Hybrid Healthcare

In October, I attended HLTH, my first in-person conference since the pandemic started. There were 6,000 registered attendees. If you’ve ever seen a video of baby sea turtles emerging from the sand, all awkwardly crawling into the water for the first time- well, it was kind of like that, except we filed into the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and were all re-learning how to socialize. All jokes aside, it was great to reconnect with industry leaders, investors and founders at such a pivotal time in healthcare. 

HLTH was actually a hybrid conference, where participants could participate remotely as well as in person. Hybrid conferences are a natural transition as we ease ourselves from virtual only, back to the real world.  This whole dynamic made me think about an analogous transition in care delivery. The industry dove head first into telehealth and virtual first care (by necessity), but what about hybrid care? Industry discussion of hybrid care models are typically limited to 1) redirecting low-acuity patients to virtual care to reserve in-person capacity for high-acuity cases or 2) enabling virtual visits for immobile or compromised patients. However, there’s a wide chasm of unmet needs between virtual wellness visits and high-acuity hospital-at-home models. Let’s dig in on this evolution of hybrid care.

A first wave of solutions have been focused on solving, primarily, a logistics problem. Patient is in location A, medical resources/staff are in location B- how can we reconcile this? Given Newark Venture Partners invests heavily in logtech and healthcare, we can fully appreciate the complexity buried within this seemingly simple question.  Startups in the space have begun to answer it with the following solutions:

  • Direct-to-consumer (DTC) lab/testing solutions: At-home testing companies have generated a lot of buzz for the convenient, and amid COVID, more safe way to order a variety of relatively easily-administered tests (swabs, urine samples, finger pricks, etc.)  
  • Chronic hybrid care: Condition specific tech-enabled services for a sub-population of patients (i.e., Cricket in kidney care). These programs are effective in delivering much needed virtual support between in-person visits and have the potential to lower overall costs.
  • On-demand care: On-demand care services like Ready and MedArrive dispatch allied health workers to complete in-home treatments/visits. They tackle the complex challenge of sending a qualified provider to the home to deliver care in the moment it’s needed most. 

These novel concepts are effective in bridging the gap between fully-virtual and in-person care, and we expect more hybrid solutions to arise at different physical locations (i.e., pharmacy) or points in a patient journey. However, a collection of point solutions gives way to a larger challenge of tracking all of these various touchpoints.  So while the logistics challenge may be solved, a data challenge arises. As traditional providers start to take on risk- they need a new level of unparalleled visibility into care that’s being delivered outside of the clinical setting to get a truly holistic picture of the patient, and payers need to effectively measure and attribute the impact of these various points of care. We believe that winning hybrid care solutions will weave together the needs of all core healthcare stakeholders. As part of our on-going thesis at Newark Venture Partners, we are looking for this next wave of hybrid healthcare solutions to also be data ecosystem enablers. 

We can’t say for certain what 2022 will bring, but with the much anticipated JPM Healthcare Conference going virtual for the 2nd year in a row, it seems both hybrid conferences and hybrid healthcare are here to stay. 

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