Zipnosis Team

This article is part of 4 Sight Health’s new monthly interview series, How Healthcare Revolutionaries Think. The interview series features healthcare instigators who believe that outcomes matter, customers count and value rules.

Are you paying royalties to Zipnosis, the Minneapolis-based telemedicine platform, and its Founder and CEO Jon Pearce? No? Have you ever used the phrase “digital front door” in your marketing copy to describe your new product, service or approach to care delivery? Yes? Well, you may want to open your digital checkbook app.

Pearce and his Zipnosis team coined the phrase seven years ago when they were trying to come up with a pithy and succinct way to describe to a prospective customer what Zipnosis does. Pearce trademarked the phrase “digital front door” in 2014. The rest, as they say, is trademark infringement history.

Pearce mentioned trademarking the phrase in passing when I interviewed him for this piece. To me, the moment captured his thought process — creative, strategic and competitive.

I picked Pearce’s brain about what he thinks of healthcare and how his opinions guide the direction of Zipnosis today and into the future with its recent acquisition by Bright Health.

Zipnosis has gone through several business model changes since you founded it in 2009. Walk me through those changes and why they happened?

PEARCE: Yeah, there have been a lot of twists and turns along the way. In 2009, it was really clear to me that the smart phone was going to be the clinic of the future. We started as a direct-to-consumer primary-care provider, and we charged $25 for a virtual visit. It was a horrible business. The technology worked but looking back I think we made every mistake in the book in terms of distribution and business model. We were ahead of our time. Consumer adoption just wasn’t there a decade ago.

How hard is it to change your business model mid-stream? What’s your advice for other healthcare entrepreneurs who may be off the mark initially?

PEARCE: Well, when you have to let everyone go, and it’s just you, and you don’t have another paycheck, it’s actually pretty easy. You have to decide whether to give up or keep going. For me, it was something deep inside and hard coded that said, “Don’t give up. We’re not going to drop this now. Let’s see where this goes.” The business wasn’t working from an economic perspective. Everything else was. We were driving transaction costs down to zero. We were cutting clinic in-person visit times from 20 minutes to 90 seconds for virtual visits. We were achieving better clinical outcomes. We had great feedback from customers. All the core tenets of a high-functioning service were there. It just wasn’t the right time. But there was a lot there to build on if we kept going rather than throw away the business and walk away.

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