As the coronavirus pandemic increases the popularity of remote patient care, a Wharton MBA's start-up is virtually bringing veterinary medicine to homes around the country.
2020 Wharton MBA graduate Felicity Johnson founded the telemedicine iOS app and company My Virtual Veterinarian in 2019. The company's app allows users to choose a veterinarian on the app and make an appointment that fits the client's schedule, or to request an appointment online. The app then takes a percentage of the appointment fee set by the veterinarian.
Johnson and 2020 Wharton MBA and School of Veterinary Medicine graduate John Hurst, the company's adviser, won the Perlman Grand Prize for My Virtual Veterinarian in the 2020 Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship Startup Challenge.
The semester-long competition concluded on May 1 with the Penn Wharton Startup Showcase, where Johnson and Hurst presented the app virtually to a panel of judges. The company was selected from eight finalists and an original group of 30 semifinalists, and received $30,000 in funding with an additional $15,000 in legal, accounting, and strategy services.
Johnson said she decided to start the company after her cat Tiffany was diagnosed with cancer. She said she struggled to find time for Tiffany's frequent veterinary appointments, and wanted to help pet owners in the same position.
Johnson said the app's users increased more than 200% in April, and more than 300% in March, as coronavirus has led doctors to turn to telemedicine, including at Penn. In April, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania began treating pregnant women using telemedicine and chatbots to reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure during in-person treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration suspended regulations that required veterinarians to establish an in-person relationship before using telemedicine on March 24, allowing telemedicine to become an option for more clients, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Johnson said she hopes to expand My Virtual Veterinarian's consumer reach, and plans to use the funds from the challenge for website improvements and marketing efforts. She said she is confident the company will continue to grow even after the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the end of the day, while people can use the platform to have appointments in a socially distant way, the value of being able to access veterinary care that is more convenient ultimately hasn't gone away,” Johnson said.