CNBC Disruptor 50

28. Cityblock Health

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Founders: Iyah Romm (CEO), Bay Gross, Dr. Toyin Ajayi
Launched: 2017
Headquarters: Brooklyn
Funding:
$491.3 million
Valuation: N/A
Key technologies:
Cloud computing, machine learning
Industry:
Health care
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 0

Persephone Kavallines

After a year in which the U.S. has reckoned with deep, institutional levels of racial and economic injustice related to Covid-19 and law enforcement, the question of whether health care is a right or a privilege seems prescient. But it's the wrong framing of the question for Cityblock Health, a provider of health-care services to Medicaid and Medicare recipients in low-income communities. Its mission is to prove that good health-care is not only a right that should be extended to every citizen, but it can be delivered as an innovative, profitable business.

Covid-19 revealed deep fractures in society, the inequity of the nation's social and health safety net, and the need for a radical transformation of community health focused on treating high-risk, high-needs patients. Brooklyn-based Cityblock says it is upending a broken system to create health justice, repair trust and provide a new category of comprehensive care.

It proved it was up to the challenge in the worst of the pandemic.

Within two weeks of the lockdown in New York City, the company had deployed a new care model sending experienced paramedics into the homes of patients facing acute medical needs, like pain or shortness of breath, who then video call an emergency physician. These physician-paramedic teams offer the same assessment and care as an urgent care center or emergency department. 

While some medical businesses were struggling to stay afloat during Covid-19, Cityblock went beyond its enhanced in-home urgent care capabilities, launching a pregnancy care program, including a direct telehealth connection to fill gaps left by the pandemic's impact — which exacerbated an already fragmented system for mothers. Community health partners, doulas, behavioral health specialists, an OBGYN, a pediatrician, a midwife, and lactation support were all trained using what Cityblock refers to as a reproductive justice-informed framework, available on-demand by SMS, video, or phone.

Cityblock's community-first model extended beyond core health services to the creation of a volunteer food delivery program, a high-risk housing program, and a high-risk courier program to ensure members stayed safe from Covid. Showing up for communities often neglected was rewarded with a membership base that grew during the pandemic.

Investors were watching its success, too. In July 2020, Cityblock closed a $54 million funding round led by Swedish investor Kinnevik AB. Then in December, the company raised $160 million, led by General Catalyst.

It has expanded in Massachusetts in collaboration with Tufts Health Plan, to Washington, D.C., in collaboration with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Community Health Plan District of Columbia, and has announced plans to bring its care model to 10,000 Ohioans in urban Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, in partnership with Molina Healthcare.

Contributed by Eric Rosenbaum

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