Health insurance provider Humana is partnering with telehealth start-up Heal, which includes a $100 million investment that will be used to help the five-year-old company expand into new markets, such as Chicago, Charlotte and Houston, the companies announced Wednesday.
The five year-old company that provides an Uber-like doctors-on-call service, along with telemedicine, is riding a wave of burgeoning demand due to Covid-19 concerns. In May, it launched Heal Teletherapy for those suffering from anxiety, fear, depression and other mental health issues during the crisis.
The back-to-the-future model is simple: Doctor services are delivered to a patient's home on demand through an app. Users input their personal medical details and credit card information and request a doctor in their local area.
The partnership also allows the two companies to deliver primary care services to Humana members, many of whom are older or living with multiple chronic conditions, in the comfort of their own home. Heal provides services to Medicare-eligible patients, group commercial and those with individual coverage. Added flexibility and the option for expanded home-based care is something that Humana said has been in high demand from members throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The partnership with Heal is part of Humana's efforts to build a broader set of offerings across the spectrum of home-based care, with high-quality, value-based primary care being a key foundational element," said Susan Diamond, Humana's segment president of home business, in a statement. "We continue to see high levels of customer satisfaction and improved health outcomes when care is delivered in the home. Our goal is to make the health-care experience easier, more personalized and caring for the people we serve — and is the hallmark of how Humana delivers human care."
Diamond will also join Heal's board as part of the deal.
The number of global telehealth patients continues to rise year over year, reaching more than 7 million in 2018. One report from the American Hospital Association shows that 74% of U.S. consumers would be open to using telemedicine services, and 76% prioritize having access to care over the need for human interactions with care providers. For Heal, home visits have gone up 33% and telemedicine appointments have risen 8,000% since January, but the company did not provide specific figures.
"Today the vision my co-founder, Dr. Renee Dua, and I had over five years ago took a huge step forward," said Nick Desai, co-founder and CEO of Heal in a statement. "Humana's investment and strategic partnership are an irreplaceable catalyst to make doctor house-call-based primary care an affordable and effective reality for all Americans. We're honored to work with the entire Humana team so that one day soon, all of us can open our doors to better care."
To date, Heal has delivered more than 200,000 home visits through its mobile app and website, which patients use to book board-certified, licensed doctors. The cost for a 30–90 minute house call is $159, although the typical cost to a patient is under $25, as most insurance plans cover the costs. Heal doctors come with a medical assistant and a host of portable testing machinery to perform everything from an EKG, ultrasound and bone scan to blood testing and allergy screening. Although the company does not treat emergencies, it can get a look at the patient's living conditions and access to food and prescriptions they need to stay healthy.
Global venture capital funding into digital health companies in the first quarter of 2020 came to a record $3.6 billion across a collective 142 deals compared with $1.7 billion across 142 deals in the fourth quarter of 2019, Mercom Capital reported in its first-quarter digital health funding and M&A report. Additionally, total corporate funding into digital health increased by 112% with $3.7 billion in the first quarter of 2020 compared with $1.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, the research firm reported.
Heal's latest funding helps to more than double its previous valuation to $300 million and allows Humana to join the ranks of notable celebrity investors such as Lionel Richie, Jeb Bush and the Ellison family, among others.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the typical cost for a 30–90 minute house call is $159, which amounts to under $25 for patients, as most insurance plans cover the costs.