GoodRx co-founders and co-CEOs Doug Hirsch and Trevor Bezdek.
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Six weeks ago, GoodRx cofounder and co-CEO Doug Hirsch and his team had an idea: what if their company could organize telemedicine practices in the same way that they’ve organized drug pricing? “Maybe I’m just some super organized kind of guy,” he told Forbes, but “nobody is helping Americans figure out what the right service is for them.” That’s why GoodRx today launched its telemedicine marketplace, where Americans can compare prices for dozens of telemedicine services.
The telemedicine market is booming, and has only accelerated due to the current COVID-19 pandemic that has been causing people to stay in their homes and seek out alternative ways to talk with a doctor. “Every day I wake up and there’s another service,” Hirsch jokes. The Santa Monica, California-based company, valued at $2.8 billion, acquired its own telemedicine company, HeyDoctor, last September. The new marketplace compares plans from that service, as well as 98point6, One Medical, Hims, K Health, and other telemedicine companies. Hirsch declined to say if it was also partnering with other telemedicine giants including Teladoc and AmWell, but says it’s continuing to add more companies “on a day to day basis.”
Telemedicine has been around for almost two decades, but still remains relatively unpopular with most Americans. According to a J.D. Power survey last year, only one in ten Americans have tried a telemedicine service. Reasons for that vary. For some, it’s because of barriers, including access to the internet in rural areas or a lack of insurance coverage (until this month, Medicare didn’t cover telemedicine services). Direct-to-consumer pharmacy brands like Hims and Ro have boosted telemedicine’s profile, but the majority of Americans still see their doctors face to face. (Disclaimer: Forbes has a small, passive investment in Ro).
The current pandemic may change their minds. Hirsch says that the coronavirus outbreak has caused an “unprecedented demand” for telemedicine services. In one day last week, the HeyDoctor platform did 600 coronavirus screenings. Holly Spring, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Amwell, told Forbes via email that Amwell’s patient visits have been up about 257% nationally compared to this same time last year, and the areas hardest hit by coronavirus have seen an even bigger increase, with visits in Washington state up more than 700%. The increase in telemedicine use, she wrote, “seems to be correlating with the movement and impact of the virus.”
This surge in demand also has consequences— patients have complained about long wait times and struggling infrastructure. Hirsch says that comparing services on the new marketplace could help people make a better decision about which is right for them. Right now, GoodRX’s platform doesn’t show the estimated wait time for each service, but he suggests popping in to one portal, seeing what the wait time is, and then comparing it to another one.
The platform breaks down the telemedicine services it’s comparing by categories based on disease and symptoms, including acne, anxiety, UTIs, erectile dysfunction and coronavirus. The average price of a visit is displayed, as well as the cost of some medications that could be prescribed during the visit. Some, like K Health, also offer a discount for going through the GoodRx marketplace.
Hirsch says that he knows telemedicine isn’t suitable for every patient. But for a recurrent UTI or a quick coronavirus screening, it can be both cheaper and more practical. “Generally the patient knows the kind of care they need,” he says, “they just need a doctor to approve it and make sure it’s right.”