Rural healthcare platform Homeward raises $50 million

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The company also announced its first value-based care partnership with Priority Health

There is a geographical divide in America when it comes to healthcare: those living in rural communities are experiencing increasing health disparities due to accelerated rural hospital closures and physician shortages.  

Dr. Jennifer Schneider, CEO of Homeward, a company that focuses on improving healthcare access in rural communities, saw these realities first-hand, having grown up in a small town in Minnesota.  

“I often say that healthcare isn’t just kind of broken, it’s massively broken. In fact, people living in rural communities have a 23% higher mortality rate than those in urban communities, independent of socioeconomic status,” she said.

“This is largely due to a lack of access to high-quality care. Rural communities face mounting physician shortages, especially when it comes to specialists, and increasing hospital closures. In fact, nearly 80% of rural counties are short on primary care doctors and 9% have none.”

Homeward’s solution, which is to offer a hybrid model that combines both virtual and in-person care, has caught on with investors: on Wednesday, the company announced a $50 million Series B funding round co-led by ARCH Venture Partners and Human Capital, with participation from General Catalyst, as well as Lee Shapiro and Glen Tullman, co-founders of 7wireVentures.

This follows the company’s $20 million round when it launched in March of this year. While Homeward did not immediately need this funding after raising its Series A just five months ago, the company is “taking advantage of the fortunate opportunity, which allows us to more quickly expand into new markets – including additional states and regions,” Schneider explained.

“Our Series B was led by people we know, trust, and are dedicated to our mission in the long-term. We are fortunate to have investors who are true partners in our mission to rearchitect the delivery of health and care in partnership with communities everywhere, starting in rural America,” she said.

Homeward’s platform includes a multidisciplinary care team that is available both virtually and on the ground via mobile care units, along with in-home remote monitoring to capture biometric data, allowing the team to monitor their risk and get them care when appropriate. 

For example, a patient is suffering from heart failure is often diagnosed only when they arrive in the ER. With Homeward, they get remote patient monitoring, which can detect the early signs of a heart problem; in-home visits to test, diagnose and treat the problem; and virtual visits to follow-up until the problem is resolved.

Homeward avoids problems with broadband limitations in rural markets by leveraging cellular-based monitoring devices and virtual services. The company also works closely with each community it enters in order to outfit an access-to-care model that augments, rather than displaces, local primary care physicians and hospitals. The idea is to take a tailored approach to each market, and not try a one sized fits all approach.

In conjunction with the funding, Homeward also announced its first value-based care partnership with nonprofit health plan Priority Health. Through this partnership, Priority Health Medicare Advantage members who choose to receive care from Homeward will have access to their technology-enabled care team beginning with at-home visits and also available through Homeward’s community-based mobile clinics

Partnering with Priority Health will allow Homeward to make care available to 30,000 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries living in rural Michigan over the next three years.

“Priority Health is an incredible partner and fully aligned in our mission of rearchitecting the delivery of health and care in partnership with communities everywhere, starting in rural America,” said Schneider.

One major benefit of this partnership is that Priority Health is the health plan arm of the BHSH System, including Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, which is the largest health system in Michigan. It also enables unique integrations with local physicians and health systems, she explained.

“Ultimately, the challenge in rural America today is access to high-quality care and in order to solve those challenges, Homeward is focused on integrating with local providers rather than trying to displace them. Our partnership with Priority Health enables us to build unique connections and integrations from the beginning.”

This not the first partnership for Homeward: in May, the company announced a partnership with Rite Aid for the company to host Homeward’s mobile care units at select Rite Aid pharmacies located in rural Michigan. 

The company says it will use the new funds to scaling its on-the-ground and virtual multidisciplinary care teams, including specialty care, as it expands into additional states in the coming months through value-based contracts with health plans. 

“Interestingly, over half of Michigan’s counties are rural and Michigan has the third most Medicare eligible individuals living in rural communities in the US, making it a perfect state in which to begin rearchitecting the way rural healthcare is delivered. We will continue expanding into states and regions that have a similar need,” Schneider said. 

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