Women's health needs more innovation and investment, particularly in maternal care.
Research shows that the U.S. is facing a maternal health crisis. Despite having one of the most advanced health systems in the world, the U.S. currently has the highest pregnancy-related death rate among developed nations. The U.S. rate for 2021 was 32.9 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than ten times the estimated rates of some other high-income countries, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
But a crisis also can spur people to action.
"The crisis has reached a place where there's both great risk that things are going to get worse, but also a great opportunity that is born out of that crisis, to align interests and drive systems delivery design that we think needs to happen in order to try to drive change," Kate Condliffe, co-founder and CEO of Diana Health, said during an interview.
"It is such a missed opportunity. It's a transformational time in most women's lives. It's the first time most women are engaging with the health system in a serious way," she added.
Condliffe has a background in population health work and served as chief operating officer at Baby+Company, a national network of outpatient maternity centers.
She and her co-founders launched Diana Health three years ago as a network of modern women’s health practices that work within the traditional healthcare system.
"We work in direct partnership with hospitals to help them reimagine and ultimately restructure their women's health programs, all with an eye towards improving outcomes, enhancing care experience, lowering costs, but ultimately setting those hospitals and health systems for growth and sustainability," she said.
To field its growth, the New York City-based startup pulled in $34 million in series B financing to launch practices in new communities and states and expand its digital program and services.
Diana Health has raised $46 million to date, including $11 million in a series A funding round in January 2022. Norwest Venture Partners led the series B round with participation from existing investors .406 Ventures, LRVHealth and AlleyCorp.
At the same time that the U.S. healthcare industry faces shockingly high rates of complications and deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, access to labor and delivery (L&D) services is waning. More than 400 hospitals have closed their L&D units between 2016 to 2020. Putting even more pressure on an already-strained system, a growing shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists is expected to reach 22,000 by 2050, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
"If you look at the traditional model of care for maternal care, it is certainly broken for many families, but it's also broken for all the providers who are facing serious shortages," Condliffe said. "What we need to deliver to improve outcomes is well-established, it's individualized healthcare. That's a really hard model to deliver within a traditional model of care."
Diana Health provides an evidence-based care model that directly addresses these challenges. The startup partners with hospitals and health systems to restructure their women’s health programs with a clinical redesign of labor and delivery. The model delivers a tech-enabled, holistic care experience for women and families, deploying integrated care teams of certified nurse midwives, OB/GYNs, mental health and wellness providers, according to the company.
"We provide a unique kind of end-to-engagement for women and families that really allows us to impact their whole care experience and also offer individualized care," she said.
Diana Health executives claim that the company's approach helps hospitals improve health outcomes, lower rates of cesarean section and neonatal intensive care unit admissions while also addressing the operational and financial challenges hospitals grapple with each day.
The startup currently operates three sites in Tennessee in partnership with HCA TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center, HCA TriStar NorthCrest Medical Center and Cookeville Regional Medical Center.
The company will open three new sites in Florida in the next six months. Diana Health also plans to soon expand into Texas, Condliffe said.
"Fundamentally, what we're trying to do is to build Centers of Excellence for maternity care in partnership with hospitals," Condliffe said. "We are starting in the South and southeast because, in part, we believe there is a great need there. We're also focused on partnering with health systems who are really looking to make the kinds of changes that we think are needed."
Diana Health's approach to gynecological and maternal health is built around collaborative and comprehensive health.
"We are engaging women as early as possible. We are spending more time than is typical upfront with women in that first trimester through a set of digital engagements, as well as longer in-person appointments, to really get into understanding their risk profile and also their care preferences," Condliffe said. "Ultimately, that culminates in the patient's ability to create a care plan, together with our care team, that lives in our patient app and integrates into our electronic health record, so that the patient and their team can customize the course of their care and their care experience. And, we have a range of tools available to women and families to help them dive deep into specific areas." Those areas could be mental health or wellness coaching, she noted.
She added, "The whole care model is really built to put mom in the driver's seat and allow her to engage across the course of care with our care team in the ways that are important to her."
The startup also is focused on aligning incentives across stakeholders with integrated care teams and technology.
"Diana Health is one of those unique business models in healthcare that is truly a win-win-win for all stakeholders involved: patients, providers, payers and health systems," said Irem Rami, principal at Norwest Venture Partners and board member at Diana Health.
Diana Health delivers a clear return on investment to health systems by taking over the labor and delivery (L&D) department, which today typically loses the health system money, Rami noted. "Beyond turning L&D into a more profitable department, Diana Health attracts new patients by engaging with them early on and throughout their entire maternal health journey. And they improve the patient experience by offering a hybrid model of both in-person and virtual care. Diana Health is creating a better experience and relationship with patients at a time when health systems are looking for both," she said.
Rami also noted that Diana Health is targeting underserved areas in the U.S. where women face challenges with access to care, where health systems are struggling to keep L&D departments open and where high Medicaid populations exist. "They are helping to improve health equity, maternal health outcomes and access to care and that’s a strong value proposition for us," Rami said.