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The company connects people to AI-assisted Guides, who can answer their questions
The idea behind the so-called social determinants of health is that our health is more than what just happens when we see our doctor; it’s actually all the other aspects of our lives, including what we eat, how we sleep, our social interactions, and our access to transportation, that will determine our health outcomes.
Already thought to account for 80 percent of our overall health, a number of health insurance companies have begun to expand coverage to include the social determinants of health, including groceries, Lyft and Uber rides, and gym memberships.
Yet, health plans often struggle to reach people experiencing a lack of social care that has devastating effects on their health and their lives, said Justin Ley, CEO of Reema Health, a company that connect patients with AI-assisted human Guides who can answer their questions and address their needs. Earlier this week, the company announced an $8 million seed round of funding.
"Addressing issues around loneliness, housing and transportation, food insecurity, and other important social determinants of health can be key to reducing healthcare costs. Trust, however, must be built first before that can happen," he said.
"Reema was founded to build a bridge between social care and health care for people who are the hardest to reach. As someone who personally experienced many of these same challenges growing up, I felt not only a strong need to help these communities, but also a personal mission to make sure others found the support they needed. To a certain extent I know what it’s like to be in their shoes."
Reema combines technology with human interaction: the company uses technology to connect patients to AI-powered Guides who are available by text 24/7. Patients can discuss anything they want to, whether it be issues around transpiration, housing, food, or if they're just feeling lonely and need someone to talk to.
Guides are able to augment their communications with insights from Reema's data models, so they can design their text messages to reach out to the right people, at the right time, with the right communication style.
"As technologists with a history of creating strong, behavioral-science based outreach programs for healthcare plans, we know the power of a data-based approach. But we also know even the most advanced technology means nothing without a human face in front of it," said Ley.
"That’s why we built our platform to support and empower the work of our Community Guides, who work one-to-one with the most underserved people in their neighborhoods. We’re using data science to drive empathic, authentic human relationships that drive long-lasting engagement."
There's a major need for a solution like this, Ley explained, as 58% of low-income Americans report being socially isolated, and that isolation, and the unmet needs that typically accompany it, significantly increases the cost of care.
Many of Reema's members are those are experiencing chronic stress of some kind, and often have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
"They may be on the brink of losing their home or lack transportation to receive the care they need. Often, they live in a food desert, and lack access to healthy food. Their situation and location may result in constant food insecurity, and poor nutrition for their children. They may struggle with addiction to substances. For a number of reasons, their social and behavioral needs are mostly unmet, and they lack trust in institutions and organizations, which makes them harder to reach via traditional methods," Ley said.
Currently, an average of 84% of the members that Reema has targeted engage with the company's Guides and the company has also seen a retention rate of 95%. The company is currently serving health plans on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and it plans to expand to several more states this year.
"We’re growing by reaching out to health plans with our story, and carefully adding programs region by region. We must scale in a way that makes sense, and we’re not after that kind of hectic growth you often see in our industry. The stakes are too high not to do this deliberately."
Reema's new funding round was led by MaC Venture Capital and DNA Capital. The company has previously raised a $1.25 million pre-seed round and earlier preliminary investments, bringing its total capital to over $10 million. The company plans to use the new capital to hire new Community Guides as it moves into more regions, as well as adding sales, support and development talent as our needs grow internally.
Success for Reema is, first and foremost, to see better health outcomes for the people it serves, Ley explained.
"We want to see less loneliness, less food insecurity, better management of chronic conditions and lower costs of care are all part of the success equation for Reema. We’re not just after revenue or profit here, in fact it’s not the metric that motivates us. I think that’s why so many mission-driven folks, like Acumen, are investing in and supporting us."
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