When Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO of rural healthcare startup Homeward, was 12 years old, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But living in rural Minnesota, she did not see an endocrinologist for a long time.
“It wasn’t until I went to medical school that I realized how scary and dangerous that was,” said Schneider, who was previously the president and chief medical officer of Livongo.
San Francisco-based Homeward is working to fill in the gap of primary and specialty care in rural areas. The company announced on Wednesday that it 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 mirrors the lack of both specialists and primary care physicians in rural areas throughout the country. For instance, 61% of primary care health professional shortage areas are rural, according to 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 the partnership, Homeward will provide primary and specialty care to upwards of 30,000 Medicare Advantage members in rural Michigan.
With the new funding, Homeward hopes to expand outside of 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 kinds of technology-enabled care models, that are purpose build for rural Americans, and integrate with local providers and health systems, can expand clinical capacity within these communities and deliver better clinical outcomes at lower costs,” Schneider said. “Following the partnership announcement, we have experienced great excitement from across the industry.”
By working with Priority Health, Homeward’s clinicians — who are local to the communities they’re providing care in — will start with home visits for its patients.
“That’s really key in a rural market, and it allows us to gain a lot of insight as to how to provide care for that individual,” Schneider said.
The clinicians are also available to patients virtually or in the community with mobile clinics. If needed, Homeward will refer patients to other local providers or hospital systems for in-person visits.
Members use cellular-based remote monitoring technology so Homeward’s clinicians can keep track of its patients’ health in between visits. Using this form of technology rather than internet-connection is beneficial in rural areas where broadband is lacking, Schneider said.
“There’s limited broadband connectivity in rural markets for sure,” Schneider said. “But there’s a lot of innovation and technology that can be leveraged without broadband. There are a lot of remote monitoring devices that run off cellular connectivity, so you don’t have to have the internet.”
Homeward makes money through a value-based care model, meaning it takes full financial risk of the cost of care and outcomes of its patients. It is incentivized to provide preventive, home-based care by leveraging technology. The goal is to keep patients healthy and therefore avoid the chance of needing costly 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 Medicare beneficiaries of participating health facilities 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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