Strive Health teams up with large nephrology group on risk-based contract for kidney care

Kidney care
The partnership will benefit people with chronic kidney disease and end-stage kidney disease through a “whole patient” approach that enhances lives and communities across Illinois, Indiana and potentially other states. (Getty/Trish233)

Kidney care startup Strive Health has teamed up with one of the largest independent nephrology groups in the country on a long-term, risk-based contract for chronic kidney disease patients.

Nephrology Associates of Northern Illinois and Northern Indiana (NANI) will jointly pursue and manage global risk payment models through its partnership with Strive Health.

This partnership will benefit people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) through a “whole patient” approach that enhances lives and communities across Illinois, Indiana and potentially other states, the organizations said in a press release.

As part of this relationship, NANI has made an equity investment in Strive, joining New Enterprise Associates, Alphabet's CapitalG and other leading venture capital investors, building on Strive’s $140 million series B funding round announced in March 2021.

RELATED: Alphabet's CapitalG, Ascension back $140M investment in kidney care startup Strive Health

Under their partnership, Strive and NANI will share in the financial risk, management and governance of risk contracts with government and commercial payers. The scope will initially include Medicare, Medicare Advantage and commercial members in Illinois and Indiana, which represent a high-acuity patient population and upward of $400 million in annual medical spend.

“Kidney disease is a large-scale health problem that nephrologists are best equipped to manage, and we recognize that the future of nephrology is value-based,” said Brian O’Dea, CEO of NANI, in a statement. “The opportunity to participate in risk contracts offers massive potential for NANI to improve patient care, enhance the physician experience, and grow the value of our practice to our patients. Strive brings a shared commitment and a proven track record in value-based kidney care, and we are excited to build a long-standing strategic partnership with them as we continue to grow.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that kidney disease affects 37 million, or 15%, of U.S. adults, including more than 38% of those over 65 years old. Kidney disease drives $410 billion of unmanaged annual medical spend, demonstrating a need for payment models that are based on outcomes.

Nephrologists oversee key aspects of the patient journey that impact outcomes and the cost of care, which is a major reason new government and commercial payer models now assign beneficiaries based on their nephrology care. The approach is similar to how companies such as Agilon Health and Oak Street Health approach primary care by helping physicians shift to risk-based models.

Strive Health says it is leading a similar physician-led transformation in nephrology care.

NANI employs 141 physicians in four states and has added 28 providers in the past year, making it the nation’s largest independent nephrology group as well as one of the fastest-growing.

Strive Health was founded in 2018 and is among a crop of tech-enabled companies looking to disrupt kidney care. Based in Denver, Strive Health has raised $223.5 million in capital since its founding.

Strive works with patients' primary care physicians and nephrologists to manage their care while providing access to predictive analytics, telehealth services and education on home dialysis options. The company leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to offer patients direct and virtual clinical services, home dialysis education and training, and advanced care planning. 

RELATED: Independence Blue Cross collaborates with Strive Health on late-stage kidney disease program 

The startup has grown its team 600% in the past year and is partnered with nearly 400 nephrology providers across six states through risk-based models. Strive and NANI plan to grow together and actively expand the partnership through new payer contracts and as NANI expands its practice into new geographies.

As part of the partnership, Strive is embedding complete-care resources within NANI practices, including preventive care, specialized clinical programs, data integration and analytics and management of risk contracts. The companies will launch integrated workflows to enhance the patient experience, manage care and improve outcomes. 

“The NANI-Strive partnership is poised to deliver a strong, new approach to holistic patient care,” added Art Morris, M.D., president of NANI, in a statement. 

To accelerate its value-based approach, the medical group spent nearly six months evaluating potential partners, according to Manish Tanna, M.D., who is the physician leader of NANI’s value-based care committee.

“Strive Health is unique in that they bring kidney expertise along with leading technology and innovative clinical resources that are designed for nephrologists. We believe that Strive is the most patient-focused company in this space and its model will help us elevate the way we practice medicine and succeed in innovative payment programs," Tanna said.

“A powerful movement is taking place in nephrology, and payors are increasingly looking to nephrologists to elevate the patient experience and take on global risk,” said Chris Riopelle, CEO and co-founder of Strive Health, in a statement.