How one company is creating a virtual ER experience for employers - MedCity News

When a person is sick and needs immediate help, many think of going to the emergency room. This is where care is provided 24/7, and if the emergency room can’t fix the problem right away, there’s an entire hospital that can.

But the emergency room is also full of problems. It can be expensive, wait times can be long and people are surrounded by other sick patients.

Troy, N.Y.-based UCM Digital Health is trying to create an emergency experience, but through a digitally integrated platform, said co-founder and CEO Keith Algozin. This means that instead of going to the emergency room, patients start through the UCM app, website or over the phone. Based on the initial interaction, patients will be virtually directed to the type of care they need. For example, if someone needs mental health care, they will be connected to a mental health clinician.

“We very quickly get the patient to a clinician, our clinician,” Algozin said. “We hire them, we train them. We are a medical practice in all 50 states, 24/7.”

The clinician can then provide the care the patient needs, such as a prescription. If the clinician is unable to provide the necessary care immediately, they will refer the patient to another part of the UCM Digital Healthan ecosystem where they can get that care, much like a hospital emergency room. If personal assistance is needed, patients will be directed to it.

UCM sells its solutions to employers, health plans and at-risk providers. It charges its customers in a variety of models, such as fee-for-service or capitation, Algozzine said.

The company’s competitors include other telemedicine platforms such as Teladoc, although the company differentiates itself by integrating beyond the urgent care and primary care area to provide care for the whole person, Algozzine said.

The company was founded in 2016 but saw a sharp jump in revenue at the start of the pandemic, Algozzine said. Before the pandemic, there were a few hundred customers serving about 1 million lives, and now there are more than 650 customers serving about 5 million lives. The company received $5.5 million in 2021 in Series A funding from Armory Square Ventures, as well as Contour Ventures and River Park Ventures.

The reason for the increase in customers is that Covid-19 prompted many employers to add multi-point solutions to their employee benefits packages, but ultimately it became too difficult for employers to manage the various solutions in a cost-effective way, Algozzine said. This required consolidation.

“That’s our sweet spot,” Algozin said. Instead of collecting multiple disparate solutions, employers can create a package with UCM Digital Health that integrates the solutions in one place, he said.

One of UCM Digital Health’s longtime employer clients is MarineMax, a boat and yacht retailer based in Clearwater, Florida. The company has offered UCM Digital Health to its employees for seven years, and as of 2019, about 65 percent of its employees are using the platform, said Ray Bowman, senior vice president of talent and team development.

Bowman said the platform has been beneficial to the company because it’s cost-effective, and employees say it’s fast and easy to use. One area where UCM has been most helpful to MarineMax since the pandemic is mental health, he added.

“During the pandemic, the mental health part was a godsend,” Bowman said. “I like the fact that … our team members will be working with the same person quite a few times.”

Algozzine also said mental health benefits are an area of ​​increased demand compared to pre-pandemic times.

“Mental health is ideally suited for virtual care,” Algozin said. “Mental health providers are never actually going to do stitches or do surgery, so it stacks up really well.”

Photo: verbaska_studio, Getty Images

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