As a mother of two young boys, Ellen DaSilva said she and other parents in the U.S. feel “generally feel pretty underserved by the existing pediatric care infrastructure.” She and her husband have waited hours in the emergency room to obtain answers to simple questions about their children’s health, and they sometimes wait days for their pediatrician to call back.
This cycle of worrisome hassle is why she and co-founder Matthew Woo launched Summer Health last week. They created the New York City-based startup, which delivers pediatric care via text messaging, to move closer to achieving their vision: every American having a phone number in their pocket that they can text to get medical care within 15 minutes.
After working at Barclays and Twitter, DaSilva became the eighth employee at Hims and Hers in 2018, serving first as the telehealth company’s director of business development and later as its head of strategic partnerships. She left the company last year with a clear understanding of the telehealth industry and saw there was a ripe need for pediatric care to be digitized, she shared in an interview.
The six other full-time employees that work at Summer Health have healthcare and tech expertise as well — they come from a range of companies spanning from Uber to Boston Children’s Hospital to Microsoft.
Together, the team has built a platform that connects parents to licensed pediatricians within 15 minutes via text. Typically, when parents observe a potential medical issue in their child, they either immerse themselves in a rabbit hole of Googled information that fails to give them peace of mind or they go to their pediatrician’s office, which is likely understaffed and unable to respond in a timely manner, according to DaSilva.
She said Summer Health’s mission is to simplify this process by giving parents a more timely option to get questions answered about their children’s health. When she came up with the startup’s name, DaSilva was “thinking about words that connote happiness and evoke good feelings, making people want to embrace it rather than trudge through what we call ‘the winter of the healthcare system.’”
Parents can use the platform to address urgent needs, such as by sending a pediatrician a photo of a new rash that appeared on their child and asking if they should be worried. They can also use the platform to help keep up with their children’s developmental needs. For example, parents can ask clinicians for advice on their toddler’s sleep regression or guidance about their adolescent’s mood swings.
Summer Health did not disclose the number of pediatricians currently on its platform, but DaSilva did say that the startup is facing an “overwhelming demand” of pediatricians who want to join the platform, so much so that it has created a waitlist. She said the company will continue to scale its reach by onboarding these clinicians, paying special attention to their geographic diversity and the quality of their clinical expertise.
In its efforts to continue its growth, the company has garnered $7.5 in seed capital from well-known investors. The seed round was led by Alfred Lin at Sequoia Capital and Deena Shakir at Lux Capital. It also had participation from Chelsea Clinton’s Metrodora Ventures, Box Group, Coalition Partners, Shrug Capital and Springbank Collective.
Summer Health will use this funding to expand its employee base and the number of pediatricians on its platform so that more parents can access its texting services.
“Something that I got a chance to see during my time at Twitter was the desire for immediacy and having information at your fingertips,” DaSilva said. “And a lot of pediatric care is making sure that parents have peace of mind with credible sources of information. There are many message-based products that are bot- or AI-based, but we’ve learned that’s not really what parents want for their children’s care.”
Summer Health is currently available nationwide as a public beta program. Its services cost $20 per month.
Photo source: Summer Health