Google’s parent company spins off an innovative startup healthcare provider

The latest Silicon Valley bid to disrupt a traditional industry appears to be aimed at healthcare. Cityblock, a startup quietly launched by Google’s parent company Alphabet, will focus on providing team-based care for low-income communities.

The venture comes from one of Alphabet’s innovation-oriented groups, Sidewalk Labs, and will rely upon a team-based care delivery structure that is supported by doctors, behavioral health coaches and technological tools, according to an article from CNBC.

Efforts by healthcare organizations to improve care management and increase patient engagement through social interaction have attracted attention, particularly in the context of chronic conditions, as FierceHealthcare has previously reported. While cell phones and social media apps have provided new avenues to boost patient engagement, integrating those technologies into an effective care delivery model has proven more complex. At the same time, major players such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, actively seek feedback on models that prioritize behavioral health in response to the industry's interest in the potential for efficiency from an increased emphasis on preventive and ongoing care.

Cityblock aims to provide Medicaid and lower-income Medicare beneficiaries access to high-value, readily available personalized health services. To do this, Iyah Romm, cofounder and CEO, writes in a blog post on Medium that the organization will apply leading-edge care models that fully integrate primary care, behavioral health and social services. It expects to open its first clinic, which it calls a Neighborhood Health Hub, in New York City in 2018.

Cityblock’s interdisciplinary management team, which includes both veterans of the traditional healthcare industry and Google technologists, will focus on preventive care. Behavioral health coaches will drive care teams that will build social relationships and deliver care at centrally located “hubs,” via telehealth services or house calls, according to the website. Cityblock is also in the process of negotiating partnerships to ensure insurance companies cover its services.

The company’s focus on outcomes aligns with the industry’s trend toward value-based care models. “People want better health. Instead, we have traditionally given them more healthcare, under the flawed premise that providing more services automatically yields better outcomes,” Romm writes in the post.

He also points out that Cityblock has made a conscious decision to target low-income Americans, who he says have traditionally been short-changed by industry innovation efforts.