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Should startups build or buy telehealth infrastructure?

Digital health in the U.S. got a huge boost from COVID-19 as more people started consulting physicians and urgent care providers remotely in the midst of lockdowns. So much so that McKinsey estimates that up to $250 billion of the current healthcare expenditure in the U.S. has the potential to be spent virtually. The prominence of digital health is undoubtedly here to stay, but how it looks and feels from provider to provider is still a debate among sector startups.

But for providers who want to deliver care virtually across the country, it’s not as simple as adding a Zoom invite to an annual check-up. The process requires intention every step of the way — right from the clinicians delivering remote care to the choice of payment processor.

Providers and healthcare startups can choose white-label solutions such as publicly-listed Teladoc and Truepill, which have been around for a long time, and have powered the operations of unicorns like Hims and Hers, Nurx, and GoodRx as they look to scale in a compliant but efficient manner.

Turnkey solutions might be tempting to companies looking to take advantage of this opportunity, but startups still have to decide what to outsource and what to build. Should you rely on others for staffing your practice? Do you build your own payment processing service in-house? Do you integrate with Zoom or build your own video-conferencing software? These questions are crucial to think about early on to prepare for future scale regardless of whether a startup is B2B or B2C.

More than just Zoom

SteadyMD, which in March raised a $25 million Series B led by Lux Capital, wants to be the infrastructure layer that makes it easier for other companies to offer telehealth services. It is hoping to address a pain point it ran into years earlier: The complexity of launching compliant telehealth services in all 50 states.

The company launched in 2016 with the intent to provide high-quality, virtual primary care for brick-and-mortar shops. Through that process, SteadyMD built a suite of tools to make it work with EMR integrations, doctor-patient communication channels, digital recruiting and forecasting software, and prescription referrals and operations. The burdensome process struck a chord with the co-founders and they pivoted the company to where it is today: an “AWS for healthcare”.

SteadyMD offers a suite of services to its customers, the least of which, says co-founder Guy Friedman, is its video-conferencing platform.

“It’s not about the technology capacities,” Friedman says. “The very large companies that have a lot of resources are using us to help them increase their capacity as workforce.”