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The company will be headed by Allon Bloch, CEO and co-founder of K Health
There are three main barriers to people getting the healthcare needed treated efficiently and effectively: cost, convenience and access. These are by no means new problems, but they are not getting better. For example, as of 2018 the cost of care in the United States was $3.6 trillion, or 17.7 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, nearly half of adults in the U.S. were deemed to be inadequately insured in the first half of 2020, while 12.5 percent remain totally uninsured.
These problems are systemic in healthcare and it takes a lot of power and money to move the needle; that's why three big names in the space, one insurer, one investor, and one virtual care company, have decided to team up to try to finally tackle them.
On Wednesday, K Health and funds managed by Blackstone Growth announced the formation of a new joint healthcare venture called Hydrogen Health. The company is also being backed by health insurance company Anthem (the amount invested was not disclosed) and, together, the three entities are looking to increase access to primary care services for millions of people by leveraging technology and shared knowledge to lower costs.
"Hydrogen Health will work as a care marketplace so consumers - insured and uninsured - can receive additional services as needed. It will include an integrated suite of products, including behavioral health, pediatrics, and other specialties," Allon Bloch, CEO and co-founder of K Health, told me. Bloch will also be simultaneously serving as CEO of Hydrogen Health going forward.
Founded in October 2016, the New York-based K Health uses AI and machine learning to allow users to look up their symptoms, allowing users to see how doctors diagnose and treat similar people with similar symptoms for free.
Users first chat with an AI that has been trained on a dataset from billions of anonymized clinical data points, taking into account a user's gender, age, acute symptoms, and other biomarkers, to accurately show users how other people like them dealt with symptoms and conditions. That can include anything from mental health to back pain, headaches, abdominal pain, chest pain, rashes, fatigue, STDs and bladder infections, among numerous others.
K Health now has over 4 million users and more than 7.3 million health dialogues on the platform.
"It’s clear that today’s healthcare industry is not evolving at a pace that meets the needs of our population. K Health is providing a solution that offers affordable and reliable 24/7 primary care for the whole family, at scale," said Bloch.
"Hydrogen Health will bring K Health’s digital primary care solution to new markets, including the insured market, leveraging K Health’s unique combination of AI and world-class doctors."
Blackstone is an investment firm with over $619 billion in assets under management, including investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, and life sciences; some of its investments in the latter include Anthos Therapeutics, Reata Pharmaceuticals, and Medtronic.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis-based Anthem is the second largest health insurance company in the country, writing nearly 10 percent of all premiums. The company, which is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, currently serves more than 110 million people, including approximately 43 million within its family of health plans, across California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
This is not the first time that K Health and Anthem have worked together: two years ago they jointly launched Sydney Care, Anthem's mobile app that acts as a personal health assistant. That venture, Bloch said, has proven that a virtual primary care solution can give physician practices the tools they need and give patients the better care they deserve.
"This means that employers can save money with AI-driven care guidance, gig economy workers can get lower-cost health insurance, and the underinsured have a broader set of offerings to get the care they need at better prices," he told me.
(Image source: wikihow.com)
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