Impact Tech Opportunity Series (Pt. 4): Health

By Tasha Seitz and Chris Wu

As active impact investors, we’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds of entrepreneurs doing incredible work across each of our four areas of focus: education, health, economic empowerment and resource efficiency. We’ve learned a lot about what opportunities exist to leverage technology for good and how various companies are solving these problems. As we celebrate our five year anniversary, we thought it would be valuable to share some of our observations with the broader impact investing field.

Part four in the series is an overview of what we’ve seen in the world of digital health. US healthcare spending overall represents 18% of GDP, and improving healthcare utilization by disadvantaged communities is an enormous opportunity to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes. The trend towards accountable care is driving investment in technology innovation, and we see many attractive and impactful investment opportunities in this space. We have observed four broad themes in the health sector.

Accessibility

The timely use of health services plays an important role in achieving the best patient outcomes. However, patients face many barriers to accessing services, including high costs, lack of insurance coverage, and lack of available services. Inadequate access to care can result in unmet physical and mental health needs, increased financial burdens, and preventable hospitalizations. Unfortunately, disparities in access persist along race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic lines.

One of our portfolio companies, ConsejoSano, is deeply committed to breaking down barriers to adequate preventative and primary healthcare services for the 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US. They offer a platform that helps Spanish-speaking patients navigate the healthcare system by connecting users to native Spanish-speaking health professionals who guide them to in-network services, offer health counseling, and answer questions about self-care. Hispanics experience a 59% higher incidence of childhood obesity and diabetes rates almost 2x those of non-Hispanic whites. ConsejoSano’s services increase patient engagement, reduce unnecessary ER visits, and improve HEDIS performance, which in turn leads to improved patient outcomes for a large, underserved population. ConsejoSano has expanded their services to other non-English speaking populations.

Kaizen Health, another portfolio company, offers a platform that acts as a logistics hub for health systems and payers, allowing them to provide transportation services to patients. Each year approximately 3.6 million people either miss or delay medical care due to a lack of transportation. Providing rides to patients removes a crucial barrier to accessing care, thus enabling better patient outcomes.

Management & Care of Chronic Conditions

Chronic diseases are one of the main drivers of spiraling health costs. Healthcare spending overall represents approximately 18% of US GDP, and patients with chronic conditions are responsible for 75% of those costs. Chronic diseases are the top cause of death and disability in the US, yet many cases involving chronic diseases are preventable.

Past accelerator company Prana Diabetes is intent on tackling one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the US. There are 31 million people in the US who have diabetes, and another 85 million are pre-diabetic; $250 billion is spent annually on managing the condition. In conjunction with the CDC and American Diabetes Association, Prana developed a scalable diabetes prevention and management software program called HabitNu. It combines education, peer support, and state of the art mobile technology to deliver phone-based monitoring and recording of specific health markers related to diabetes, while also leveraging the patient’s personal support network.

Aging Populations

The population of Americans aged 65 years or older continues to experience unprecedented growth. Longer life spans and the aging Baby Boomer generation will lead the older adult population to more than double by 2050. Healthy aging will play a key role in ensuring older adults maintain a high quality of life, retain a certain level of independence, and avoid unnecessarily high healthcare costs.

Luna Lights is a portfolio company addressing issue through the creation of an automated lighting system that utilizes cloud-based data analytics to reduce the risk of falling for older adults. For people who are 65 and older, the number one cause of death from injury is from falling. A significant number of falls occur at night, when visibility is reduced. At the senior living facilities where Luna Lights is installed, residents have seen up to a 50% reduction in total falls and a 93% reduction in nighttime falls.

Adherence & Virtualized Health Solutions

The usage of virtual care is on the rise as a potentially powerful tool to enhance and deepen the patient-provider experience. Telehealth has the potential to drastically improve access to care in a multitude of settings, from chronic disease management to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.

One of our portfolio companies, Regroup Therapy, is focused on addressing the $520 billion problem of unmet behavioral health needs by improving access to high quality mental and behavioral health services. Their platform allows clinicians to provide on-demand, virtual mental health services via a secure, encrypted video connection. So far, they have facilitated over 5,000 sessions with behavioral health specialists, increasing access to mental/ behavioral health in underserved areas and correctional facilities.

Workit Health, another company in our portfolio, has developed a personalized online addiction care program that reimagines how treatment works for individuals, employers, and insurers. It targets the 20 million US adults who have substance abuse disorders, as well as the tens of millions who engage in risky substance use. Workit’s program utilizes interactive lessons, on-demand coaching support, and digital tools to improve adherence and patient outcomes versus traditional programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Workit Health recently launched Workit Clinic, a program targeting opioid use to address the addiction crisis through in-person clinics in Michigan.

We are excited to see the landscape of the health sector continue to evolve, and we welcome your thoughts.

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