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By Andy Blye  – Reporter, Phoenix Business Journal

Apricus Health, a health care company based in Scottsdale, has secured $20 million in new funding from San Francisco’s Virgo Investment Group.

Apricus provides a platform for doctors, including primary care physicians and specialists, to connect virtually with patients 24/7. The company was founded in December 2019 by a collection of Arizona doctors and aims to drive down health care costs by reorienting how patients access treatment.

The Apricus network now has over 590 practitioners in 220 locations across the state, including in Maricopa, Pinal, Coconino and Yavapai counties.

In an interview, Dr. Kishlay Anand, president and founder of Apricus Health, told the Business Journal that physicians need to be actively involved in improving our health care system through new care models.

“We need to really take a leadership role to transform health care. If we take a backseat, that’s not right for the community, as well as for health care.”

Apricus want to enable the shift away from episodic care — only visiting the doctor when things are really bad — to a more proactive form of medicine, which reduces costs and burden on the system. Anand described the shift as, “promoting health and wellness instead of promoting sickness.”

Apricus decided to partner with Virgo because of the firm’s breadth of health care experience and knowledge, Anand said. Talks began in October 2020 and the deal closed last week.

Anand is also the CEO of Akos, a telehealth platform for virtual care management, which raised $1 million to launch in 2017. He described Akos and its technology as a backbone for Apricus.

A key difference is that Akos is used nationally, but Apricus and its $20 million investment are focused entirely on expanding access to and quality of health care in Arizona.

This funding comes as Covid-19 accelerates the adoption of telehealth care across the country.

“The last year has highlighted a wide range of areas where health care delivery is ripe for innovation,” according to a statement from Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio).

“Technology alone is not the answer. Successful innovations must combine technology with a human touch in order to meet the needs of the users in a way that is embraced by the patient and efficient and effective for the caregivers,” she said. “When you have the right combination, everyone wins.”

Anand still practices as a cardiologist and he said that working during the pandemic has helped keep him focused on the patients.

“If the leadership is not ingrained and has an understanding of the fabric of care delivery that is not grounded, then the solutions are not attuned to the population,” he said. “Being a practicing physician allowed me to be able to understand this fabric and really create a solution.”

Phoenix Business Journal’s Angela Gonzales contributed to this report.