- Humana is investing $100 million in an at-home primary care startup Heal, the two companies announced Wednesday.
- Under the terms of the deal, which marked a major Series D funding round for Los Angeles-based Heal, Humana and Heal will offer value-based primary care through doctor house calls and telemedicine in new markets, including Chicago; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Houston. Heal, which already operates in seven states and Washington, D.C., will also use the investment to explore new service lines and build out its technology infrastructure, CEO Nick Desai told Healthcare Dive.
- The effort is aimed to make it easier for seniors and people managing multiple chronic conditions to receive care in the home. Heal's network of about 150 doctors and nurse practitioners provide a variety of primary care and preventive services, including screening for COVID-19 symptoms, medication refills, vaccinations and check-ups.
The healthcare industry is increasingly investing in primary care, a segment neglected and underfunded in recent years and facing an unprecedented financial threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A handful of tech giants, retail pharmacy companies and health systems are partnering with medical groups or striking out on their own to build primary care clinics, whether for their employees or the public. Some, like Walgreens' partnership with provider group VillageMD, offer at-home visits for vulnerable populations.
Heal is in-network with 25 major private payers and Medicare, and out-of-pocket costs for in-home or virtual visits for those beneficiaries vary between $0 and $30. For uninsured patients, a Heal house call is $159 and a telemedicine visit with a Heal provider is $79.
The company touts its retention rates: Among the commercially insured, Desai said 55% of patients who try Heal become regular users. That figure rises to 70% among Medicare beneficiaries.
The disruption of primary care was already well on its way before the pandemic reared its head in the U.S., but COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to care in the home as patients balked at the potential for virus transmission in hospitals and doctor's offices.
Heal, which shifted to a "virtual first" model as COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S., has seen its telehealth visits increase by 800% and doctor house calls increase by 35% since the beginning of the pandemic, Desai said.
"The fact that healthcare belongs in the home — there's an exclamation mark to it, because of the pandemic, but we believed it before," Desai said.
The deal with Humana, part of its ongoing push to integrate social determinants of health factors into healthcare, has been in the works since December. Payers are generally interested in primary care for its health outcomes and cost savings potential.
Humana's president of home business, Susan Diamond, will be joining Heal's Board of Directors as part of the deal.
Heal, which was founded in 2014, delivered more than 200,000 home visits in its first five years of operation. The company has a presence in New York, New Jersey, Washington, California, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C., but "we want to be everywhere," Desai said.
The company is attracted to geographies traditionally underserved with poor health outcomes, large metropolitan areas with a large number of seniors and insurance offerings and areas not dominated by a few powerful hospital systems, Desai said.
As for new service lines, the company recently expanded into teletherapy, but is also considering more specialty care, where a primary care physician can examine a patient backed up by a remote specialist, such as in dermatology or cardiology, along with physical therapy.
Before the closure of its Series D round, Heal had raised $95 million in funding and was valued at almost $137 million, per CNBC. It acquired rival Doctors on Call in September last year for $15 million in cash and stock to build out its footprint.