Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Hybrid provider Homeward launches with $20M to focus on rural healthcare

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Rural hybrid care provider Homeward launched Monday with a $20 million investment from General Catalyst.

The startup, led by vets from chronic care management company Livongo, aims to improve access to primary and specialty care in rural communities, initially focused on heart health.

Homeward will utilize both virtual and in-person care. Its telehealth and remote monitoring services will rely on cellular networks instead of broadband, which can be harder to find in rural areas. In-person care will be delivered through mobile units that can visit patients in their homes.

The company will also work with local hospitals and physicians, sending patients to these providers when necessary. To start, the company plans to partner with regional Medicare Advantage plans to offer these services.

“Homeward was created to provide high-quality and affordable care for people who live in rural communities using a model that is designed to meet their unique needs,” Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO of Homeward, said in a statement.

“We believe that by combining easy-to-use technology, evidence-based care delivery, in-home and in-community services, and aligning the care model to the right incentives, we’ll be the first to offer a new approach that provides the high-quality care that everyone deserves – no matter where they live.”

WHY IT MATTERS

Delivering care in rural areas is a pain point for the U.S. healthcare system. According to the CDC, rural Americans have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, and they face longer travel times to both emergency and specialty care. A study published last year in JAMA Network Open found the disparity in age-adjusted mortality between rural and urban groups has grown worse over the past two decades.

Meanwhile, 181 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, according to a tracker by the University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. Nineteen closed in 2020 alone in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest number since the university began following closures.

THE LARGER TREND

Homeward’s executive team features several former Livongo leaders, including Amar Kendale, former chief product officer at Livongo, now cofounder and president at Homeward; Dr. Bimal Shah, former chief medical officer, who will serve as chief operating officer; and Brian Vandenberg, former general counsel at both the American Medical Association and Livongo, who joins as chief administrative officer and general counsel. 

The company’s CEO Schneider was formerly president at Livongo. The big-name chronic-care management company merged with telehealth giant Teladoc Health in an $18.5 billion deal in 2020.

Dr. Aaron Friedkin, former senior vice president of care delivery transformation at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, will serve as chief revenue officer.

Though Homeward is focused on rural areas, there are other provider startups offering a hybrid approach to delivering healthcare. Carbon Health made several acquisitions last year, including a diabetes care platform, a remote patient-monitoring company and a chain of urgent care clinics.

One Medical, a primary care provider, scooped up the senior-focused Iora Health last year and launched its own chronic-care management product



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