Kidney care is often described as a space in healthcare with particular perverse incentives.
After all, insurers typically pay more for patient's dialysis than the advanced care a patient might require to stay off of the advance kidney care to begin with.
That's a problem that tech-enabled kidney care provider Cricket Health is looking to change. The San Francisco-based company has been working to show that their proprietary data analytics can identify high-risk patients to allow early intervention, improve outcomes and lower the costs of the care that chronic kidney disease often requires.
Earlier this year, the company raised a $24 million series A funding round from a who's who of investors including Cigna Corp., as well LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Joe Montana's Liquid 2 Ventures and Rock Health co-founder Halle Tecco.
Over the next 24 months, the company will begin ramping up its activities, scaling its workforce to about 100 people and deploying its first commercial programs for both payers and health systems around the country.
While they are not yet profitable, they expect to become so in the next few years by saving payers money through better managing patients, keeping them out of the hospital and dialysis centers as long as possible.
The big idea: Patient-centered kidney care
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
CEO: Arvind Rajan
Funders/funding: $27.7 million from investors including Oak HC/FT, First Round Capital, Cigna Corporation, LifeForce Capital, iSeed Ventures, Joe Montana’s Liquid 2 Ventures, Rock Health co-founder Halle Tecco, Virta Health co-founder Sami Inkinen, Box Group, Nexus Ventures, Seven Peaks Ventures, Aberdare Management, and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.
Revenue: Declined to disclose
Number of employees: More than 20
Fierce insights from Cricket Health CEO Arvind Rajan
FierceHealthcare: What is your best piece of advice for someone launching a healthcare company that challenges the status quo?
Arvind Rajan: My best piece of advice for anyone entering the healthcare industry with the goal of challenging the status quo is: Be patient and persistent. Healthcare is notoriously complex and slow-moving. An idea, even if it’s supported by the best science or clinical evidence, is not going to transform healthcare on its own, and none of it is going to happen overnight.
The key to actually effecting change in healthcare is understanding the incentives—financial and otherwise—that drive behavior for every stakeholder, patients, payers, and providers. Only after you understand that a pretty deep level, and have a workable strategy for navigating and aligning those incentives, do you have a shot at actually changing anything.
FH: What is the failure you’ve learned the best lesson from?
AR: The biggest mistakes in my career happened when I didn’t trust my instincts. Almost 20 years ago, due to a battlefield promotion, I found myself in charge of a startup that needed to radically change course. I knew deep down that the right thing to do was to cut our team down from 80 people to a handful of people while we figured it out, and more or less, start over. But I allowed myself to be convinced to take half-measures, and instead, we went through an agonizing series of slow personnel cuts over the ensuing two years while we found our way—all the while burning far more cash than we would have if I had made the hard choice up front. I swore to myself I would never make the same mistake.
In the early days of building a company, you don’t have the luxury of time, of delaying hard decisions, or of waiting for weeks or months of analysis. You need to trust your instincts, make hard choices with the information you have, and move on.
FH: What is one change you predict in healthcare that people wouldn’t expect?
AR: When it comes to kidney care, there is a general belief that the current dialysis duopoly—which puts a stranglehold on patient care and innovation—controls the industry and will never change. More and more patients will be funneled to in-center dialysis, and the costs for treating kidney disease will continue to rise. However, I predict change is coming to kidney care faster than anyone expects. Patients will soon have more options and therefore be more in control of their kidney disease. At Cricket Health, our mission is to make that happen.