Qliance Medical Management Inc., the Seattle-based health services startup backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and other investors, has been purchased by co-founder and CEO Dr. Erika Bliss, and president Cheryl Kilodavis, the two confirmed this morning.
Financial terms of the deal, which closed Monday, were not immediately made available. Other investors in Qliance included venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, Zillow Chairman Rich Barton, comedian and Seattle Sounders owner Drew Carey, entrepreneur Michael Dell, and others. However, all of these investors have had their stakes purchased as part of the management buyout.
The healthcare company operates direct primary and preventative health care clinics in the Seattle region that charge members monthly fees.
With the buyout, the company will continue mostly unchanged. One difference is that it will be managed by a new company called Qliance Management Inc. instead of by Qliance Medical Management Inc. That one word change won’t affect the healthcare company’s medical group, its services, or its clients, Bliss said.
“This is a change in the administration of the company but the Qliance mission and goals and commitment to serving all people who want this kind of care remain in place and will remain going forward,” said Bliss in a phone call. “All of our employees and doctors are dedicated to what our investors helped us build up until this point.”
Currently, Qliance serves about 25,000 total patients, Bliss said. A third of those are individuals, a third of those are through employers and unions, and a third are medicaid and exchange patients, she added. With the buyout, all of these clients will stay with Qliance under its new management with their same doctors, Bliss said.
In November of last year, Qliance closed on $450,000 in venture funding, according to CrunchBase. As of 2013, Qliance had raised about $33 million in total funding, which it used to expand its direct primary care clinics from two — one in Seattle and Bellevue (in the Expedia building) — to five, adding clinics in Kent, Lynwood, and Tacoma in the last 2 years.
“The company had reached a point where we were looking at the trajectory for growth,” Bliss said. “The investors decided that they thought the company was ready for its next phase and we mutually agreed that the company was really getting ready to stand on its own 2 feet but probably wouldn’t give them returns in the time period that investors need. After looking at all kinds of different options, Cheryl and I looked at the whole situation and thought that we had a way to make it successful, so we put forward a bid to purchase the assets of the company and the board accepted our offer.”
Going forward, the company hopes to break even this year and is on track to do so, Bliss said. It is also is focused on a new business model called “Access to Active.”
“It’s a new way for business and entities to buy our services,” said Bliss. “We’ve converted most of our clients to that model and are executing on it this year and studying the results. We’re looking to bring it to market in a bigger way in very soon.”
This new initiative will build on the mission of Qliance, which is to provide better care by offering “unhurried visits” with doctors, available any time, Bliss said. Because Qliance pays its physicians outside of the traditional insurance reimbursement system, Qliance doctors have more time to spend with each of their patients.
Typically, primary care is paid poorly, so doctors have to see more patients to make up the difference, Bliss explained in a 2013 Qliance Facebook post. That means appointments are cut short, lasting only 7-10 minutes on average, and doctors lack the time to thoroughly investigate every patient, she said.
In contrast, Qliance patients pay their doctors directly with a monthly fee of $59 to $99 to get unlimited access to their primary care physicians — they can reach them by phone or e-mail, and can come in for as many in-person 30-60 minute visits as they require to talk with doctors, any day of the week. The company says this model allows it to offer patients better medical care since doctors aren’t hurrying to get to the next patient to ensure they get adequate pay. As insurance costs increase while the standard time with doctors remains the same, patients are turning more and more to Qliance to offer an alternative way to get their medical care, Bliss said.
Bliss said the company will continue to pursue its goal of better medical care throughout the management changes and is looking forward to continuing to serve patients with the same standard of care they have become used to with Qliance.