Avail Medsystems has raised $100 million to support the rollout of telemedicine technology that enables people to see and contribute to surgeries remotely.
The financing round, which the Palo Alto, California-based company disclosed Wednesday, comes weeks after major medtech Smith & Nephew signed up to use the telemedicine service. Avail is placing its consoles in surgery rooms for free and charging medtech companies a subscription to access the network. Medtech companies that sign up can use the video streaming and collaboration capabilities of Avail’s consoles for representatives to remotely oversee surgical procedures.
Avail CEO Daniel Hawkins, a medtech industry veteran, said in a statement that although the telemedicine company was established prior to the onset of COVID-19, "the pandemic has shone a spotlight on these issues and accelerated the need for remote presence in the operating room."
Avail began raising money to develop the system in 2018, reflecting the established nature of the problem of getting medtech representatives into surgical sites. However, COVID-19 has magnified the challenge and generated renewed interest in telemedicine, and investors have reacted to the change. Avail has now raised two financing rounds in 10 months, bringing its total haul to around $125 million.
The company estimates the proportion of surgeries that require the involvement of outside experts ranges from 25% for some procedure types up to 100% for other interventions. Medical device companies that provide products for use in surgical procedures are among the groups that send staff to help with interventions. Surgeons can also enlist the support of peers with expertise in a particular area.
Traditionally, outside experts have gone to surgical sites in person, adding to the cost and complexity of selling new devices. Avail’s technology is designed to end the need for in-person involvement. The system consists of two cameras that pan, tilt and zoom, a moveable arm to position one of them, a 32-inch monitor and a touchscreen that shows the remote users who are available to collaborate.
Remote users can control the cameras and see their outputs on an iPad or computer. The software enables remote users to control what is shown on the 32-inch monitor in the surgical room, including by annotating over live or paused video.
In a statement to disclose the latest round, Avail provided limited information about how it will use the capital.
Avail’s business model requires it to make upfront investments. Rather than try to persuade hospitals to buy its consoles, Avail is providing the technology for free and trying to generate revenues from medical device companies that pay a subscription fee to access the network of consoles. Avail leases the consoles, according to a Bloomberg report, and plans to install up to 1,000 in the next year.
Some big names in medtech are working to make that happen. Daniel Hawkins founded Avail and serves as its CEO. Hawkins also co-founded Shockwave Medical and Calibra Medical, which went on to IPO and be acquired by Johnson & Johnson, respectively. Avail's board of directors includes Fred Moll, the founder of Intuitive Surgical and Auris Health.