To put it simply, TimeMD was ahead of the curve. The telehealth company focuses its services on the higher education market and dramatically expanded its reach less than a year before the pandemic ushered most of the world into remote care.
Today, the company serves more than 800,000 students in 200 schools nationwide with mental health and medical care. Co-founded in 2017 by CEO Luke Hejl, the company class No. 7 on Inc. magazine’s 2022 list of the fastest growing businesses in the southwest. A $60 million investment from JMI Equity, a software-focused company, has allowed it to continue growing even as the pandemic loosens its grip on society. It offers mental health and medical care services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in partnership with 500 providers.
A corporate survey found nine in ten college students say there’s a mental health crisis on their campus, and 75% of college presidents to say they want to continue to invest in mental health services. When viruses or events can trigger medical or mental health crises, virtual care options can help an organization meet increased demand without new hires that may go unused when the need arises.
At Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, the university was struggling to maintain enough staff in its clinic to meet the growing needs of its students. College students want immediate access on their schedule (often at odd hours), and it is difficult to offer this kind of service in a physical clinic. Hejl graduated from ACU and reached out to his alma mater to find a solution to a problem that existed on the ACU campus and that many others were facing. “We were willing to give it a shot based on the fact that they had the relationships with clinical mental health providers that we were dealing with in a generation that was open to telehealth options,” said president Phil Schubert.
Hejl was born in Austin with an entrepreneurial spirit that manifested itself in many ventures, including a rabbit farm that took advantage of the short furry destination period. A graduate in advertising, he worked in several agencies before joining a medical education start-up called Doctors in Training which quickly dominated the market. He then joined the digital marketing agency Social Factor, where he became CEO.
In 2015, he attended a virtual care panel at South by Southwest in Austin and discovered the potential of remote care years before it became popular. About 75% of what a primary care physician does can be done virtually, and with increased convenience in video calling, he’s seen a niche market poised to grow. He quickly contacted his undergraduate friends at ACU, and they began researching the matter. After a year of research, he co-founded TimelyMD in 2017 with Chief Strategy Officer Chris Clark and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Dennington.
The team opted for higher education after speaking to students and parents about their struggles to effectively serve their students when students lack the safety net that has helped them take care of their physical and mental health. . “It’s about our desire to serve as a people,” says Hejl. “As a youngster, there were no easy solutions to some of the challenges we faced. Resources were not always available.
Hejl and his team began to learn more about the issues students faced in seeking care and found that there were often long waits or negative perceptions about clinics on campus (even when clinics provided quality care). If a student walked across campus and couldn’t get an appointment, they might not come back. Opening an app on their phone and seeing a provider around the clock was much more convenient. So they did.
Hejl was not a born fundraiser, but the team believed in their product and made it happen. The team worked with the schools to implement a plan that added to campus health services rather than replacing them. They developed care coordination teams that helped connect to on-campus resources and support and set them up with a clinic or pharmacy if they needed to visit a location.
The service launched in the spring of 2018 and quickly added mental health services in the fall of 2018. The 24/7 nature of care was crucial for growth, as 40% of appointments of TimelyMD take place after office hours.
“It’s really important for us to help those medical clinics, counseling centers and administrators we talk to on campus understand that we’re really working to partner with their campus, not take over how they take care of their students,” says Hejl.
The pandemic was a catalyst for TimelyMD as campuses looked for ways to provide remote experiences for their students, and the company saw massive growth. Focusing on higher education has proven to be an effective way to attract funding and providers who are passionate about serving students, especially when most mental health issues manifest.
Today, TimelyMD employs 130 full-time employees and numerous other contract vendors and has a presence in community colleges, private universities, and a growing presence in public four-year schools across the country. Half a million community college students have access at TimelyMD, which accounts for about one in ten students enrolled in a two-year public school. Schools often brand TimelyMD care (the ACU calls it Wildcat Care) and push it for medical fees or as a low-cost option. Over the past 12 months, Schubert says there have been 1,000 medical appointments and 500 counseling sessions at the ACU.
“It has made us feel much better about our ability as a community to provide the care students need, as we have a partnership that goes far beyond what we are able to provide and have a much more efficient way to meet demand. , especially when it comes and goes,” says Schubert.
Going forward, TimelyMD is focused on serving the higher education population, despite demands for market access from employers and other segments. In a telehealth industry that has become very crowded over the past two years, they are focused on growing the product in their niche. One in ten students nationwide
“There are a lot of shiny objects reaching us on the populations that we could serve. We’ve always been passionate about serving our student population specifically, and some of the other shiny object populations that come our way could have been great opportunities for us, but they could also be a significant distraction,” says Hejl. “I’m not saying these are things we would never do, but I think to really be the market leader in virtual care for students, it takes tremendous focus.”
Will is the editor of CEO magazine and editor of D CEO Healthcare. He wrote about health care…