Lisa: Welcome to the Atlanta Startup Podcast. This is Lisa Calhoun, and I am General Partner at Valor Ventures. Today, we’re going to dive into the world of healthcare startups with Angela Fusaro. She’s a doctor here in town, and she is the founder and CEO of Physician 360. Angela, welcome to the show.
Angela: Thank you, Lisa. Happy to be here.
Liaa: Well, people don’t even know what Physician 360 does, but all of my friends and I have been running to the pharmacists and doing our COVID-19 serum tests. I think you should jump right in. Tell us what Physician 360 is all about.
Angela: Absolutely. Physician 360 is essentially a virtual health clinic, and we’ve created this virtual health clinic by combining lab tests with on-demand telemedicine consultations for simple medical illnesses. The stuff that you otherwise would have gone to an urgent care for — things like strep or flu and, as you mentioned, now Coronavirus — so essentially now a patient is able to have a rapid test performed, interact with a doctor, and receive a treatment prescription all without leaving either the comfort of their couch or, if they’re standing, within the pharmacy of one of our pharmacy partners all in less than 30 minutes with a one-stop experience.
Lisa: For people who haven’t experienced telemedicine before, is that different than current telemedicine options?
Angela: There are a lot of telemedicine platforms, and especially now with COVID-19 in the setting of the pandemic. Lots of healthcare providers have moved to virtual visits. But one of the things that makes us really unique is, again, the combination of using lab testing when possible so that we can maintain diagnostic accuracy, so using that lab testing in conjunction with the consultation. I feel like one of our biggest values is that for the patient, we’re connecting all the dots. They’re truly able to avoid in-person visits because we have provided them — in a virtual way — all of the same patient journey that they would have experienced.
Lisa: I know that impressed me a ton when we met last year, because I seem to always get strep or flu once a year, maybe once every couple of years. But I don’t like taking the entire day to chase it down, to go to the doctor, to get whatever lab results needed to be done, and also to go to the pharmacy. How much time does it take for a patient using Physician 360 now to sort of get that diagnosis, but also maybe treatment plan and pharmacy visit? How much compression of time is there really?
Angela: Our brand promise is that you can go from purchase of one of our telemedicine kits to prescription for treatment in less than 30 minutes. A process that otherwise, as you just described, may have taken days, or depending on where you live, weeks to get an appointment — miss time at work, having to pull your kids out of school — now ideally can be done in a 30 minute window.
Lisa: One of the things I also was really impressed by is how you focus on common conditions and things that really drive a lot of our doctor visits: UTIs, anemia, things like that. Tell us a little bit more about what inspired you. This is a really practical solution. What made you decide to do it?
Angela: One of my personal mission statements is about helping and empowering the everyday person. We focus on conditions that are “simple” but they also tend to be conditions that are the most disruptive for all of us, right? Moms who are trying to take care of their kids and also work or young professionals who are trying to get to the gym and can’t miss a day. That is part of why we tend to focus on these, again, “simple” conditions. It was those people that I was seeing every day in the emergency department, so that’s where my professional journey started.
I am an ER doctor. Obviously, in any emergency department, we’re taking care of really sick patients — those kind of things like heart attacks and gunshot wounds — but I was also taking care of patients who had really simple conditions. I would always wonder to myself, “Well, why are they not seeking care in these better alternatives? Why are they not going to an urgent care or to their primary doctor?” As I started to do a deeper dive, I understood that the challenge was that there was a deficiency in each of these alternative chair spaces.
Perhaps the office was only open during regular business hours and that wasn’t a convenient option for, again, for the everyday person who works or perhaps they have a high deductible healthcare plan and going to an urgent care for something even as simple as a UTI was going to cost $300. We realized that all of these alternatives had a gap.
That was our vision. Our vision was that we can eliminate all of these gaps by connecting the dots. We can bring into one simple, convenient, affordable process the ability for the patient to get tested, interact with a medical professional, and be treated all on their terms. That was the inspiration: it was how do I help the me’s of the world, all the “everyday people,” who are just trying to live their life and not get totally derailed by something like a sore throat.
