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Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with one person dying every 37 seconds. Yet, more than 80 percent of heart disease deaths, or 200,000 a year, are caused by preventable factors, such as obesity, poor physical activity, heavy drinking and eating unhealthy foods. With better awareness and healthy lifestyles, and more preventative measures, the number of deaths could easily shrink.
Part of the problem is that cardiovascular care in the US is still fragmented, and is currently focused primarily on advanced disease management, rather than prevention, said Dr. Jeff Wessler, cardiologist and CEO at Heartbeat Health, a platform for virtual cardiovascular care.
His company solves these problems by combining three things: biometric risk assessments, virtual cardiovascular management programs, and a network of cardiologists in order to help keep patients informed and set them with healthy goals in order to reduce their cardiovascular risk and the likelihood for future adverse events.
"Heartbeat Health has developed a digital first solution that focuses on early risk factor management and disease management to organize the pathway toward heart health," said Wessler.
"What makes Heartbeat Health special is that we are clinical first, device agnostic, and lean into the complexity of cardiovascular disease rather than focuses on one singular risk factor."
On Wednesday, the company announced that it raised $8.2 million in a Series A round of funding led by .406 Ventures and Optum Ventures. Existing investors Kindred Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Designer Fund and Max Ventures also participated.
The New York City-based Heartbeat Health provides a cardiology-focused virtual platform, helping people achieve better heart health through things like discovery events that its co-hosts, in which it helps answer patient questions. Those can be accessed via mobile device.
Patients also get access to virtual cardiology visits, through which they get a personalized care plan from a cardiologist who they speak with directly in the Heartbeat app, as well as AI-powered coaching, which includes things like medication adherence, diet and exercise guidance and smoking cessation. Finally, they get progress reviews at regular intervals to see what is and is not working for them
"The typical Heartbeat Health patient has elevated cardiovascular risk and disease that is being undermanaged. We provide digital assessment and telemedicine to establish a patient's initial areas for focus, and then facilitate connection to the physical care for in person diagnostics and follow-up," said Wessler.
Heartbeat Health primary servers care providers, long-term care facilities and employers; it has managed tens of thousands of patients and has dozens of doctors licensed across the US. In its first clinical study, the company was able to demonstrate a 37 percent reduction in emergency room visits, compared to a baseline of 8 percent, across eight months of virtual care delivered to 13 long term care facilities across New York.
The new funding will be used to support the company's product research and development, which will include "specific app-based heart care experiences that target high risk patients," as well as to expand its platform nationwide.
Wessler sees Heartbeat Health as another in a wave of apps that are helping patients manage their health, alongside diabetes prevention programs like Livongo, Omada and Virta, as well as digital disease management companies like Lark and Noom.
"I believe the natural evolution of these successes is engaging the higher risk, sicker patients, for whom digital solutions are currently lacking. Cardiovascular disease becomes very serious very quickly, and Heartbeat Health will help show that these patients can be managed virtually too," he said.
"Success for Heartbeat is implementing the digital first approach for cardiovascular disease that establishes a virtual front door to heart health and ultimately moves the needle on improving clinical outcomes for heart disease."
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