BCBS Massachusetts addresses inequalities in healthcare with new accelerator

Steven Loeb · May 17, 2022 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/543c

The nine month program includes a $150,000 investment, and multiple pitch day events

While Black and Latinx founders are making gains in terms of raising venture capital, they still lag behind: in 2021, Black founders raised $4.2 billion, nearly quadrupling the $1.1 billion raised in 2020, but that still only represented 1.4% of all venture capital. Latinx founders, meanwhile, raised $6.8 billion, up from $2.8 billion the year before, but which is still just about 2% of VC funding for the year. 

Now Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts wants to do something about those inequities, at least in the healthcare space: on Tuesday, it announced the launch of the Health Equity Business Accelerator.

The nine month long program is designed to provide "financial, strategic and mentorship support to founders of color focused on creating equitable health care services and solutions." That includes a $150,000 investment, along with programming in conjunction with partners, including The Capital Network and Healthbox, the later of which will sponsor two Pitch Day events, the first of which is planned for May 19.  

"This is not a philanthropic act - it's a good investment and business decision," Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO at Blue Cross, said in a statement.

"By investing in these diverse start-ups, we're able to help support the growth of businesses that are centering equity in their work and making advances in technology and services that will lead to improved health outcomes." 

This is not the first time Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts had addressed inequality in healthcare: in September of last year, the company began incorporating equity measures into its payment models,

That was followed in November with $10.6 million in direct financial contributions and $5.5 million in pro bono and in-kind support to not-for-profits working to address food, environmental and racial justice in Massachusetts communities, and another $25 million in December to support local health care organizations in their efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in care.

Pilot companies

So far, there have been five companies participating in The Health Equity Business Accelerator, which were "nominated by the broader health care and venture capital communities."

They include:

  • Bloomer Tech,  a company that has developed a smart bra to detect heart disease.

"In this technological era, Bloomer Tech is actively working towards progress in the development of fabrics engineering to optimize health," the company write.

"We are inspired by Amelia Bloomer's legacy. She is a women's rights advocate from the 1800's who revolutionized women's health and fashion by replacing damaging corsets with bloomers. As Amelia Bloomer said 'clothing not only changes lives - it also changes history (herstory!).'"

Bloomer Tech raised a $3 million round of funding from Material Impact, One Brave Idea and several angels, including John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific.

  • MedHaul, a platform for providing access to transportation services for overlooked populations, thereby improving their quality of life and care

"Our mission is to innovate access and improve the quality of care in our most vulnerable communities," the company says.

"For people with reduced mobility due to age, ability, and income, having access to transportation makes a huge difference to quality of life. MedHaul closes the transportation gap and provides compassionate solutions for the people who need them most."

MedHaul has raised $1.2 million from investors that include Innova Memphis, Launch Tennessee, Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation, StartUp Health, and Epicenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator.

"Health disparities due to race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, LGBTQ status, and more create devastating and costly inequities in our healthcare system," the company says.

"Expert-designed, research-based cultural competency courses give you the cross-cultural skills you need to reduce health disparities and improve healthcare for all patients."

Quality Interactions has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from LearnLaunch Fund + Accelerator.

  • SoHookd, a company that partners with organizations to offer wellness-oriented
    benefits, rewards, gifts, and events to their employees or membersv

"Wellness is often treated like a privilege; it is only accessible to those who are “in the know." In reality, wellness is a category desired across gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups. Everyone deserves access to aspirational offerings that elevate their mental and physical well-being, and it is important that all segments of the population have access to wellness offerings," the company writes.

"At SoHookd, we are committed to making wellness more desirable, accessible, and affordable, so that we can play our part in closing the health equity gap."

SoHookd has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab.

  • TQIntelligence, which uses combines artificial intelligence and voice technology to help therapists better diagnose mental health issues, specifically in children

"We are transforming behavioral healthcare services for at-risk youth through our voice-based artificial intelligence platform. Our voice biomarker technology can identify issues that children may be unable to voice to their therapists due to discomfort, concern about repercussions, or lack of appropriate vocabulary," the company says.

"Health equity is a serious social justice issue. The lack of affordable quality mental health services for children and adolescents from low-income communities accounts for the significant increase in the rate of suicidality and mental health illnesses."

TQIntelligence has raised $1.2 million in funding from National Science Foundation, Village Capital, and StartUp Health, including a $1 million grant from National Science Foundation.  

(Image source: bluecrossma.org)

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