Lisa: What’s it like being a startup founder who is an emergency room doc? Are there new skills? Was this hard? Is this super easy? Do you recommend it to every ER doc?
Anglea: Oh, gosh, so it’s interesting. First of all, being a founder, obviously anyone who says it’s not hard is lying. It’s incredibly difficult. I do feel in some ways, I have been at least emotionally prepared for the highs and lows because I have survived other things in my life, like residency, which was also a rollercoaster. There are definitely translatable skills from emergency medicine. I feel like in that clinical role, I became an expert in making really consequential decisions with incomplete information, and quite honestly, that’s a lot of what you do as a founder, especially in an early stage. The company is constantly evolving. There’s a lot of pivoting, and so being comfortable with that degree of ambiguity and making decisions that are consequential and perhaps you don’t have every part of the formula in front of you. That, for sure, has been helpful. But it has definitely been an adventure.
I think the other thing I’ll say about emergency medicine, in particular, that really helps, as it relates to Physician 360, is that that was the platform where I was able to see the need. Emergency medicine is this great insight into the human condition. You see humanity’s highs and lows. I think it was in that, again, atmosphere that I was able to see where the need was, and I could translate, again, innovation to target it.
Lisa: It’s that extreme insight that you carried that really inspired me to want to lead your seed round. I was like there are a lot of tele-doc ideas out there, some of them are successful, some of them are wannabes, but you are truly fueling a platform that comes from your unique and very hands-on experience. I think that really shows.
Anglea: Thank you.
Lisa: Where are you now in your startup journey?
Angela: We launched our platform in the latter half of 2018, and since that time, we have grown quite a bit. We are now fully functional in all 50 states. There was that momentum of growing a clinical network that could take care of patients and in a truly national capacity. We have iterated our telemedicine platform itself so that there’s definitely elements of that which create a seamless experience for the patient. We’re also able to leverage technology in a way that allows us to use predictive analytics. We can start to use AI as far as really being targeted in our treatment approach with each patient.
In addition to the technology platform and the clinical network, we also partner with pharmacies throughout the country. If you think about when you’re not feeling well, one of the places that you may end up is in a pharmacy and you might be looking for something like cough drops or throat spray. It’s also wonderful if you’re in that environment already, and then are able to get diagnosed and treated with prescription medication if that was necessary. We partner with pharmacies to be able to get in front of patients at a time where they would need telemedicine most. We have a network now of about 800 pharmacies throughout the country, so have really grown and scaled that network. Those partnerships which, especially in the setting of Coronavirus, allow us to be on the frontlines in many communities, but especially the most vulnerable — those communities that are in rural settings and truly don’t have access to other other options for care. We’ve been able to play a really meaningful role.
Lisa: It’s not a rural setting, but I’m going to tell you a fun story because it’s just from last night. I was on our weekly Kauffman Fellows Zoom call, and so VCs from all over the country call in and they share what’s going on. It was about eight o’clock last night. I was telling them that I knew that I was negative for COVID-19 because I had just taken my test from a local pharmacy and it was a Physician 360 test. All of these VCs jumped on it and said, “How do I get it? Tell me. You’ve got to share. Tell me more.” And I said, “No worries. I’ll let you know where your local pharmacy is.”
I thought, “Okay, I’ll figure this out on the side, I’ll tell them their local pharmacy so they can go get it.” There were no pharmacies in San Francisco, and they felt so disappointed. That was kind of fun. That was a fun moment. I’m like, “Hey, you’re not in a rural area, but you’re kind of far away!” But hopefully some of the pharmacies in San Francisco will also be taking a look at some of the offerings.
Angela: You’re giving me a great enticing carrot. I can reach out to all the independent pharmacies that are in that area, and let them know how disappointed their community was to not be a part of this experience.
Lisa: Oh, it’s quite true. I felt bad, too, because I would have never mentioned it like a tease. I never would have mentioned it if I thought they didn’t have access because 800 pharmacies is a lot. Nonetheless, they were “Price is no object!.” I was like, “It’s not expensive. You can do this.” Anyway, so that was kind of amusing.
