When Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO of rural health care startup Homeward, was 12, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But living in rural Minnesota, she didn’t see a endocrinologist for 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 primary and specialty care void in rural areas. The company announced 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 funds raised to $70 million. Schneider’s own experience reflects the lack of specialists and primary care physicians in rural areas across the country. For momente, 61% of primary care health worker shortage areas are rural, according to the Rural Health Information Hub.
The startup also announced its first value-based care partnership with Michigan-based Priority Health, a health insurer under BHSH System. Through this 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 outside of Michigan into other markets and partner with other health plans, though Schneider declined to mention which partnerships the company is currently exploring.
“Through this partnership, we are able to demonstrate how new types of technology-enabled care models that are purpose-built for rural Americans and integrate with local health care providers and systems can expand capacity. clinic within these communities and deliver better clinical outcomes at reduced costs,” said Schneider. “Following the announcement of the partnership, we have experienced great excitement across the industry.”
Working with Priority Health, Homeward’s clinicians — who are local to the communities in which they provide care — will begin with home visits for its patients.
“It’s really essential in a rural market, and it gives us a lot of knowledge about how to provide care for that person,” 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 mobile phone-based remote monitoring technology so that Homeward clinicians can track their patients’ health status between visits. Using this form of technology rather than internet connection is beneficial in rural areas where broadband is lacking, Schneider said.
“For sure, broadband connectivity in rural markets is limited,” Schneider said. “But there are a lot of innovations and technologies that can be exploited without broadband. There are many remote monitoring devices that work with cellular connectivity, so you don’t need the internet.
Homeward makes money through a value-based model of care, which means it takes full financial risk of the cost of care and the outcomes of its patients. It is encouraged to provide preventative home care by leveraging technology. The aim is to keep patients healthy and thus avoid the risk 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 spear in June 2021 and matches Medicare beneficiaries at participating healthcare facilities with a local healthcare navigator. But Homeward differentiates itself by working with existing providers and adding care with its own clinicians, Schneider said.
Photo: Pongasn68, Getty Images