If you are into the digital healthcare landscape, then you should know 96point6 as one of the leading names in this industry. Headquarted in Seatle, 98point6 is an on-demand care service offering text-based consultation, diagnosis and treatment via a secure mobile application, also known as a virtual clinic. With the expertise of board-certified physicians and an AI-powered platform, it provides primary care delivered by the U.S that is much more accessible and affordable.
Recently, the company has comfirmed its CEO and co-founder Robbie Cape is no longer serving his role at this heavily-funded virtual healthcare organization. However, his six-years of vision and strategy is something unique and precious to the brand’s growth.
Under Cape’s leadership, the 350-person company helps facilitate virtual primary care appointments and reported huge demand amid the pandemic. It raised a $118 million Series E round in October 2020 led by private equity giant L Catterton and late-stage investment firm Activant Capital, which was a real milestone. According to PitchBook, the company was valued at $518 million at the time.
It’s time to take a look back at Cape’s journey to explore how he has brought this tremendous success to his company.
Step Out of The Comfort Zone
From the very beginning, Cape’s path has centered around building consumer technology businesses and products. Prior to 98point6, he served as founder of Cozi Inc., an internet-based platform intended to help families stay organized by allowing multiple family members to manage schedules, arrange and update shopping and to-do lists. He kept playing the role of CEO until the company was acquired by Time Inc. in 2014.
The interesting point is that Cape initially started his career at Microsoft where he worked for a total of twelve years. When being asked about the reason he decided to give up on such a comfortable corporate job to take the leap of faith to start his own company, he openly shared it was his very close friend’s death that made him realized the urge to do today what you really want to be doing the rest of your life, because today might be your last day.
Being an entrepreneur is part of Cape’s genetic code. His family is filled with entrepreneurs, so he was surrounded by those influences from an early age. For Cape, there’s always been a drive to apply his entrepreneurial spirit in a way that can help make the world a better place. That’s been a theme across his professional career, addressing common problems impacting individuals and society.
His advice for upcoming entrepreneurs: “Go take a job in an industry for three years. Soak it all up, be a sponge, learn everything you have to learn. Meet hundreds and hundreds of people. Then go do what you want to be doing for the rest of your life, which is building a business.”
“The biggest challenge is embarking on that first step. I meet with many entrepreneurs who are afraid of leaping. In some cases, their fear is a great indicator that they shouldn’t do it since ultimately, they are apprehensive about failing. But in other cases, they know they have it in them; they’re just preparing themselves: learning, growing, saving enough money so they can live without a salary while they get a new company off the ground. My advice to these folks is ‘just do it’. Figure out a way to take the leap now.”, said Cape in another interview.
Seeking Valuable Partners on the Ups-and-Downs Journey
Different from a lot of entrepreneurs who start with an idea or a market or a direction at first, Cape chooses to think about the potential partners whom he would love to build the company with. So, he made his list and develop relationships with the individuals who were at the very top of it. He also informed that he followed exactly the same pattern he had experienced in creating Cozi before.
There are three factors Cape suggested looking for in any partner, whether a business partner, a lifetime partner or any partner. First, there has to be a strong underlying relationship built on trust and integrity. That solid relationship is indispensable. Second, find someone that you honestly have respect for him, for what he’s good at, and the degree to which his skills are essential to the enterprise that you are going to build. The last one is the feeling that you could learn, improve and grow relentlessly by being with him. Ultimately, Cape thinks those three things are the key dimensions when it comes to choosing any partner.
As a result, Cape successfully co-founded his second company with a group of thought-leaders passionate about improving access and affordability of healthcare – something every human on this Earth needs. With strong technology background and mindset fostered over many years working at Microsoft, he could see an innovative prospect towards solving this dilemma: by augmenting the expertise of physicians with machine learning and AI, his platform can extend its reach and fundamentally change the economics of care delivery.
Besides internal partners, external partners are equally important. By effortlessly establishing its relationships with the world, the company is now having a network of more than 240 employers, health plans, and retail partners, which includes many prominent brands such as Sam’s Club, Boeing, Seattle Children’s Hospital, TAG, Sur La Table, KinderCare Education, Office Basics, Chipotle, Circle K, etc.
In Cape’s viewpoint, setting new collaborative roles to exploit the full potential of the system is also a necessity. But don’t just take his word for it, on August 12, XpresSpa Group Inc., a health and wellness company, announced an agreement with 98point6 to provide services for the new Treat™ Care app. In this new position, its board-certified physicians will consult with Treat Care app users, diagnose and treat hundreds of conditions through secure in-app messaging and video conferencing. This partnership provides travelers peace of mind that no matter where they’re headed, they will have access to the highest quality care from the convenience of a mobile device.