I’d love to hear a little bit about what’s going on now in Physician 360. What are you looking for to grow? What kind of talent are you trying to acquire? What kind of partnerships are most helpful for you right now in your journey?
Anglea: As you can imagine, with everything going on in the world with the pandemic, we have had quite an increase in demand for our products and services. We’re always looking for additional pharmacy partners. As we just described, those pharmacists are our front lines. But part of what we’re also doing is getting in front of them again, getting in front of the pharmacist in a strategic way — trying to work through major distributors and getting the message out to them in an efficient manner. Scaling our sales strategy so that that message — the need for these products and services — can get out to as many pharmacists as possible in an efficient way.
Lisa: Tell me a little bit about the team at Physician 360. You’re working in… is it 50 states now? What kind of a team of physicians and people around you are helping grow this platform?
Lisa: We have a core team for Physician 360. My co-founder, Dr. Rob Laporte, is our Chief Medical Officer and he really handles everything that is patient and provider focused. He is the captain, if you will, of our clinical team of all of the physicians and nurse practitioners and physician assistants that we contract with to service patients. He makes sure that they are up to date on medical protocols, which nowadays is an ever changing and ever evolving target because there’s just so much real time learning about COVID-19. We also work with a marketing agency here in town, Write2Market, who has been really instrumental in, again, helping us get our message out to patients and consumers so that they know that this option exists for them and also the pharmacist.
Lisa: When it comes to next steps for you, what are you most looking forward to right now?
Angela: We have grown quite a bit here in the last couple of months, and so really looking forward to being able to expand my team a little bit, bringing in some talent who has experience and again scaling a strategic sales approach. We are rolling out other clinical modules and so when we can catch our breath from Coronavirus and the testing that we’re doing, we will be coming out with not just things like ear infection, but even looking at some testing that could involve other laboratory tests. Just excited about the fact that in the very near future, we have a clear path to being a fully comprehensive virtual health clinic and that vision of patients never having to, let’s say, go in person again for something that could simply be avoided. It’s achievable, and it’s within vision, within view.
Lisa: You’ve been growing incredibly fast, and what you’re most looking forward to is continuing to go really fast.
Angela: Well, what I’ve realized about all of this is — if you’ve ever ran track — but the 800 meter is what they call the longest sprint. It’s a short enough distance that you have to be at sprint pace, but it’s just long enough that it feels really, really hard to maintain that sprint pace. That’s what I feel like this company is like. It’s the 800 meter because we’ve grown so fast, but there’s still so much opportunity there. I know we’re going to seize it, and so it just seems like this prolonged sprint, but I’m excited about it.
Lisa: What would you share with other founders? Looking a year back on your own journey, just the last year, you raised your seed round, you expanded it into 50 states, you 10x’ed your product, like all the different products that you have now. What would you say to another founder like yourself a year ago? What kind of advice would you give in younger Angela?
Anglea: I think one of the probably biggest pieces of advice is to maintain resolve. If you have a vision that truly delivers value, then you eventually will get to the point of being able to realize it. It’s something that I think a lot about now, especially in the setting of Coronavirus, there’s so many new entrants into this market. Because of that, honestly, there’s a lot of noise while there’s so much opportunity. With that comes, again, just the noise of everyone coming into this space. One thing I realized is that when the dust settles, if you had a strong value proposition beforehand, you’re going to have been accelerated by all of the current events. And if you didn’t, then that transient interest that you’re expressing will fall by the wayside. I think that’s probably what I would have said to myself, the me of a year ago, is there’s going to be a lot of different twists and turns and crossroads and potential distractors, but at the end of the day, if you truly have a strong value proposition, it’s going to make it.
Lisa: Well, that’s great advice. Tell me a little bit about what it’s like starting a company and growing it in Atlanta. Has Atlanta been a tailwind or a headwind? How do you look at the strengths of the community or its weaknesses?
