NBR: Robinson-backed Tend buys two new medical centres

Article by Andrew Bevin, originally published on National Business Review, 13/12/21

It’s the health tech provider’s first acquisitions since raising $15m in early 2021.

Auckland-based digital-first healthcare provider Tend Health has bought two GP practices following a $15 million capital raise at the start of the year.

Founded in late 2020 by serial entrepreneurs Cecilia and James Robinson, Dr Mataroria Lyndon and former PushPay executive John Robb, Tend allows patients to make appointments and have online video consultations with doctors and nurses through an app outside of typical GP hours.

The company raised $15m in January in a round including then Infratil chief executive Marko Bogoievski, which it planned to put towards buying medical centres. Other heavyweight backers include former Telecom chief executive and My Food Bag cofounder Theresa Gattung, who is Tend’s chair, and Dr Lee Mathias, who founded Birthcare and Labtests. Gattung invested with the Robinsons in My Food Bag.

This morning Tend has announced the purchase of the Symonds Street Medical Centre and Pakuranga Medical Centres in central and east Auckland for an undisclosed price. It now operates three physical clinics including its existing Kingsland location.

Tend co-chief executive Cecilia Robinson said the new clinics were important milestones for the company which is now over a year old.

“It’s been an awesome year, we’ve met all of our milestones, and probably overachieved on some of the things that we set out to do at the start of the year.

“Obviously lockdown has created its fair set of challenges and the environments of operating in primary healthcare, but we’re really pleased.”

Robinson said whole parts of the business weren’t able to operate under level four restrictions and some people weren’t seeing the doctor when they should during lockdown, creating a period of pent up demand.

Tend has ‘tens of thousands of users’ and has facilitated 80,000 interactions so far, two thirds over the internet with a 95% patient satisfaction rate.

The Symonds St medical centre is already integrated into Tend’s network, while Pakuranga won’t be integrated until 2022, and company has more acquisitions in the pipeline. Robinson said the company had several acquisition targets in Auckland and nationwide it will chase next year.

“We will definitely go nationwide, I have no doubt about that and we can do that with a couple of different mechanisms, which we’re currently examining, whether its through partnership or our own physical infrastructure.

“One of the decisions that we made early on with Tend was that we didn’t want to be an online provider only, because then you get fragmented care and we want to be a full-service family healthcare provider, and while a significant portion of our patients see us online, we still want to be able to see our patients in clinic. Having physical infrastructure nationwide is critical and also from an equity perspective, it’s really important to us.”

Tend’s goal setting out was to make New Zealand the healthiest country in the world, and believes its platform can help keep the ageing workforce of GPs in service while simultaneously attracting younger doctors to the field.

The average age of a GP is 53 and, with younger doctors increasingly reluctant or unable to buy into a practice, Tend hopes to be able to attract younger doctors by offering flexible working with lower overheads.

Robinson said the looming workforce shortage was “quite terrifying”, but by looking at allocation of owner-operator resources and handling the HR, payroll and other background parts of the business, they could take the pain points away and free up GP time.

“Once you start unravelling the technology platforms that we use in New Zealand to deliver healthcare, it’s pretty horrendous to be frank, it’s so disjointed and it just hasn’t had the right level of investment or disruption for a really long time.”

She said Tend’s investment in a collaboration between tech workers and clinicians was showing benefits within the year.

The Robinsons have a 53.6% stake in Tend, with Gattung holding 24.95%, Bogoievski holding
13.53% and three smalling holdings.