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Primary care provides can prescribe pre-prepared food and virtual visits with a dietician
Everyone knows food is getting more expensive, but that's not the only reason people are going hungry: aside from the cost factor, reliable access to affordable and nutritious food is a big barrier to a healthy food lifestyle: over 54 million people in America are food insecure, and 23.5 million live in food deserts.
"It’s not uncommon in food deserts to see fast food restaurants, corner stores, bodegas, and dollar stores that offer food, but most of which is often limited to processed food," Jason Langheier, CEO of Foodsmart, a provider of telenutrition and food benefits, told VatorNews.
"Even if there are grocery stores with nutritious food relatively close, some people still may not be able to access them due to lack of transportation or physical limitations - carrying two large bags of groceries may work for a fit person in their 20s, but what about an older person struggling with arthritis or another condition? "
This is why Foodsmart is dedicated to helping people get access to not just food, but nutritious food, and to solve nutrition insecurity, not just food insecurity.
Now the company is going to make it even easier for people as it announced a Foodscripts program on Wednesday, along with a $10 million round of funding, bringing its Series C to a total $40 million, from Advocate Health, Memorial Hermann Health System, Intermountain Health, the American College of Cardiology, and Glen Tullman.
Founded in 2010, Foodsmart provides users with food delivery options that can bring healthy and nutritious meals directly to their doors. The company also partners with local food banks and community organizations to develop sustainable food ecosystems and provide access to healthy, fresh food for residents.
The new Foodscripts program allows primary care providers, including small federally qualified health centers as well as individual specialists at large health systems, to use Foodscripts like they would a normal pharmacy prescription: patients receive a referral to Foodsmart dietitians and subsidized meals tailored to their conditions.
Once a member receives their Foodscript, or hears about Foodsmart through other means, they have their initial visit with a dietitian. During their initial visit with a dietitian, the dietitian will leverage the NutriQuiz, which offers a sense of a member's current food habits, cultural preferences, their lifestyle, and their health goals. This questionnaire guides the first telehealth visit that a member will have with one of our registered dietitians.
At this point, the dietitian will screen for an individual’s nutrition insecurity and set up additional time to enroll them in SNAP if they’re eligible. They will also create a customized program with the member based on their needs and health goals. The dietitian will then order food with the member during this visit to help them get started with their program.
Outside of dietitian visits, through the Foodsmart platform, members have access to daily tools such as educational materials, meal planning tools, grocery cost comparisons, and local grocery deals — which support the member to overcome barriers and realize their goals outside of visits with a dietitian to support ongoing behavior change.
"Committing to healthier eating habits requires time and effort. This becomes a challenge for individuals who are already struggling with chronic illness or physical limitations, who work multiple jobs or shift-work, or are otherwise unable to cook healthy meals for themselves," said Langheier.
"Eligible members who receive a Foodscript can have pre-cooked meals delivered to them, including meals that are curated for a member’s specific medical needs."
As an added benefit, thanks to Foodsmart’s partnerships with health plans, members typically receive access to telenutrition visits, medically tailored food subsidies, and the Foodsmart platform, all at no cost to them.
Foodsmart currently has 2 million members and over the last decade it has allowed 42% of members with food insecurity to become food-secure within six months, and 39% of patients with biabetes control their HbA1c at 24 months. In addition, 55% of Medicaid members with obesity lose more than 5% of weight at 12 months, and 33% of patients with hypertension achieve blood pressure control over an average of nine months. It has also shown $40 PMPM savings across full health plan population, and $353 PMPM Rx savings for diabesity medications
The new funding will be used to jumpstart the roll out of the Foodscripts program with the goal of making prescription food ubiquitous by 2030; while the Foodscripts program is initially rolling out among the three health systems, Foodsmart aims to expand the program nationwide, with plans to make it available to over 7.4 million patients, first by building out the infrastructure and partnerships with thousands of providers across Advocate Health, Intermountain Health, Memorial Hermann, and areas where it already has deep health partnerships, such as Chicago, before expanding to the rest of the country.
This includes the product enhancements and integrations with EMRs to make writing Foodscripts a seamless experience, extensive food partnerships, and building provider awareness. It also includes the continued investment in its FoodsMART food marketplace.
Fundamentally, Foodsmart believes access to healthy food is a universal right, and the company is on a mission to democratize "food is medicine" by rethinking food benefits management.
"Our Foodscripts program is working to ensure a long-term care approach for individuals’ nutritional needs. New drugs like Ozempic and traditional group coaching methods have good short-term outcomes but often fail to change health outcomes in the long run. This causes payers to repeatedly reinvest significant capital in therapy that doesn’t last," Langheier explained.
"Step therapies that integrate foodcare with jumpstarters like Ozempic and group coaching can dramatically lower the cost of care. With Foodscripts, we work to ensure that step therapies are integrated into a member’s care plan so they can easily and safely follow a routine that works for them and their lifestyles."
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