CardioOne picks up seed funding, inks new partnerships with independent cardiology practices

Cardiologists running independent practices face an increasingly complex operating environment with new payment models, fragmented technology, resource shortages and administrative burnout.

While many cardiologists want to stay independent, they increasingly opt for acquisitions and vertical integration to help manage all these complexities. Among physicians responding to an Independent Physician Outlook survey (PDF) by ProCare Systems, 73% reported they would choose practice independence over acquisition if they could guarantee practice profitability and stability.

Houston-based CardioOne launched about a year ago as a management services solution and care delivery enablement platform for cardiologists designed to ease the burden of managing a practice while accelerating clinical quality, financial performance and growth. The startup is committed to helping independent cardiologists maintain their independence and provides the support and tools needed to help practices shift to value-based care, according to Jasen Gundersen, M.D., CEO and co-founder of CardioOne.

"We are an enablement solution to help support all the things that need to happen to have a successful practice, both in today's fee-for-service environment and value-based care," he said. CardioOne does this by providing an integrated technology platform, a practice optimization program, a workforce solution and a strategy and growth engine to handle branding operations, patient acquisition and retention, and website development.

"Inadequate and fragmented technology is at the root of many of the problems that independent cardiologists are facing today. Between siloed EMRs, inefficient revenue cycle technology, overwhelming and fragmented vendor management systems and the demand from patients for a strong online presence, independent cardiologists are seeing extremely high rates of burnout and devoting an ever-growing amount of time dedicated to administrative tasks,” Gundersen said.

CardioOne also provides payer contracting strategy and solutions and value-based care cardiology tools. 

"It is early in the movement to value-based care, although there is a tremendous amount of interest in in doing so. Primary care is much more advanced, and then you have oncology and renal care that are a little farther along. I'd say cardiology is right in the middle," Gundersen said.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death the U.S. and is a large driver of healthcare spending.

"We need solutions to help our healthcare community move into newer models that are driving better outcomes and reducing total cost of care," Gundersen noted.

The startup is rapidly expanding into new markets and inked three new partnerships with independent cardiology practices in New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania. CardioOne now works with Cardiac Associates of New Jersey, Twin Hearts in Florida and Corrieius Cardiology in Pennsylvania as well as subscription-based cardiology resources company MedAxiom. They join CardioOne's existing partner practices in Texas and Maryland.

These partnerships represent 17 clinicians on CardioOne’s platform. The company is focused on the Houston market as well as Florida and the Northeast, according to Gundersen.

CardioOne's current practice partners have seen significant enhancements through streamlining back office functions, consolidating expense reductions, focusing on practice panel growth, and improving staff and provider experience, Gundersen said.

The company charges a fee for its services based on a percent of the practice's revenue, he said.

Built at New York City-based Redesign Health, a healthcare innovation company and startup creator, CardioOne has secured $8 million in seed funding, secured by Redesign.

"That seed funding has gone to three major areas of the business. The first is the build-out of our technology platform. Second, we've built out our team. The third component is development, that's helping us grow and find new practices, plus helping us look at new solutions everyday that we can bring to our existing practices," Gundersen said. "Some of our practices don't have testing capabilities, so we will help them develop and integrate that."

A hospitalist by training, Gundersen worked at UMass Memorial Medical Center and an associate professor at UMass Chan Medical School. He also served in a number of executive positions at TeamHealth, including president of acute care and post-acute services, and spent two years as chief medical officer at CareCentrix before launching CardioOne.

"I had this idea to take what I love doing, which is working with physician groups and helping them be more efficient and handle all the tasks that we don't learn in medical school, and then blend in where I think the future is going, which is these newer value-based care models," he noted.

In a survey (PDF) of final-year medical residents, only 10% of medical students said they were very prepared to deal with the business side of medicine, and nearly one-third said they were very unprepared for those responsibilities. 

Physician enablement companies, particularly in the primary care space, are now a hot market and attracting big investments. Aledade uses data analytics software to help independent doctors’ offices transition to value-based models and recently banked $260 million in series F funding. Pearl Health, which provides technology to help independent physician practices participate in value-based care models, nabbed $75 million earlier this year. Vytalize Health, a provider enablement platform focused on value-based care, picked up $100 million in funding in February.

Physician enablement company Privia Health, a public company, turned a profit in the fourth quarter of 2022 and is forecasting strong growth this year as it eyes geographic expansion.

Major healthcare players are ramping up investments in value-based care. CVS Health announced plans to buy Medicare-focused Oak Street Health in an all-cash deal valued at $10.6 billion. 

'Im excited about everyone's interest in trying to help physicians be more efficient and focus on being physicians," Gundersen said. "When I was practicing, it was a struggle at times, because there are so many different solutions out there."

CardioOne is focused on integrating tech solutions and services into the cardiologists' day-to-day workflow, he noted.

"How do we bring it all into one platform? And how do we bring those tools into the physicians' workflow so that they become a natural part of their day-to-day work? We're really focused on being involved in the actual core of the business, so that's the technology platform, the EMR, the revenue cycle. That enables us to bring all those tools into one platform, in one workflow. It's a one-stop solution," he said.

The resources and technology investments required to run a practice group today make staying independent more difficult than ever before, according to John H. Lee, M.D., a physician at Cardiac Associates of North Jersey, a 10-provider independent cardiology group in Oakland, New Jersey, that partners with CardioOne.

"CardioOne is a true collaborator, serving as an extension of our operations and allowing us to focus on doing what we love - caring for patients," Lee said.