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COVID is worse for people with heart disease, and damages the heart for those who had the virus
Heart disease was already the leading cause of death in the United States, and COVID has only made that worse: not only are people who have heart certain conditions, including heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies, and hypertension, at higher risk of getting seriously ill from the virus, but now there is also growing evidence that one of the long-term effects of having had the disease is damage to the heart. Even people who experienced only mild COVID symptoms are now suspected to be at greater of risk of heart failure or other complications.
That makes a platform like Heartbeat Health, a cardiology-focused virtual care platform, which includes telemedicine, remote diagnostics, and digital heart health programs, even more vital than before.
On Monday the company announced a $20 million in Series B funding round led by Echo Health Ventures, with participation from DaVita Venture Group and existing investors, .406 Ventures, Optum Ventures, Kindred Ventures, Lerer Hippeau, Designer Fund and Max Ventures. This brings its total funding to $32 million.
Founded in 2016, the New York City-based Heartbeat Health connects patients and cardiologists directly within the Heartbeat app, so they can create a personalized care plan. Patients also get access to AI-powered coaching, which includes medication adherence, diet and exercise guidance and smoking cessation, and they are given progress reviews at regular intervals to see what is and is not working for them.
Heartbeat Health, which primarily serves care providers, long-term care facilities and employers, has now delivered care to more than 20,000 patients nationwide, and saw major growth during the pandemic, as virtual care became the norm, Dr. Jeff Wessler, a cardiologist and the company’s co-founder and CEO, told me.
"There is no doubt that COVID has accelerated the status of virtual care; almost everyone is now comfortable with telemedicine and aspects of virtual care. Heartbeat has seen that too, with growing cardiologist use among patients nationwide, and Heartbeat now has the largest network of virtual cardiologists in the world," he said.
"The interesting part is up next, as the 'COVID telehealth' bump wears off and we're faced with an evaluation of what should stay and what will return to normal. To that end, it is value-add virtual care that improves clinical outcomes at more efficient cost points that will outlive COVID and remain part of the care landscape."
In response to the pandemic, Heartbeat launched a provider-facing virtual cardiology app to allow independent cardiologists across the country to provide telemedicine, remote monitoring, and clinical engagement for their patients at no cost. This came in concert with the company's partnership with the American College of Cardiology last year. The company also launched an Instant Visit feature that allowed patients to join a televisit straight from a text message.
Heartbeat plans to use the new funding to accelerate product R&D, as well as to expand clinical services offered to at-risk organizations.
"Our entrance into the value-based specialty care market has been met with widespread enthusiasm, and we're now accelerating our development of value-based care features as this segment grows and proves out the clinical and cost-saving benefits of virtual heart care," said Wessler.
"Over the past year, we've shown that virtual cardiovascular works, and is more efficient. By now introducing a layer of scaffolding around this care that allows for data and cohort-ingestion, group stratification and triage of patients, and reporting, we can service larger organizations and continue to demonstrate our key value proposition."
While Wessler believes that Virtual care is here to stay, he made clear he also believes that it will only be those aspects that achieve the three aims that will be fully adopted: those that benefit patients, with convenience, access, and outcomes; those that benefit providers, with efficiency and outcomes; and those that benefit organizations, with cost and outcomes.
"You'll note that 'outcomes' are the common thread between all stakeholders above: Heartbeat is now obsessing over this, focusing on demonstrating clinical outcomes at lower cost for high-risk cardiovascular conditions. These studies take time, but we're investing in this as a long term opportunity to lead this new class of specialty virtual care."
(Image source: heartbeathealth.com)
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