Primary care practices have been hit hard by the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doctor’s visits dropped by about 60% from mid-March to mid-April, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. Almost half of primary care practices have laid off or furloughed employees, the Primary Care Collaborative reported.
Elation Health, which provides a clinical technology platform for independent primary care practices, quickly mobilized to integrate telehealth capabilities into its platform to help get its network of independent practices set up for virtual care visits. Elation Health works with 14,000 independent clinicians caring for 7 million patients.
To support practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elation Health also deepened its support for Medicare and Medicaid quality programs and delivered new patient engagement capabilities for patients to schedule appointments and interact with practices. Elation’s API-enabled platform also allows organizations to transform the patient and provider experience and implement their own models of data-driven, value-based care, according to Kyna Fong, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Elation Health.
As a result, Elation practices saw only a 30% decline in the pandemic. By July, most Elation practices were also already back to their pre-COVID visit volume, the company reported.
"Our practices are weathering the storm. They’ve figured out a way forward but there is a weariness and a continued concern about making sure they can keep themselves and their staff safe and continue to make ends meet," Kong said.
“Despite all the challenges we have experienced this year, my practice is still growing, and this has been our best year yet, thanks to Elation Health,” said Natalia Southerland, M.D., president of Brand New Med, PLLC.
“As an African-American physician, it has been more important than ever to serve my patient community and keep them healthy through this pandemic. I appreciate that Elation Health sees me as a person and all the extra support they have provided during recent times of stress and difficulty," Southerland said in a statement.
The 10-year-old company just scored a $40 million series C financing round of $40 million led by Generation Investment Management, a firm that invests in sustainable businesses accelerating the transition to a more healthy, fair, safe, and low-carbon society. Existing investors, including Threshold Ventures and Kapor Capital also participated in the funding round.
The new funding will be used to expand Elation’s purpose-built primary care platform. Independent primary care is one of the few areas in healthcare where upfront investment leads to significant savings in the long term, according to the company.
Investors are pouring cash into health technology companies focused on the primary care market. Google-backed Aledade, the startup company that is working to reshape primary care, landed a $64 million series C funding round in April. Tech-enabled primary care startup Carbon Health also recently secured $100 million in series C funding. Digital primary care company K Health nabbed $42 million in series D funding round.
With the funding, Elation Health, which provides an easy-to-use and affordable EHR to primary care practices, will continue innovating and expanding its lifeline to independent practices.
The company surpassed a milestone this year of delivering more than 20 million in-office and virtual visits through its provider network.
"The challenges of this pandemic have shown the resilience, dedication, and necessity of our independent practices. We’ve also seen an explosion in innovation, enabling our providers to care for patients in new ways, whether virtually or in-person," Fong said.
While there is excitement about virtual care and the ability to increase access to care, primary care physicians are concerned about future reimbursement, Fong said.
"CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is leading the way and it will be important to see how commercial payers move. In healthcare, how dollars flow really matters and it will be interesting to see how patients push back on that," she said. "Telehealth is here to stay. There is an expectation of how a practice will operate in the future to see patients both virtually and in-person and we built our platform to support those dual workflows."
Fong launched Elation Health based on the idea of empowering independent primary care doctors to support better healthcare for patients. For every dollar spent on primary care, studies suggest that as much as $13 in downstream healthcare costs are avoided, according to the company. Increased spending on primary care is also associated with fewer emergency department visits and reduced total hospitalizations and specialty interventions for chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure.
Elation Health plans to add new capabilities to support business operations for independent primary care. The company has plans to develop solutions in billing and payment collection, patient population management, interoperability, and quality reporting, Fong said.