and other integrations.

AristaMD has mainly been focused on the payor market till recently, LeVasseur said. Now there is a lot more demand on the health system side. The company plans to keep expanding its reach with payors and keep building up its commercial organization to go sell.

“We also license our tech platforms to health systems that use it for peer to peer collaborations, using their own specialists to answer the questions,” LeVasseur said.

According to LeVasseur, There is no regulatory block to its platform. “Since peer to peer, asynchronous consultation, is an informational consult, the specialist does not have to be licensed in the state where the patient is.”

Patient Response

The patients seem to be adapting quite well.

“Patients for the most part are thrilled,” said LeVasseur. “Even in great markets where insurance makes it easy — patients are waiting weeks to get in to see specialists. Getting a report the next day is a massive improvement. It is a huge patient satisfier getting faster treatment, avoiding time off, travel and copay (there is none).

As for insurance, the company does provide it to cover interactions on the platform. However, the service is “informational,” Arista never takes away control of the care pathway.

The San Diego talent pool is filling AristaMD’s needs, and it plans to continue hiring through this year.