Is Ringadoc Making a Mistake by Leaving Video e-Visit Consultations?


Ringadoc, a hot startup funded by the prestigious Founders Fund, began as a virtual doctor consultation platform and was actually selling video calling when it launched around September of 2011.  In  mid-May of 2013, Ringadoc injected another $700K to its coffers for a total of $1.9M in seed funding.  It also turned its focus away from eVisits to its telephone answering service for doctors.  It now boasts over 100K calls made on its platform.

Virtual doctor visits the new healthcare disruptor

But with video eVisits being the hot innovation that’s changing healthcare delivery why would Ringadoc pivot away from this space?   Companies in that arena are doing extremely well, such as longtime industry leader MDLIVE, as well as TelaDoc, AmericanWell; and the companies (or technology) supplying the video engines for them — VSee, Vidyo, WebRTC, and OpenTok

Is it because Ringadoc decided to focus on video too late in the game, and the big boys had already locked up the market?  Or perhaps the technical challenges are too massive?  After all, it wouldn’t just be handing out a video codec, but providing a complete e-Visit platform as a service.  This would include rich medical features and a reliable 24×7 HIPAA-compliant server infrastructure.  Currently, VSee as the only HIPAA-compliant P2P eVisit system that’s proven to work on the field from Shell Nigeria oil fields to Rwanda community health to Cigna customers anywhere (in partnership with MDLIVE.)

ShowKit – Ringadoc’s Video Calling Arm

showkit video chat sdkIf we take a closer look, we find that not too long ago, Ringadoc’s video chat team broke off to form a separate company and created a mobile video chat SDK.  (They use hardware acceleration of H.264 on iOS.  This is done via a well-known and clever hack of intercepting video to be written to files and streaming it out since the official iOS SDK does not provide real-time H.264 encoding access.)

It turns out that ShowKit only works on iOS, so the Ringadoc video service never worked on Windows or Mac, and its Android is yet to come.  This is maybe where the problem lies.

When it comes to paid services, patients want to see doctors on big video because this allows them to build trust; and providers want to see patients together with their electronic medical/health record (EMR / EHR) — mobile video is only used as a last resort.  In this case, it makes sense that Ringadoc was forced to pivot away from the flourishing video eVisit field.  While it picked a promising platform for its services, it didn’t pick the right platform for its use case.

PracticeFusion to Acquire Ringadoc?

What do I think of Ringadoc’s future?  I say the EMR industry will eat up Ringadoc. EMR companies are likely to add answering services as an additional feature either at no charge or at a very low fee to compete with other EMR companies. Thus it’s going to be hard for Ringadoc to sustain its monthly subscription.

The good news is that since Ringadoc is already working with PracticeFusion, the $700M-valuation-at-last-investment behemoth of the EMR space, it is likely that PracticeFusion will acquire the Ringadoc team for its engineering talent within the next 12 months.  If I were the Ringadoc CEO and investors, I would push them to stay on the course of video eVisit – the field is rich and complex, and there are so many problems for innovative companies to solve.  Of course, the exit would be a lot riskier than the PracticeFusion acquire-and-hire, but it would be so much more fun! 🙂

Comments ( 2 )
  • anne
    Bret Larsen says:

    While Ringadoc’s pivot has proved to be successful, your point about pivoting away from video is a good one. One advantage startups have is being able to innovate quickly and take advantage of new technologies and business models.

  • anne
    Julie says:

    Ringadoc worked just fine as a stand-alone. As a doctor and user of its service, I loved it. It worked so well for my staff and patients. The website helped us manage afterhours calls. It helped us triage urgent calls very well. It saved me a lot of stress.

    Now, I am very unhappy with the transition to Practice Fusion. It is probably going to cost more. We have been unable to access messages through Practice Fusion even though we should be able to. We have watched the videos and followed all the instructions in the emails.

    Now we have learned that they are taking down the Ringadoc website on July 8th, 2015 and we will be stuck trying to access everything through Practice Fusion, which is not working. Not. Happy.

    Looking for alternatives. Any ideas.

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