“There are many experiences that can be optimized and streamlined around routine health service delivery,” he said.
“Often they can be streamlined in a safe and clinically responsible way without compromising patient safety.
“You can reduce redundancy, patient waiting time and optimize the GP’s time, so they don’t spend most of their day dispensing repeat prescriptions.”
Dr Freilich studied medicine and finance, before becoming a healthcare investment banker at Citi in Sydney and then Piper Jaffray in New York.
After working as an investment banker for several years, he said he “longed” to complete his residency training and become a fully qualified doctor.
In doing so, Dr. Freilich created his first telehealth business, starting a company called Phonemed in 2011, which provided an injury management hotline for businesses.
He also created a consumer telehealth business – one of the first in the country – and while running it he noticed that most patients were using the service to access routine prescriptions. This gave him the idea of creating a platform merging artificial intelligence and human consultations.
“We get the computing platform to examine the patient and that really saves time and creates efficiencies,” Dr. Freilich said.
“[For things like] the birth control pill, cholesterol tablets, or a routine antidepressant, those things have a pretty prescriptive set of criteria that define a patient’s eligibility, and they lend themselves to an AI overlay, which cuts the time.
“But we are careful not to create a product that completely replaces the consultation of the general practitioner. We have features that discourage chronic use, and we offer one-time courses of antibiotics, not repeats, if someone uses the express digital service.
About 80% of InstantScripts revenue comes from express appointments, while 20% comes from telehealth consultations.
The $10.9 million cash injection into InstantScripts was led by Perennial and will support the company’s continued growth in Australia, as well as an expansion into the United States over the next 12 months, which it will address State by State.
Many telehealth start-ups have reported huge growth spurts that might never have happened if not for the COVID-19 pandemic last year, but Dr. Freilich said InstantScripts have already grown sharply.
“We are not a product of COVID,” he said. “We haven’t jumped on the bandwagon.
“COVID actually presented challenges to the business because Medicare got involved. For a very brief time, the eligibility criteria were expanded to include services like ours…so I had to employ 20 new general practitioners to come and absorb the volume of live consultations.
“But now we are no longer eligible.”
Now, telehealth consultations are only eligible for Medicare if the patient had an in-person consultation with the doctor in the previous 12 months.
Dr Freilich said it was good evidence for the company that people were willing to pay for the service, but he believed that for certain groups, including young people and those living in the Australia region, services like InstantScripts should have continued to be eligible for Medicare.
“Many of our users are in their late teens or in the Australia region and [in these cases] it’s not as easy as Medicare might think to have a regular physical relationship with a doctor,” he said.
“I understand what they’re trying to achieve, they don’t want to make physical GPs an endangered species, but there was a more nuanced way to go about it.”