Seattle startup 98point6 will charge $20 for the first year of its virtual primary care service. After that, the price increases to $120 a year.
Getting a prescription for antibiotics or cold medicine could be just a few text messages away, if Seattle startup 98point6 has anything to say about it.
The company announced Tuesday it is expanding its virtual primary care service to adults nationwide this year, after testing in Washington state for the past year. It raised nearly $20 million last fall to expand across the country.
98point6, co-founded in 2015 by entrepreneur Robbie Cape, is trying to change how the U.S. approaches basic health care by making it easier for people to talk to a doctor without visiting an office — whether the patient has insurance or not.
The company developed an app that allows those over 18 years old to answer a few questions — managed by the company’s artificial intelligence technology — and then get connected via chat to a licensed primary care doctor. Those doctors are full-time staff of the startup and will chat via text with the patient to understand symptoms, then write a presciption, order lab tests or refer them to a specialist for next steps.
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98point6 has been operating for free for Washington state patients so far, and this week announced its service would cost a flat fee of $20 for unlimited consultations during the first year. After that, the price increases to $120 a year.
“Our mission is to make primary care more accessible and more affordable, inspiring early and frequent use,” Cape said.
The idea is that people avoid going to the doctor for a multitude of reasons, including the lack of convenience or time. 98point6 patients talk to doctors mostly over a messaging service, meaning they can do it anywhere, Cape said.
There also is a national shortage of primary care doctors, so the startup hopes this will make it easier for people to get face time, or in this case text-to-text time, with a medical professional.
98point6 has 15 doctors as full-time employees and is currently live in 10 states, with plans to reach all 50 by the end of the year.
Its focus is now on individuals, but it is also starting an employer program with Seattle Children’s Hospital. The hospital plans to make the service available free to employees in May.