Health Systems Invest in Innovative Startups to Advance Care

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Global digital health funding for startups totaled $7.1 billion in Q2, a 32% drop from the same quarter a year prior, mirroring a broader trend in health care venture funding, according to a July report from CB Insights.

But that hasn’t stopped health systems from participating in funding innovative startups with the potential to improve various aspects of care delivery. Here’s a look at some recent deals that caught our eye.

Addressing Pediatric Anxiety Issues

InStride Healtha startup co-created by Mass. General Brigham to provide virtual care for children with moderate to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder issues, launched recently. The company raised $26 million with investments from Mass General Brigham Ventures, .406 Ventures and Valtruis.

InStride patients and their families engage in a tailored, outpatient virtual care journey that includes individual and group therapy, coaching and medication management delivered by an experienced coordinated care team of psychiatrists, therapists and coaches. Covered by insurance and leveraging technology, InStride’s model emphasizes the human touch. The program has begun to expand nationally.

Understanding Patients’ Emotions

Northwell Holdingsthe investment arm of Northwell Healthrecently invested $3 million in Hume AI, an expressive communications research lab and AI startup. The investment is designed to address the growing demand for scientific tools to understand language and nonverbal expression in the health care field.

Hume AI will use the funding to refine its machine learning models for use in health applications, including clinical research, patient screening and accessibility technology. The models, accessible through Hume AI’s integrated platform, address a shortcoming of natural language understanding (NLU) tools, which convert speech into text. NLU tools overlook how the meaning of speech can be transformed dramatically by its tune, rhythm and timbre, along with nonverbal utterances such as laughs, sighs and gasps. The features are particularly important for understanding health conditions such as pain, major depression and cognitive impairment.

Expanding Risk-Based Contracting

Boston-based startup Vincere Health recently raised a customer-led strategic funding round of $1.75 million to support its engagement and prevention platform to reach complex populations that are costly to treat. Vincere has built expertise in activating, engaging and driving objectively measurable outcomes in smoking cessation among some of the hardest-to-reach populations in health care — low-income individuals, those in remote rural settings, and across diverse minority population groups.

The funding opportunity was driven by Inception Healththe innovation arm of the Froedtert & the Medical College in Wisconsin health network, with participation by BrightEdge, the impact investment and venture capital arm of the American Cancer Society. Among Medicaid patients, who represent 75% of those Vincere has treated, the platform uses a financial incentive, remote monitoring and data analytics tools that complement human clinical care. The program reportedly has achieved compliance rates in excess of 62% and quit rates in excess of 40% for complex populations.

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