hi gray Q&A: Alpha, Empowering Women To Take Charge Of Their Health With Tech
First dispatch of 2021 - welcome!
January 3, 2021
Happy New Year — it’s 2021, finally.
We are excited for you to see what we have in store for hi gray this year. For now, let’s get on with the show:
Hi there, did you know you can find all of our past Q&As on our website? Check it out: higray.com
Alpha Medical, or simply Alpha, is a Palo Alto, California-based women’s online primary care provider. The startup aims to give women an easy, all-in-one online space for their everyday medical needs.
Alpha was cofounded by Gloria Lau (CEO) in 2017. With prior experience heading up data products at Linkedin and being the Vice President of Timeful, which was acquired by Google, Lau believes that the future of health services will be characterized by a simple and personalized experience supported by a team of tech-enabled doctors and pharmacies. This belief is at the core of Alpha today. The startup has raised $15 million to date, with backing from Data Collective Venture Capital, a premier AI-focused venture capital firm, along with many top angels.
We sat down with Lau to learn more about how Alpha came about, how they are integrating technology to help treat patients for a variety of ailments from acid reflux to endometriosis, and the future of the company.
Hi Gray: Happy New Year, thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s start with your origin story: tell me about both the inspiration as well as the consumer demand that drove the creation of Alpha.
Gloria Lau: When I moved from Hong Kong to the United States, I quickly discovered that women across the country face the greatest barriers to accessible and affordable healthcare. I found the process of finding the right doctor, getting answers and a diagnosis, understanding treatments and side effects, finding time for pharmacy trips and processing the bills to be unnecessarily challenging given the fragmented healthcare system.
After having kids and the more I spoke with other mothers, colleagues and friends, the clearer it became that women across the country almost exclusively become the “chief medical officer” for their family and are left to navigate the expensive, time-intensive, opaque world of healthcare. I founded Alpha in 2017 to rebuild the healthcare system by providing access to care for common, underserved, and undertreated medical needs in a convenient, affordable, and discreet process.
I founded Alpha in 2017 to rebuild the healthcare system by providing access to care for common, underserved, and undertreated medical needs in a convenient, affordable, and discreet process.
HG: How does it work from a patient standpoint?
GL: Alpha focuses on a broad category of primary care, including urgent care, women’s health, skin and hair, pediatrics and mental health. Across these categories, Alpha provides treatment to over 50 medical conditions in 38 states and counting.
The company offers seamless online medical consultations by licensed providers and ships prescriptions to patients directly. All patients have to do is sign up online, and Alpha will gather information about their medical history, symptoms, and collect photos of affected areas if needed. Submitted information is encrypted within the secure Alpha, HIPAA compliant platform, so there is no need to download an app or go to the doctor’s office. Once information is submitted, Alpha reviews the patient’s condition(s) and location information to assign a primary care provider to care for that individual moving forward. Patients have continuous access to this provider throughout the entirety of their journey.
HG: Tell me about the company structure.
GL: Led by myself and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mary Jacobson, Alpha’s immediate team is currently made of about 20 passionate advocates for women’s health. As an extension to this team based in Palo Alto, California, licensed Alpha Providers and Partner Pharmacies are located across the 38 states we serve.
HG: How would you describe your target patient base? Also as a telemedicine brand, how has branding and language guided your process?
GL: Alpha strives to provide every woman stuck in an oppressive system with a new choice and voice in her own care. Our bottom line is that we bring the “care” back into healthcare as we eliminate the hurdles and inequality gap that come with traditional industry structure.
HG: Where are you at in terms of funding and how are you using these funds raised?
GL: Between Alpha’s seed and Series A rounds, we have raised $15 million to date. We are so grateful for our main institutional investors, GSR Ventures, AV8 Ventures, and DCVC. With their financial support, Alpha has continued to succeed with our vast geographic and treatment expansion in order to support as many women as possible.
HG: Tell me more about the industry you are in. How do you think Alpha differentiates itself?
GL: The current U.S. healthcare industry is broken. Patients are waiting an average of 29 days for their doctor appointments, and even then, struggle to find the time to rearrange their schedules, make the commute, and sit in waiting rooms. While other telemedicine companies are entering the market to try to address these problems of convenience and accessibility, most fail to consider the quality of care being provided.
In a world of transactional and piecemeal solutions to care, Alpha’s patients have one dedicated provider throughout their healthcare journey, from urgent care to mental health and everything in between. This access to a primary care provider is vital for not only consistent, high quality treatment of health conditions as they arise, but prevention of such avoidable circumstances. Alpha’s unique approach to ensuring members have a strong connection with their providers makes all the necessary difference in the lives of its patients. In addition to this continuity in care with the same provider, Alpha’s service is unique in that all visits are asynchronous—allowing her to be in control of her own pace of care, as well as minimizing the anxiety to seek care.
Perhaps most importantly, Alpha isn’t afraid to treat the rare or complicated conditions other telemedicine brands have thus far neglected. As mentioned, Alpha currently treats over 50 conditions and is continuing to expand this portfolio where possible across mental health, women’s health, and more. Alpha’s vast offerings ensure patients are supported by certified doctors who care for them as an individual - no matter where their needs lie.
HG: Telemedicine is quickly on the rise, especially with the pandemic having opened that gate — how are companies like Alpha poised to benefit?
GL: Our brand will be satisfied when every woman across the country feels supported by and confident in their healthcare providers on their journey to achieve their best health. As Alpha grows into new treatment categories and states to support more and more women, it has been most rewarding to see our patients, both new and old, reap the benefits we are able to offer them in support of their wellbeing.
HG: How does Alpha address the accessibility of health care specifically? How do you make sure patients have around the clock access to a physician?
GL: The lack of accessibility in America’s healthcare system today is an important topic to address. For reference, 65 million Americans live in what many researchers call a “primary care desert,” where the total number of PCPs only meet 50 percent or less of what the community needs. Meanwhile, 28 percent of young people in the United States do not have a Primary Care Provider.
Alpha is dedicated to solving the problems surrounding this lack of accessibility. As patient information is collected, one of Alpha’s licensed and board certified doctors or nurse practitioners sends a treatment plan within 24 hours. For urgent care cases, a response will arrive within eight hours. The consistency in having one primary care provider ensures patients’ questions are answered, appointments are handled, and someone will help them proactively make decisions, without needing to travel to a physical location or coordinate schedules. It also means that patients can access their own health history, have it stored securely in Alpha’s HIPAA-compliant environment, and can take it with them everywhere via the online platform.
When treatment plans require a lab test or a visit to an in-person doctor, Alpha helps the patient find local, affordable providers and schedule any appointments or necessary lab tests.
HG: What’s next for Alpha?
GL: Our team is constantly working on launching treatment options for new conditions. For example, we most recently launched Pediatrics, so parents/guardians can now register their child through our platform and seek treatment for conditions like diaper rash. We are also working on expanding our services to new states.
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