$1.5 billion digital-health startup Ro wants to be your online doctor. Here’s how its coronavirus response rooted in rapid at-home testing fits into the new unicorn’s long-term strategy.

Ro covid test

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Ro, a hot digital health startup best known for selling generic Viagra, is taking another big step in expanding its healthcare ambitions.

Ro is teaming up with computer vision startup Gauss to offer at-home rapid COVID-19 antigen tests that provide results in 15 minutes, the companies announced Wednesday. The test is still awaiting emergency clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration. Ro doesn’t take insurance and declined to say how much it’ll charge for the test. 

The launch comes just a month after Ro announced it acquired Workpath, a startup that allows hospitals and clinics to send phlebotomists into patients’ homes to perform routine blood tests, furthering its goals to expand beyond its initial suite of mail-order pharmaceuticals for conditions such as hair loss or erectile dysfunction.

Ro’s aggressive moves into all parts of healthcare come at a pivotal moment for the industry, which has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike hospitals or clinics, Ro’s virtual care model combined with its network of real-world pharmacies and logistics makes it poised to tackle distribution for rapid tests and eventually vaccines, cofounder and CEO Zachariah Reitano told Business Insider.

“Right now there are two things universally needed in healthcare: access to the vaccine and easy access to rapid testing,” Reitano said. “We have the technology and the infrastructure to distribute tests to patients across the country, and we have the unique capability to facilitate a connection to a doctor if it requires a prescription to get the test. We can mail it to them and guide them through the next steps. Not many other companies can do that.”

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Read more: The 26 billion-dollar startups to watch that are revolutionizing healthcare in 2021

Ro’s ambitions extend well beyond telemedicine

Ro started with a modest proposal: patients could virtually meet with a care provider and get generic prescription medications for conditions like hair loss or erectile dysfunction sent to their homes for a nominal fee.

Nearly four years later and the startup has skyrocketed to a $1.5 billion valuation while aggressively adding new products and services for its growing group of patients. 

When the coronavirus pandemic took root, companies like Ro and its competitor Hims added new patients as doctors’ offices shuttered and people remained hesitant to venture out to a nearby pharmacy, Reitano said. The virtual care model and easy shipping appeared tailor-made for a pandemic that left most Americans house-bound.

“Growth isn’t a problem right now,” Reitano said. “We’re going to expand and add services to try and keep up with the demand of the country.”

At present, that means building specifically for the coronavirus pandemic, Reitano said. The Gauss partnership is the first step in what Reitano said was his company’s responsibility in lowering transmission rates and saving peoples’ lives.

Reitano also said Ro is interested in helping with vaccine distribution, but declined to discuss the plans.

Ro’s future lies in testing

A more ambitious future for Ro could rely heavily on building a network of traditional healthcare services instead of relying on the partnership model it’s worked on …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech

      

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