Buoy Health nabs $38M series C financing from Cigna, Optum, Humana

Buoy Health, a company that offers an AI-powered navigation platform, announced Tuesday that it has gained investments from multiple health insurers as part of a $37.5 million series C funding round.

Cigna Ventures, Humana, and Optum Ventures will contribute as part of series C along with venture capital firms WR Hambrecht + Co. and Trustbridge Partners. For multiple health insurers to provide series C funding to a company all at the same time is a rare feat, according to Andrew Le, M.D., CEO and co-founder of Buoy Health.

“You typically don’t see multiple insurance leaders betting on the same startup from a financial investment standpoint,” Le told Fierce Healthcare.

Buoy Health offers a COVID-19 assessment tool called Buoy Assistant, which assesses patients’ symptoms and directs them to care, including telemedicine, primary care, and behavioral health resources. The company said more than 1 million Americans have used Buoy to assess symptoms and locate care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In June the company also launched Back With Care, an employer platform that helps customers navigate to health resources, offers a risk assessment, and provides guidance on how to return to the workplace safely during the pandemic.

The news comes as AI tools, like those that Buoy Health offers, are playing an increasing role in healthcare, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent Optum survey, more than 56% of 500 healthcare executives reported that they are accelerating or expanding their AI deployment timelines due to the pandemic.

Investments in AI during a pandemic

Cigna Health was interested in investing in Buoy Health because of how AI triaging tools provide a first step in finding care, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tom Richards, global lead, strategy and business development at Cigna. He said the insurance company has supported up to 140,000 COVID assessments, which will be valuable when workers return to the office.

“We remain focused on bringing highest-value solutions that connect customers to the right care, at the right place, at the right time,” Richards said in a statement. “Buoy’s ‘first-step’ digital actions that triage symptoms and provide next steps for care do just that.”

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Buoy Health is one of several health care companies to close series C funding rounds recently. In August 2019, Ethos scored $60 million from investors that include Goldman Sachs and GV (formerly Google Ventures), the venture capital arm of Alphabet. Meanwhile, patient-personalized medical billing company Cedar announced in June that it had scored $102 million in series C funding from investors that include VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The latest funding builds on Buoy Health’s series B funding last year, Le noted.

“Growth since our series B funding last year has been exponential, and especially with the pandemic and the expedited advancement toward the adoption of digital health solutions, the need for AI-driven navigation tools like Buoy has been on the rise,” Le said.

With the proceeds from the series C funding, Buoy Health plans to increase hiring by 75% over the next year. It will also further develop its clinical and insurance-based AI navigation tools.

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Simple navigation for customers

The triaging capabilities that Buoy provides are intuitive for customers, noted Laura Veroneau, a partner at Optum Ventures.

“Buoy has proven that AI can help better connect the health system to enable a more consumer-friendly healthcare experience for patients,” Veroneau said in a statement.

With the new funding, easy navigation of treatment options for customers will continue to be a focus for Buoy Health going forward, according to Le.

“Buoy’s technology is helping to bridge the knowledge gaps surrounding medicine and treatment options, demystify what’s covered by insurance, and create a seamless experience for consumers,” Le said.