Business Model that Strengthens Customer Retention
Customer retention seems to be a big challenge for any business over the years. With that in mind, Cape was ambitious in building a business model capable of ensuring customer engagement in a long term as it’s less expensive to retain customers than to acquire them. So he chose to define 98point6’s business model as a membership model where individuals pay an annual fee to access the value it creates.
In this era, relationships take center stage, customers are deciding to become permanent members because those subscription experiences do a better job of meeting their needs in a way that a single offering can’t. The fact that 60% of Americans don’t have a regular relationship with primary care even though they really need it, is an important motivation for the startup to establish a lifelong connection in between.
To the customers, the engagement comes from the comprehensive and seamless way in which the platform interacts with them. With the aim of becoming a friendly personal health assistant, 98point6 tends to simplify all intricacies of a technology platform. By paying once for an annual subscription, users can get unlimited visits to the virtual clinic right on their phone with no appointment and utilization fee needed. There is an automated assistant active 24/7 answering even the most minor questions, which continuosly encourages patients to express themselves.
“People are doing this every day, and not just 20-somethings,” Cape said. “People have been turning to technology to solve their medical needs for a number of years, because that technology is accessible to them.”
To the company, the membership model gives it an opportunity to better understand its customers based on their behaviors and preferences, leading to longer lasting and more meaningful relationships. And, of course, deep relationships drive more predictable revenue streams from loyal customers. In a long run, the company would have better data to introduce them to new ways to engage.
Embrace AI in an Independent Way
We are now living in the groundbreaking age of AI, the application of technology is an inevitabletrend that every business must catch up with, or else they will surely be left behind. As a result of COVID-19, the healthcare industry is getting overwhelmed. At this point, digital healthcare has the opportunity to grow stronger than ever. Precedence Research projected that the global digital health landscape will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.9% from 2020 to 2027 when it will reach $833.44 billion.
Cape also shows his strong belief that technology trends already reflect a shift toward on-demand, internet-based medical care. “Eighty percent of people begin their medical journeys on Google,” Cape said. “Five percent of every Google search that happens every day is health care related.”
98point6 revealed that most medical dialogues are conducted by the virtual assistant who can comprehend short phrases and even multiple descriptive paragraphs, helping to develop natural dialogues even in the context of machine interactions. The platform can automatically improve from experience then become more and more perceptive by the time without being explicitly programmed. This way of performing is called machine learning – an application of AI.
On the other hand, despite being built and operated on a technological basis, the company announced that it’s not meant to replace humans in terms of providing care and that the diagnoses are made by their board-certified physicians, not AI. People working in the Seattle headquarter actually are full-time doctors and specialists who constantly treat patients’ conditions. AI is simply considered as a way to optimize communication when those situations tend to be simple and repetitive, allowing physicians to focus their time on treating more patients.
Thanks to technology-enabled breakthrough in the provisionof health care, Cape’s company is helping a great number of people having access to treatments that might recently have been out of reach because of lockdowns and restrictions related to the pandemic.
A Move to an Integrated Solution
With the onset of the COVID-19, behavioral illnesses have been brought to the forefront of our minds. More than half of U.S. adults (53%) have struggled with mental health during the pandemic, a July 2020 KFF tracking poll found. Combine that with the inability or lack of desire to go out and see a doctor in person, those conditions were only going to get worse.
In fact, mental and behavioral health disorders have been among the top 10 diagnosed conditions for 98point6 since its primary care service launched commercially in 2018. At the time, Cape realizes it’s more important than ever to be attuned to behavioral health and give it a decent position in the system.
In February 2021, 98point6 announced the launch of its new offering which integrates primary care with behavioral health service to existing customers. “We are combining two essential services into one coordinated solution”, said Sara Smucker Barnwell, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Director, Behavioral Health at 98point6.
Behavioral health care from 98point6 is served through a collaborative, multidisciplinary team of behavioral health coaches and licensed therapists. With primary care at the core, 98point6’s approach to behavioral health encourages the unengaged to seek care sooner and eliminate the complication of multiple point solutions.
By providing a private and accessible entry point, 98point6 is setting outto normalize behavioral health mindsets as it’s a collective problem and above all, it matters. Taking the first step toward mental well-being can be the hardest but delaying only leads to more serious and costly outcomes down the road. “The move to integrate behavioral health with primary care has been a long time coming”, Cape says.
The Bottom Lines
98point6 is one of the most successful health-tech businesses seeing increased usage and investment interest during the COVID-19 outbreak. While Robbie Cape is no longer with the company, it will continue to execute on the mission he was instrumental in creating to ensure every single human on Earth has access to high-quality primary care without ever needing to make a financial trade-off to get it.