Investors Bet on Next-Gen Telehealth as COVID-19 Fuels Adoption

Xconomy New York — 

Talking to a healthcare provider from the safety of one’s own home make more sense than ever today. Tyto Care offers a way to do so, plus a device that allows consumers to perform exams and transmit video, images, and sounds to their provider. This week the telehealth company doubled its outside investment to fuel its continued commercialization.

Quinn Li, who heads the investment arm of San Diego wireless giant Qualcomm (NYSE: QCOM), said his group has been tracking New York-based Tyto for at least a year. Qualcomm Ventures co-led its $50 million Series C round.

“They can use the device to do the testing, versus just a pure video consultation with a doctor as some of the other platforms offer,” said Li, a senior vice president and global head of Qualcomm Ventures. “We find that unique about the solution they provide.”

Digital health is an area of interest for the $1 billion fund, which has backed about 150 startups. In 2015 it participated in a $50 million Series B round for Doctor on Demand, which enables patients to have video visits with doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists via smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.

Tyto and Doctor on Demand belong to a crowded sector. Some of the most prominent players, such as Teladoc (NYSE: TDOC), MDLive, and American Well, were founded well over a decade ago.

Like Doctors on Demand, Tyto launched in 2012. Li says Tyto is unique among the many existing telehealth companies because of the modular device it offers in addition to a telehealth app.

Tyto wasn’t designed for complicated conditions: The idea is that video, images, and sounds can provide enough information to allow a clinician to remotely diagnose common conditions such as a cold, ear infection, fever, or rash. The unit, which the FDA has cleared, can record noises made by the heart and lungs, images and video of the ears, throat, and skin, and track heart rate and body temperature. Exam results can be transmitted during an appointment or captured and transmitted beforehand. Users need a smartphone or tablet and Wi-Fi to use the system.

Last year Tyto’s sales grew threefold, with the system being used to perform more than 200,000 telehealth exams, according to the company. Li said one of the metrics that proved especially appealing to Qualcomm’s investment team was Tyto’s double-digit utilization rate, which the company characterized as about 10 times higher than standard virtual care programs. So, of those subscribed to the service, the percentage of people who use it is higher than other telemedicine offerings, which are used on average by fewer than 5 percent of subscribers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drives an unanticipated spike in demand for telehealth options, Tyto is ramping up production to make three times more devices in coming quarters than it had planned in order to meet the increasing need. That need stems from hospitals and health organizations using the service to remotely examine patients quarantined in hospitals or staying at home.

“The value proposition is very evident amid the current crisis, if you will,” Li said. “The virtualization of care really provides an efficient way to triage the patient, allowing the patient to seek health on a remote basis as well as keeping healthcare workers safe so they don’t become overly burdened, especially with the virus outbreak.”

New York-based investment giant Insight Partners, which this week closed a $9.5 billion growth equity technology fund, its largest, and digital health fund Olive Tree Ventures, which has offices in New York and Israel, joined Qualcomm in leading the round. Earlier investors also participated. The round brings Tyto’s total funding to more than $105 million.

Its new cash will fuel its continued commercialization throughout US, Europe, and Asia, and go toward the development of new product capabilities, including the addition of machine learning and artificial intelligence tools, Tyto said.

Image: iStock/Pornpak Khunatorn