After a long and successful career, with many years in senior management at a Fortune 500 company and successfully starting and operating two businesses, Austin White, President, CEO and Co-Founder of OnMed, found himself in a unique situation. A good friend and fellow Co-Founder of OnMed, Mark Royals, asked if White would meet with two gentlemen who founded MD Plus, Inc., a company that specializes in telehealth solutions. They were looking for active investors interested in pursuing a new opportunity. As White shared, after a four-hour lunch, he was all in.
"It was an opportunity to totally disrupt the current system of receiving care from a traditional facility," he said. "With my previous experience in manufacturing and my knowledge of employer-sponsored healthcare issues, I knew it was something I couldn't pass up. I officially came on-board not long after that lunch meeting."
Healthcare in the United States is a $3.4 trillion industry in need of disruption. As White explained, even though there are many different "tentacles" extending out in all directions, when you look at healthcare from a business perspective, there are many similarities to other industries. "It's like the 80/20 rule," he said. "At least 80% of what you focus on in healthcare, you also focus on in other industries. The three main areas are access, cost, and quality. When you dive in, technology has to play a significant role at some point. With access being the Achilles heel, we said, let's incorporate technology that's engaging, capable of greater diagnostics and care and also capable of a better delivery of the continuing of care."
Identifying an Opportunity
After surveying the landscape and determining that no one was doing what the OnMed team set out to accomplish, they began the patent process. They filed for patents in the U.S. and 46 other countries. Seven years later, on March 2019, OnMed rolled out the next generation of healthcare at its headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, which attracted both national and international media attention.
The patented OnMed Station is the world's first virtual doctor’s office that dispenses medication. Equipped with privacy glass, macro cameras, a blood pressure device, built-in scales, thermal cameras, directional audio, touchscreen access, ultraviolet sanitation, rapid air filtration, on-the-spot medical dispensing and bio-metric security, patients can gain easy and safe access to a highly trained clinician and receive care in a fraction of the time it would take through traditional channels.
"In today's healthcare systems, there are those with robust telehealth strategies and those that will have robust telehealth strategies," he said. "If they don't have a strategy in place, they may be part of the growing percentage of health systems going under. There are some current players in the “direct to consumer telehealth” space, but patients are just connecting to clinicians through an app on their phone or through their computer. Those are excellent tools that are part of the access ecosystem, but they don't have the diagnostic and technological advantages that we have. They don't represent the full spectrum of care. Our units have a 55" screen where patients directly interact with the clinician. When you look at the tools we put in place, our solution is very patient and clinician-centric. We even built our own electronic health records to allow for results and medical information to quickly and easily reach a patient’s primary care physician."
White and his team at OnMed are working hard to fill a significant void in medical access points. Everyone from children to the elderly and veterans will benefit from the OnMed Station. Some of the verticals where they're proposing to roll-out these units include emergency departments, major corporations, colleges and universities, airports, resorts, theme parks, casinos and in disaster relief situations. Each location presents a unique opportunity to improve healthcare access for different patients with different needs.
White explained the logic behind placing an OnMed Station inside of an emergency department, "Statistics from the Robert Woods Johnson and Kaiser Family foundations state that up to 75% of the people in emergency rooms are not there with a life-threatening issue. This is costly for the patient and the hospital. It costs hospitals a lot of money to treat a child for a severe ear infection. You have expensive ER triage doctors, nurses, equipment, and facilities that are used. Many hospital systems are going bankrupt because of this. In fact, 27% of hospitals with emergency rooms have closed since 2010. There are as many as 60% at risk of being closed in some states. The math doesn't add up. If we give these people the option to be serviced by an OnMed Station, it will significantly reduce the overall cost. By attracting the appropriate level of care at the right location and the right cost, hospital ER’s can actually become profit centers while providing excellent non-acute urgent care."
The OnMed Station is, in a sense, a one-stop virtual medical center and pharmacy. The initial call is handled by medical assistants, employed by OnMed, who then live-transfer to clinicians at various locations around the globe. For facilities with suitable telehealth protocols already in place, that prefer to operate beyond 12 hours per day, OnMed has nurse practitioners, physicians, and pharmacists available to cover those extra hours. OnMed is keen on developing collaborative partnerships that create beneficial outcomes for all parties involved.
“We’re very tech-oriented and exceedingly professional,” White said. “We also operate in a very open environment. We encourage and foster creativity. It’s really a family atmosphere filled with encouragement, humor and ping pong.”
When it comes to community involvement and philanthropic activities, OnMed and the founding partners have worked with local churches and battered women shelters. They’ve also supported Miss Wheelchair Florida. In fact, the current Miss Wheelchair Florida, who hopes to become a pediatrician, assisted OnMed with the physical ADA compliance of their medical stations.
According to White, operating in Florida is beneficial for a number of reasons. “First of all, Florida is a beautiful place to raise a family,” he said. “The absence of a state income tax is great for our employees. They have a wonderful opportunity to work for a progressive tech company, and their income won't be as affected. We're also very excited about the growth in high-end tech jobs and the medical industry, specifically in Central Florida. With so many great colleges and universities in our own backyard, we're in a unique position to change the dynamic of the next generation of clinicians."
What it Means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
“It’s humbling,” White said. “We’re all very excited about it. We spent the last 7 years in ‘stealth mode’ working with our heads down. To be able to come out of that and get this type of recognition is really special. It’s truly an honor.”
White added, “We went through the fire early on. We were really tested. However, prior to being fully funded, we were still able to effectively impact laws and regulations across the country. Being able to enhance access to care through the use of technology is such a unique opportunity.”
Looking ahead, White’s ultimate goal for OnMed is to provide greater access to quality and affordable healthcare for all. As White pointed out, “There’s not a single country on this planet not in need of that.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“Entrepreneurship is not for everyone,” White said. “There’s nothing wrong with working for a good company. Years ago, I was raised to do what you love and are passionate about. If you can find a way to make money doing it, it’s possible to create a business. If not, it's a hobby. If you're passionate about a true solution, you have a unique spin on how to provide that solution, and you pray on it, I'd encourage you to move forward with it. If you have the urge and the desire and you don't give it a shot, you'll never be satisfied. Lastly, don't wait for the ‘appropriate' time. Now is the best time to start."