Ottawa-based Fullscript just landed one of the biggest venture capital deals in the city’s history to help fund its “virtual dispensary,” which looks to pair traditional medicine with alternative treatments in order to prevent the onset of more serious conditions. OBJ publisher Michael Curran spoke to CEO Kyle Braatz and chief medical officer Dr. Jeff Gladd on an episode of Behind the Headlines. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Give us a sense of this number of US$240 million. It’s astonishing. What does it mean to Fullscript?
KB: Speed is really critical. For Fullscript, it's always been about growth, it’s always been about speed. I think for us, this just means we can accelerate the things we do today, continue to add more practitioners to the platform, and continue to improve our customer experience. And it allows us to expand. I think one of our objectives is to really own the entire integrative health tech stack before anyone else. It gives us the tools to solve this big mission, to realize this big vision that we have, to really help people get better and be the platform that powers integrative medicine.
You’ve been at this for a long time, Kyle. What does this mean for you in terms of hitting this milestone?
KB: It’s really just a reminder of the opportunity ahead of us. We’ve been doing this since 2012 and there’s been so many ups and downs. Every entrepreneur feels that they go through the rollercoaster of trying to run through walls and other people don’t see the vision but we know it’s there. For any entrepreneurs that are really trying to figure out or solve a big problem they have a conviction for, it’s really just keeping that conviction and putting your head down, working hard, and getting the right support system.
Talk to us about integrative medicine and what is happening - why is the time right?
JG: You know I’ve been doing it for 12 years on the frontlines with patients. But you know, when recently polled, 60 per cent of doctors want to get involved in more lifestyle care and more health-promoted care and prevention is really key. Patients now realize it, we’re now seeing doctors realize it, we've got amazing studies coming out of the Cleveland clinic about how integrative medicine really changes the game for people's health and that you’re preventing the big problem from happening. All of these things are now moving in our favour.
Has the pandemic accelerated this?
JG: I would say absolutely. Early on telehealth and virtual care and dispensing became essential for integrative medicine, so Fullscript was ready to go to help those providers get their prescriptions for the supplementation they thought was best for their patients, but now that we’re all realizing that prevention is really, really critical, integrative medicine is being looked to to help patients figure out what that journey looks like for each individual. So, we’re here to power those practitioners, to connect to the patients, to work on that mission.
When people hear integrative medicine, sometimes they might think of alternative medicine, or they might think all sorts of different things so just help explain what this treatment approach is.
JG: Classically, the integration is the best of alternative medicine, in terms of the data and the evidence that supports what we’re recommending, but it’s also the best of conventional medicine. We don’t want to discount that. There are really great technologies that are available to us. So, the integrative provider is bringing the best of both worlds, but the true focus is to help patients understand the root of their health concerns and to promote health throughout every interaction. So instead of this very quick, prescription-pad medicine, it’s a partnership with the patient and it’s walking them through that health journey, which is why it interests more doctors and interests more patients each day.
How will this money transform Fullscript? If we look three, four years into the future, what does that Fullscript look like when all of this investment takes hold?
KB: I think in two to three years we’re powering every component of integrative medicine. So, this means powering every script and driving more effective treatments through content, data, diagnostics. It means delivering more comprehensive therapies directly to patients beyond supplements. It means managing adherence and the post-visit experience through digital engagement and really patient relationship management. So, it’s really that comprehensive platform, the operating system that powers integrative medicine, you know, two to three years from now we’ll have all of those components to be able to power integrative medicine across the entire ecosystem.
What does it mean to Ottawa?
Out of our 500 plus employees, we have 250 here in Ottawa and we’re going to continue to invest in this ecosystem. It’s a great ecosystem, great schools, great individuals migrating to the City of Ottawa, so we’re going to continue to invest here. We’ve taken a bit of a different approach to work and offices since the pandemic, we’ve really taken this approach of work where you work well. The pandemic taught us and woke us up to the fact that it’s about creating an opportunity for teammates to work where they work well, so we’ve taken more of a hub approach, so we’re going to have office space in Kanata, office space downtown, and really make it easier for individuals to work where they work well, be it at home or be it at the office.