Virtual maternity care provider Pomelo clinches $46M to scale

Pomelo Care, a virtual value-based provider focused on maternal health, raised $46 million in a series B round to expand its care model and grow its headcount. 

The round was led by existing investors First Round Capital and a16z Bio + Health, with participation from Stripes, SV Angel, Operator Partners and BoxGroup, plus several angel investors. The company’s lifetime fundraising total is now $79 million.

The U.S. has among the worst maternal health outcomes of any developed country. About 12% of births occur in U.S. counties with limited or no access to maternal care. Identifying people at the highest risk for complications is possible, Pomelo executives argue, but challenges with data gaps and workforce shortages make it difficult to apply interventions at scale. 

Part of the reason these gaps exist in the traditional care setting, according to Pomelo founder and CEO Marta Bralic Kerns, is lack of time. “We find that the OBs just don’t have the time—the relatively short visits with patients, there’s a lot that they need to do in those visits,” she told Fierce Healthcare. 

Pomelo offers virtual pregnancy, postpartum and infant care to patients to help reduce their risks and improve outcomes. The startup also analyzes claims and health record data to proactively identify individual risk factors. It is not meant to replace patients’ main providers such as OBGYNs but rather hopes to serve people between visits. A third of Pomelo visits happen outside traditional office hours.

“Often what matters is timely access to a provider and someone you can see right away… even in-person OBGYN offices usually can’t see their patients the same day,” Bralic Kerns said.

Today, the company works with payers representing more than 3 million covered lives and provides care to patients in 46 states. All of the company’s contracts are value-based. 

Pomelo screens for social determinants like nutrition, housing or intimate partner violence, and refers patients to resources that they might need. It also helps them navigate their benefits. For patients who need mental health help, Pomelo can facilitate an internal referral to one of its mental health specialists. It can also hand off higher acuity patients to in-person providers or the hospital as needed. 

At this year’s ACOG Clinical & Scientific Meeting, Pomelo presented research showing its telemedicine model reduces the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality in a Medicaid population. Specifically, its model reduced preeclampsia risk by 25% and increased mental health screening rates seven times. It also reduced perinatal depression risk by 40%.

“Pomelo is one among a small set of health tech companies that have earned true scale,” Vineeta Agarwala, M.D., PhD, general partner at a16z Bio + Health and Pomelo board member, said in an announcement. “This scale is evident in our partnerships… which create the opportunity to collaborate with OB providers, labor and delivery wards, and NICUs nationwide.”

Payers have been responsive to this model of care in value-based arrangements because they recognize that many wraparound support services are not covered under fee-for-service programs, per Bralic Kerns. “We’ve seen really tremendous growth… because they realize that they have to do something and what they have been doing so far hasn’t moved the needle for them,” she said. “Ultimately we exist to improve outcomes and reduce avoidable costs for them.”