Foodsmart, a telenutrition company, has onboarded three new health system partners and announced additional funding to roll out its food prescription program known as Foodscripts.
Foodsmart aims to simplify the process for doctors to refer patients with chronic conditions to dietitians and access quality food via Foodscripts. Like a pharmacy prescription, patients get a Foodscript, or referral to Foodsmart dietitians, who offer subsidized meals tailored to a given condition.
Advocate Health, Memorial Hermann Health System and Intermountain Health, representing 7.4 million patients, will now be able to refer patients to Foodsmart, the company said.
All three health systems, plus the American College of Cardiology and Glen Tullman’s 62 Ventures, have backed the company with $10 million as part of the latest announcement. Tullman is the CEO of Transcarent and the former CEO of e-prescribing company Allscripts.
Together, the group hopes to make Foodscripts ubiquitous by 2030. The latest funding brings the company’s total series C round to $40 million. The company is currently working on raising a series D, to be announced later this year.
"Foodscripts will democratize access to nutrition in a sustainable and cost-efficient way that can scale nationwide,” Tullman said in a press release. "Foodscripts can transform the way we think about and deliver health and care, similar to what we saw with the scaling of e-prescribing many years ago.”
The company supports more than 2 million members across the U.S. through its partnerships with payers, including Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and commercial plans, and employers. The offering is free to Medicaid members, while commercial members sometimes see a co-pay, executives said.
Foodsmart’s network of registered dietitians connects with members by phone or video to personalize nutrition programs. Members use the Foodsmart app to discover recipes, compare prices on groceries and have food delivered to their doorstep through Foodsmart’s integration with Instacart, Grubhub and Walmart. In an effort to prioritize cultural competency, 12 languages are spoken across Foodsmart’s dietitians, and many more are supported through translations, executives said.
Foodsmart CEO Jason Langheier, M.D., grew up on food stamps. Many members of his family struggle with chronic conditions. “That kind of seemed normal,” he told Fierce Healthcare.
As a consultant for Boston Medical Center early in his career, he helped launch a youth weight management program. When he saw that obesity could start so early in life, he realized that the condition has everything to do with the social determinants of health.
“It’s not rocket science or brain surgery,” Langheier said. “We’ve made these kids even sicker.”
Foodsmart wants to honor where members are at right now, making gradual suggestions to encourage long-term behavior change.
“You can’t just give people medically tailored meals forever,” Langheier noted. That is not cost effective nor sustainable long term. Thus, Foodsmart members engage with a “competency-based learning curriculum” that assesses what resources they have access to and what their needs and preferences are.
Though GLP-1s are exploding in popularity, those therapies are useless unless paired with lifestyle interventions, Langheier said. For a variety of reasons, from cost to side effects, many patients stop taking weight loss drugs after one year, at which point many regain the weight they’ve lost. “You’re kind of set up for failure,” Langheier said.
“We know food insecurity and chronic disease are two global health challenges that must be addressed in order to achieve Memorial Hermann’s vision of creating healthier communities,” Feby Abraham, executive vice president and chief strategy and innovations officer at Memorial Hermann Health System, said in the announcement. “Pairing sustainable, data-driven lifestyle interventions like Foodsmart with new, targeted therapies will help build longer-term solutions.”
Foodsmart has helped more than 40% of members with food insecurity become food secure within six months, the company said. A third of patients with hypertension achieve blood pressure control over an average of nine months, and more than a third of those with diabetes control HbA1c at 24 months. Foodsmart claims to generate $40 per member, per month savings across a full payer population and $353 per member, per month savings on prescriptions for diabetes and obesity medications.