Vitable, a new primary care company in Philadelphia, receives awards from patients

Joseph Kitonga is a 24-year-old from Delaware County aiming to reinvent basic services for hourly workers with no health insurance.

His family doctor service, Vitable LLC, has been rated highly by employers and workers in childcare, restaurants, and home care for its high quality and convenience. The company has already signed 10,000 employees in its current markets of southeast Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“The best part is that they come to you because when you’re sick you really don’t want to go anywhere,” said Elaine Green, a preschool teacher at Somerset Academy in Philadelphia whose school uses the service.

Kitonga, who emigrated with his family from Kenya to the USA at the age of 13, founded the family doctor Vitable LLC in 2019 while studying computer engineering at Pennsylvania State University and has won technology awards and millions of investors.

Last year Vitable went through the renowned technology start-up accelerator Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, and Kitonga won a scholarship from the foundation of billionaire technology investor Peter Thiel. The scholarship is $ 100,000 over two years for young entrepreneurs who skip college or drop out to start a business.

Forbes recently launched Kitonga. called one of his 30 entrepreneurs under 30 years of age that can be observed in 2022.

Vitable, headquartered in Woodlyn and with a second office in Northern Liberties, sells virtual and personal primary and emergency care services to small hourly employers and charges approximately $ 50 per month per employee. The company has gained a foothold in a competitive environment and joined tech titans like with the aim of eliminating inefficiencies and inconveniences in basic services.

Despite all of its technology awards, Kitonga’s business has a human focus that is from the health issues of its employees. is inspired Hosana Home Health Care, a Delaware County company that his parents founded in 2012.

“In their small business, hourly workers earned too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford full health insurance, so they got stuck uninsured and overwhelmed the emergency room,” Kitonga said. “Vitable is designed as a basic care plan that is both affordable and accessible.”

Vitable was a hit at Somerset Academy, a daycare and preschool on West Girard Avenue near Eighth Street.

“You don’t want to go to the doctor’s office. You don’t want to be harassed, ”said Green, a seasoned preschool teacher who has worked in Somerset for two years, when you are sick. “That’s what I like. Every time I have a problem or a problem, they are always quick, always calling and even checking back later. I like it.”

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On December 17, Vicky Tubens-Lowa, a nurse who works for Vitable about eight hours a week, was in Somerset to do the required annual physical exams for Green and other staff. Somerset employs 22.

“We absolutely love Vitable,” said Tiffany Chavous, the director of Somerset, remembering Vitable coming to her home to check her for a sore throat. Chavous also received her physical exam from Tubens-Lowa on the 17th.

Vitable’s approach attracted a $ 1.6 million investment earlier this year, led by SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, and Vitable announced in October that it had raised $ 7.2 million in venture capital for the expansion. The next market will be Baltimore in February, Kitonga said.

Philadelphia’s First Round Capital contributed more than 80% of the recent investments in Vitable, which employs 22 and employs approximately 50 nurses like Tubens-Lowa as independent contractors to do much of the care. Vitable did not disclose its annual sales or profitability.

Josh Kopelman, first round partner, chairman of the board of directors of The Inquirer, said it was important for a startup founder to have a deep understanding of the problem the company was trying to solve, often having poor access to affordable ones Health care.

“Joseph connects with it on so many levels,” said Kopelman. “This is not someone who won a business plan competition with a random idea. This is someone who is deeply connected to the problem. “

Vitable isn’t the only company involved in basic services, however. Over the past 10 years there has been a spate of investment in primary care and telemedicine by startups and giants like CVS Health Corp., which has planned HealthHubs nationwide for primary in-store services. The Plymouth Meeting award, which began helping large corporate employees navigate healthcare providers, this year paid $ 380 million for PlushCare Inc., an online primary care provider.

“In basic services, what happens today is that all of the big tech companies like Amazon and many of the digital startups are getting into basic services because it’s relatively safe to price in the risk and manage the population,” said Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting in near Chicago specializing in digital healthcare. He said primary care with these new models can be very profitable, depending on the health of the population covered.

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Padmanabhan noted that Vitable’s approach to primary care – among small employers – is at the other end of the market from Amazon Care, which seeks to attract large employers to its mix of virtual and personal primary care. Personal visits are only possible in some markets.

Kitonga and Kopelman said most primary care startups are intended as a convenience for large corporate employees who already have good access to health services.

“This is of course the most profitable segment of the market, but they have the long tail of the market, small businesses, the hourly workers utterly underserved,” Kitonga said of the industry in general. “I was interested in where I wanted to set up this service for my parents and their employees. I think the problem still has to be solved here. “

The backbone of Vitable is a software system developed by Kitonga and its employees that enables the company to manage the “end-to-end experience”, including the app for members, the electronic health record of visits and the dashboard for employers, said Kitonga, who left Penn State in January 2020 and turned down a job as a software engineer with Microsoft Corp. to focus on Vitable.

Consumers can reach Vitable by phone, email or a smartphone app. After this initial contact, Vitable’s algorithms guide the patient to “the most suitable care facility, be it a brief virtual visit or a home visit. All of this enables us to provide same day visits to members, ”Kitonga said. The service is not available to anyone age 65 and older due to Medicare rules, Vitable said.

Nurses like Tubens-Lowa, who also works in an emergency center, tell Vitable of their availability in two-week blocks. “That gives you a lot of flexibility. I can give them as much or as little time as I have available, ”she said.

Olive Baimba, President of Elite Care & Staffing LLC in Upper Darby, was thrilled to hear about Vitable in September 2020. Your home care workers have faced months of delays – due to the devastation COVID-19 has wreaked on health care – in the annual physical exam required to work as a caregiver.

Elite’s HR manager found out about Vitable when a company nurse came to their office building to conduct medical examinations at another home care company based there. Elite soon signed up for the service and now has a three-year contract for 150 full-time workers, Baimba said. Elite employs a total of more than 300.

“When we signed up, I was blown away. It was amazing their quality of service, ”said Baimba.

Some employers see Vitable as an added benefit that can help retain and attract workers in times of widespread labor shortages.

That’s why Jon Myerow, founder and partner of Tria, which has three restaurants in Center City, bought the service for its 65 employees. Tria also offers traditional health insurance, which gradually pays a higher percentage of the premium as the employee increases in seniority, he said.

“Vitable is good for people with and without health insurance,” Myerow said. “It offers no-co-payment health care and it’s incredibly convenient because there are nurses who go to employees’ homes or work, or do telemedicine. I’ve seen people use it with Cadillac plans just because it’s convenient. “

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