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According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed this year. Plus, with around 600,000 cancer deaths in the United States, it's the second biggest cause of death. And, yet, when someone is diagnosed, or is even suspected to have it, they receive little to no help or guidance from the healthcare system.
It was witnessing that first hand that led Robin Shah to found Thyme Care. The company, which launched via a partnership with Clover Health earlier this year, helps cancer patients navigate through the journey of cancer by getting them to the most appropriate set of services as fast as possible and helping them feel educated and informed about the diagnosis, the treatment, and everything that has to go along with that cancer journey.
The company announced a $22 million funding round on Tuesday, led by Andreessen Horowitz, AlleyCorp, and Frist Cressey Ventures with participation from Casdin Capital and Bessemer.
"Every week, I was getting a phone call from a friend or a family member or a colleague saying, 'I, or someone I know, has been diagnosed with cancer. Robin, we don't know what to do, can you help?'," he told me.
"I was receiving pathology reports, radiology reports, and I became their navigator, I became their caregiver, for that moment in time. This is the most vulnerable time in a cancer patient’s life, hearing that six letter word and not knowing if you have cancer, where you should go, what you should do. And so, I wanted to solve this problem, I wanted to provide this type of insider support to people that didn’t know someone in the cancer space..."
Thyme Care partners with health insurance companies, employers, and risk-bearing entities, to identify members that have a suspected or confirmed cancer diagnosis. If someone is identified, then Thyme Care will assign them a care team that includes a clinical person, meaning someone with an oncology nursing background, as well as someone on the non-clinical side, what it calls an "oncology resource specialist," who can handle the psycho-social, financial, logistical, and operational aspects of their care.
"That team of people are focused on getting you to the most appropriate site of service as fast as possible, educating you on all the things that you're hearing from your physicians before you get to your oncologist or your physician. Our team will help educate patients on the treatment they are receiving, the diagnosis they were given, the things that a person is hearing, prep patients for questions they may want to ask when they see their doctor, and help think through goals of therapy for the patient and their family," he explained.
This includes making sure patients have access to food, have transportation to their appointments, have wheelchair access in their home, or even if they might need a wig after going through chemo. In some cases Thyme Care is helping patients get access to grants for high-cost chemotherapy.
Currently, the company engages most with patients during active treatment, meaning surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, as that's when they're seeing their doctors the most. As patients transition to survivorship, Thyme Care will continue to support members as they need.
"We're still early as a company, so most of the people we engage are still in active treatment. Our goal is to always be there for people, no matter what they may need," said Shah.
Partnering with Clover Health
All of Thyme Care services are provided at no additional cost to the patient. Thyme Care’s partnership with health plans makes their service an added benefit to insurance companies and employers. Thyme launched their first partnership with Clover Health to provide their services to all of their members.
The Nashville-based Clover uses data analysis to lower the cost of health insurance for seniors using Medicare Advantage, the private version of Medicare. It has a software platform called the Clover Assistant, which aggregates health data points, using machine learning to synthesize that data with member-specific information. The goal is to give primary care doctors personalized insights into their patient's health so they can offer better suggestions.
Integration with Clover’s point of care solution, Clover Assistant, is a big part of the partnership between Clover Health and Thyme Care. Thyme Care will be one of the first specialty care solutions integrated into Clover Assistant, allowing physicians at point of care to introduce Thyme Care’s services to members with a suspected cancer diagnosis. "Thyme Care will be notified, and, through that physician, we'll be able to engage and intervene so that a person doesn't have to find an oncologist on their own, wait a few weeks, and then try to navigate through the healthcare system on their own," said Shah, noting that this is especially important when dealing with an underserved population, that has less information in healthcare.
"We can now intervene faster, and be there to support patients through that journey of getting to the right place at the right time."
Predicting cancer earlier
This capital will go, in part, toward building out the Thyme Care team, specifically hiring data scientists and population analytics people to help the company better measure health outcomes for its patients. Thyme currently has between 35 and 45 employees, and might have anywhere between 60 and 120 employees a year from now, depending on how many partnerships it enters into.
The company will also use the funding to expand and build out its technology platform called Thyme Box, which will use data to help risk stratify members who are enrolled in the program; for example how does Thyme Care identify the likelihood of an adverse event
The ultimate goal, Shah said, is to positively impact every stakeholder in the cancer journey, from the patient to the health insurance company.
"Our goal at Thyme Care is to make a meaningful impact for patients and all of the stakeholders involved. We want to drive better value, a better patient experience, better outcomes, a better experience for the physicians that we're collaborating with, and drive down costs for health insurance companies, employers and other entities that manage populations," he told me.
"I want those dollars to be allocated to other things for their population. That’s how I think about success and being able to prove that out: being able to show with data that we've been able to do that for all the stakeholders."
(Image source: thymecare.com)
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