When Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO of rural health startup Homeward, was 12 years old, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But living in rural Minnesota, she hadn’t seen an endocrinologist in a long time.
“It wasn’t until I went to medical school that I realized how scary and dangerous it was,” said Schneider, who previously served as president and chief medical officer of Livongo.
San Francisco-based Homeward works to fill the gap in primary and specialty care in rural areas. The company announced on Wednesday that it has secured $50 million in Series B funding from ARCH Venture Partners and Human Capital. The company launched in March with an initial investment of $20 million from General Catalyst, bringing the total money raised to $70 million. Schneider’s own experience reflects the shortage of both specialists and primary care physicians in rural areas across the country. Wellor instancee, 61% of areas with a shortage of primary care specialists are rural, according to Rural Health Information Centre.
The startup also announced its first value-based care partnership with Michigan-based Priority Health, a BHSH System health insurer. Through the partnership, Homeward will provide primary and specialty care to more than 30,000 Medicare Advantage members in rural Michigan.
With the new funding, Homeward hopes to expand beyond Michigan into additional markets and partner with other health plans, though Schneider declined to mention what partnerships the company is currently exploring.
“Through the partnership, we are able to demonstrate how new types of technology-enabled care models that are designed for rural Americans and integrate with local providers and health systems can expand clinical capacity in these communities and deliver better clinical outcomes at lower costs,” Schneider said. “We’ve had a lot of excitement from across the industry since the partnership was announced.”
Working with Priority Health, Homeward’s clinicians — who are local to the communities where they provide care — will begin with home visits to their patients.
“This is really key to the rural market and allows us to gain a lot of insight into how to provide care for that individual,” Schneider said.
Clinicians are also available to patients virtually or in the community with mobile clinics. If necessary, Homeward will refer patients to other local providers or hospital systems for in-person visits.
Members use cellular remote monitoring technology so Homeward’s clinicians can monitor patients’ health between visits. Using this form of technology instead of an Internet connection is beneficial in rural areas where broadband is lacking, Schneider said.
“There is certainly limited broadband connectivity in rural markets,” Schneider said. “But there are many innovations and technologies that can be used without broadband. There are many remote monitoring devices that work without a cellular connection, so you don’t need to have internet.
Homeward makes money through a value-based care model, which means it takes the full financial risk for the cost of care and outcomes for its patients. It is encouraged to provide preventive, home care through the use of technology. The goal is to keep patients healthy and therefore avoid the possibility of needing expensive medical procedures.
Homeward isn’t the only startup in the rural value-based care market, Schneider said. Another is Nashville-based Main Street Health, which launched in June 2021 and pairs participating healthcare facilities’ Medicare beneficiaries with a local health navigator. But Homeward differentiates itself by working with existing providers and adding care with its own clinicians, Schneider said.
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