It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the digital health space, and so it’s also no surprise that a lot of the startups in this area are currently getting funded. Conversa Health, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that provides a virtual care and communication platform for personalized healthcare, is among these startups. The company today announced that it has raised a $12 million Series B round led by Builders VC and Northwell Ventures, the venture arm of Northwell Health, one of the largest healthcare providers in New York, with 23 hospitals and 800 outpatient facilities.
With this round, which also saw the participation of P5 Health Ventures, Nassau Street Ventures and Ohio’s UH Ventures (the venture arm of Ohio’s University Hospitals), Conversa has now raised a total of over $26 million.
In addition, the company also today announced that it has appointed Murray Brozinsky as its new CEO. Conversa co-founder — and now former CEO — West Shell III will become the company’s executive chairman.
“I used to say that virtual health is inevitable,” Brozinsky told me. “And the reason is that we can talk about the economics and how healthcare is moving to a value-based reimbursement system and how we’re gonna break the bank in spending 20% of GDP and our need to improve the patient experience. So you can see how it would become the predominant way that we practice healthcare in this country. And with COVID, that has now become the catalyst for it to become a tipping point. So we’ve seen an acceleration of virtual care and we fully believe that the major health systems are going to implement platforms like this, in many cases, our platform as the first line.”
The goal, Brozinsky told me, is for Conversa’s platform to become the digital front door for a health system. The company’s automated chat-based platform can help triage patients and see if they need a virtual or in-person visit with a doctor, for example. But healthcare systems can also use it to check in on patients and gather data about them, either by asking for it or through connected devices. Indeed, as Brozinsky noted, in many ways, Conversa is a data company.
One new line of business is the company’s Employee HealthCheck services, which allows employers to screen workers before they return to work, using a simple Q&A process. In the current environment, where businesses are very much responsible for creating and maintaining a safe work environment, that’s indeed a very timely launch (and healthcare providers, too, are using the company’s system to screen patients and their loved ones before they arrive at their facilities).
“We think it’s going to be incumbent on employers to continue to screen their employees for COVID,” said Brozinsky. “And then on the heels of that, we’re seeing a lot of — and this has been an issue, but now it’s become a bigger issue — which is mental health. So a lot of PTSD, certainly from healthcare workers, stress and anxiety for lots of people in the environment. So we’ve got programs on the heels of COVID that are helping to screen for mental health.”
He also noted that while a lot of employers have launched wellness programs, the activation rates for these have remained very low, all while the nature of work is changing rapidly as people work remotely and are often scared to come in to work.
“Even before COVID-19, we have been expanding our work with Conversa throughout our organization over the last few years as they are a critical component of Northwell Health’s vision for virtual health, further strengthening the provider-patient relationship through personalized, insightful engagement,” said Joseph Schulman, senior vice president, Population Health, Business Transformation, for Northwell Health. “We have been successfully using Conversa to scale our communications and care for thousands of COVID-19 patients with programs focused on lab results, quarantine, antibody tests and more. Conversa has been an extraordinary partner.”