Cityblock raises $160m to address healthcare inequities
Cityblock Health, a tech-focused healthcare provider for low income communities in the US, has raised $160 million in its Series C funding round, to grow their footprint and continue to improve access to healthcare and outcomes for marginalised communities.
The investment round brings Cityblock's total equity funding to $300 million. The new funding will be used to support Cityblock’s national expansion, to launch new service lines, and to continue investing in its proprietary technology platform, Commons, among other areas. They also aim to build further integrated home-based and virtual care services, MSO capabilities, analytics and contracting software to enable a consistent care model.
Founded in 2017, Cityblock Health partners with community-based organisations to deliver care to Medicaid and lower-income Medicare beneficiaries. This includes medical care, behavioral health, and social services; delivered virtually, at home, and in community-based clinics.
Their model reflects their philosophy that improving health outcomes and minimising systemic healthcare inequities requires addressing fundamental issues such as poverty, having access to nutritious food, and the ability for someone to safely care for themselves and others.
Technology is at the core of Cityblock's model, with custom-built tools supporting care team operations and patient interactions with clinicians. For instance, patients can speak to care providers via video consultations, and via a mobile app.
The company's care teams include doctors, nurses, advanced practice clinicians, behavioral health specialists, licensed clinical social workers, and community health partners. They also work closely with existing healthcare providers and social services organisations.
Cityblock currently serves 70,000 members in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC. The company says that over the past year, Cityblock members have seen reductions in hospital admission rates and improvements in quality outcomes, driving down costs across the board, while more than doubling membership and revenue, year-over-year.
Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Cityblock Health board member, has been vocal in the media about the impacts of the pandemic. Commenting on the new investment, he said: “The pandemic is making it abundantly clear that we need to address the deep health inequities in this country.
“We need a Cityblock in every community that we have ignored for too long and where the odds stack against people to live a healthy life. This investment takes us one step closer to making that a reality.”
New Cityblock investor General Catalyst led the funding round, with participation from Wellington Management and support from major existing investors, including Kinnevik AB, Maverick Ventures, Thrive Capital, and Redpoint Ventures among others.
Hemant Taneja, Managing Director at General Catalyst, said: “In just a few short years, the Cityblock team has shown that if new care delivery models align with the needs of the communities they serve, there is opportunity to measurably improve healthcare outcomes for the most vulnerable among us.
"By building their solutions on a modern technology stack with an orientation towards impact, we’re confident this team has the potential to scale to serve millions of people across the country in new and better ways.”
How health plans can reduce healthcare inequalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has put inequalities accessing the healthcare system in the spotlight. Jim Clement, Vice President of Product & Services at cloud provider Inovalon, tells us that health plans play the most integral role in advancing the health equity movement.
Why did it a global pandemic to highlight the issue of healthcare inequities?
Health inequity in the US has been well understood by healthcare professionals for many years, but it has become more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until the racial and ethnic differential seen in response to COVID-19 related infections, deaths and vaccinations that many Americans became acutely aware of the health inequity due to sociodemographic factors such as race, geography, education and income.
Fortunately, there’s now a growing health equity movement afoot in America which aims to improve public health and achieve equity in health status for all people by ensuring opportunities are available to attain the highest level of health. While the entire healthcare ecosystem is important to this transformation, it is health plans that arguably play the most integral role.
How can health plans help?
Achieving health equity means obstacles to health must be removed, including poverty, discrimination, powerlessness, and lack of access to the basics like physicians, hospitals, medicine, technology, and health education. This is not only a social justice initiative, but also a clear call to action for health plan organisations that are bearing the economic brunt of the costs due to health disparities.
Health plan organisations that recognise the alignment between efforts to improve health equity and broader member engagement initiatives will be in the best position to move the needle. Plans must also understand that the provision of medical services within hospital walls, physician offices and other health services providers is necessary, but not sufficient.
By recognising that health inequity also includes non-medical factors such as employment, income, housing, transportation, childcare, and more, plans will be better equipped to ensure their members are set up for success.
What do healthcare providers need to do generally to address inequities?
Outreach by both health plans and providers is critical to ensuring people have knowledge of available services, the reason those services are critical to their health, and options to access those services based on their unique circumstances. With both stakeholders beating the same drum, progress can be made quickly.
Given the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), should healthcare providers take a more active role in addressing these, or other agencies?
While communicating with patients is critically important, what is truly required to address inequalities is helping patients take medical actions – like regular PCP visits, monitoring A1C and accepting health coaching – that are necessary to maximise their health, along with non-medical actions –like availing themselves of community resources that address homelessness, food insecurity and employment services.
The most progressive providers and payers have or are putting in place programs to address these non-medical issues. In addition, non-medical tools such as transportation services can certainly help drive the effectiveness of medical services.
How important is it to educate patients about their health and how can this be done?
Education is a social determinant of health and a key lever to be used to drive health equity. Patients who do not understand their medical conditions or the consequences of non-compliance with their treatment plans are prone to poor outcomes.
For health plans, understanding member needs is one of the biggest drivers of quality care. A continuous cycle of engagement through feedback and appropriate responses will provide health plans with an opportunity to uncover, discuss, and resolve problems faster.
Improving member outreach and engagement can be made easier with a programmatic approach involving four stages of intentional outreach: Getting to know your members, educating members, seeking feedback from members and gaining member loyalty. Each stage not only contributes to a better member experience but also to improved outcomes and higher satisfaction scores.
Now that the issue has come to the fore, what do you think things will look like in 5 years or so?
I predict that health plans that get member engagement, education and equity right will achieve better health and greater value, faster. Those who get it wrong or delay will suffer the consequences of competitive disadvantage and pay a larger share of the rising costs associated with health inequity.