Angela: Sure. I love Atlanta, just personally. It’s a wonderful place to be for a variety of reasons: the affordability, the weather, the diversity. There’s so much that can be said here. I think that plays into even how, as a founder, just their mental health, like I’m a happier person being in Atlanta. That allows me to be my best self, which allows me to show up in a great way for my company every day. I think as far as it relates specifically to the startup environment, we’re in a healthcare space and the ecosystem in Atlanta for healthcare, for medical technology innovation, it’s just so right. You have Emory University here, you have Morehouse, you have so many different medical education institutions as well as just premier hospital delivery systems. I think for us it’s been wonderful. I also think there’s a — what’s the right adjective here? — a scrappiness to the culture here. I think that is the epitome of being a startup. There’s just something about, again, diligence and being resilient and all of that is embodied in the vibe here. For us, it’s been a great place to start the company and to grow.
Lisa: I completely agree with you about that scrappiness. It’s one of the things I love about the community here. And it’s just a “We get things done. End of story. Don’t don’t need a lot of help. Going to get it done.” I love that.
Who are some of the people that stand out to you in Atlanta that you would say to other founders, “Hey, if you haven’t connected with this person…” Who are some of the people that you recommend that you connect with?
Angela: There have been a few who have been just instrumental to me and to Physician 360.
I’ll start first by giving a shout out to Charlie Goetz. Charlie is a professor at Emory University Goizueta Business School. He was just one of our, I’ll say, first champions, and was really instrumental in guiding me not only in the hard skills of entrepreneurship, but at a time where I was making a pretty significant transition in my career. He really helped me navigate that.
Obviously, Valor. Valor came into our world at a really important time where you guys just gave the perfect amount of guidance and autonomy and I just have loved being able to grow under the loose supervision of Valor. It’s been everything for the company, but also for me personally as a founder.
Then Jean-Luc at Write2Market. He’s one of the leaders of Write2Market, the marketing agency that I mentioned earlier. I think that Write2Market is such a great company for startups. They really seem to understand the marketing needs of a company at this stage. He personally is just, in addition to being brilliant at what he does from the marketing perspective, just a great cheerleader for us. I’m proud of us in a way that makes him feel like an internal part of the team even though, technically, he’s not. I would give those three a shout out.
Lisa: That’s awesome, and thank you for those kind words on Valor. I really appreciate it and I’m completely blushing.
I know a lot of people are going to want to follow up with you, or maybe they just want a kit. What do you say to our listeners who may not be in Atlanta? First, how did they experience your service? Is it affordable? What are the barriers? If you think you have the flu or Corona or UTI or you want a birth control prescription or you name it, how does someone get involved in using your solution?
Lisa: Sure, so you can start at our website physician360.co and there you’ll be able to see all of the types of offerings that we have — the ones that are just consultation, so like you’re saying if you need a birth control prescription, there’s there’s not necessarily a test that goes along with that. That’s something that you can just initiate from the website through our telemedicine portal.
There’s also on the website a pharmacy locator. If you wanted to see if you were located near one of our pharmacy partners who would have some of these kits, you could use that as a great starting point. We have tried really hard to keep our price points affordable. Again, even for patients who have insurance, if you have a high deductible plan, we recognize that you might easily be paying for this out of pocket anyway. Most of our product services range from $29.95 to $69.95, which is, again, when you compare to what you would have experienced in another setting, really doable. I would say I would say start with the website. There’s a lot of really valuable information there.
Lisa: Awesome. If someone wanted to reach you, are you a LinkedIn person? A Twitter person? What’s the best way to follow your story?
Angela: Oh, I’m 100% a LinkedIn person. I don’t have strong social media feelings outside of LinkedIn, but I do check into LinkedIn regularly and post a decent amount of content about my personal experience in the emergency department and then the company’s experience as we grow. That would be great. LinkedIn.
Lisa: I’ll never forget some of the videos of you I’ve seen on LinkedIn. I fully recommend her LinkedIn feed for anyone who’s listening. It is a gasp and very educational. Thank you for that.
If someone has sales talent, I guess it sounds like you’re looking for sales talent and particular talent around scale and pharmacists, the website is the best place?
Angela: Yes, they can reach out to me personally through my email, but all of that you can access it through the website.
Lisa: Awesome. Well, I can’t wait to have you back on the show and a few months for an update on your journey and how the growth is going. Angela, thank you so much for your time today.
Angela: Thanks, Lisa, for having me.
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