The founder of shuttered Call9 started a new telehealth venture. Here's why he thinks Curve Health will succeed

Curve Health provides a true virtual hospital-level care experience for patients and enables physicians to direct care to senior patients in skilled nursing facilities or when they are being treated by emergency medical technicians or paramedics. (Curve Health)

Call9, a startup that provided telehealth services for the nursing home industry, shut down operations earlier this year after four years in business.

But Call9 founder Timothy Peck, M.D., believes the startup was just ahead of its time, and he sees telehealth as a critical tool to improving care for vulnerable senior patients.

Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the health crisis has proved to be an accelerant to fuel the growth of virtual care.

Taking lessons learned from Call9 and building on that platform, Peck founded Curve Health in April to deliver connected senior care via a platform that combines telemedicine, smart billing, health information exchange and predictive analytics.

“COVID-19 has heightened the urgency of delivering virtual care to this vulnerable patient population. Additionally, the Medicare payment mechanisms that were not in place when Call9 existed—and that we advocated for—are now in place, so we see unlimited potential to deliver the Curve solution, scale to nursing homes and ambulance companies across the country, improve patient care and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations,” Peck said.

Investors also see the company’s potential in the senior care market. Lightspeed Venture Partners backed the company’s $6 million seed round in October.

RELATED: Startup Call9 shutting down telehealth services to nursing homes

The company has attracted big names in healthcare and technology to its leadership team. Rob MacNaughton, who most recently led NurseGrid and was an executive at Cambia Health Solutions, joined the company as CEO. Former Salesforce executive Cheryl Porro has joined Curve Health as its chief technology officer. Peck serves as president and executive chair of the company.

Peck, an emergency room physician, lived in a nursing home for three months before creating Call9. The company’s technology platform aimed to increase access to care and improve patient outcomes while also helping avoid unnecessary and harmful hospitalizations and reducing healthcare costs.

The platform delivered more than 150,000 telemedicine encounters, managed more than 5,000 patients daily and reduced patient transfers from skilled nursing facilities to hospitals by more than 50%, according to Peck.

Peer-reviewed research published in eScholarship indicated that Call9's technology resulted in an 80% reduction in care escalation, which helped avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Peck's first startup raised $34 million in venture capital but struggled to secure additional funds to scale its business. The healthcare industry's slow transition to value-based care also created challenges for Call9, Peck said.

“Medicare itself didn’t pay us well for what we were doing, and we couldn’t make profits on treating Medicare patients with the previous telehealth regulations,” Peck told Fierce Healthcare.

Call9 was “ahead of the curve” by applying telemedicine to help reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, he said, hence where he got the new company’s name.

The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly accelerated interest in virtual care, particularly in the post-acute and long-term care space, and federal regulators have quickly relaxed telehealth reimbursements.

Curve Health has a mature product and a leadership team with domain expertise—a rare combination for an early-stage company, MacNaughton said.

RELATED: Here is how execs from Oscar Health, Intermountain and Cerner say the telehealth boom will change healthcare

“The timing is right,” MacNaughton said.

MacNaughton will helm an aggressive market expansion plan that includes working with leading skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, ambulance companies and physician groups to ensure rapid growth.

Curve’s focus will be wider than Call9’s to include health information exchange capabilities, billing and predictive analytics tools. Curve Health is targeting skilled nursing facilities as well as hospitals, ambulance providers and physician groups, executives said.

The company provides a true virtual hospital-level care experience for patients and enables physicians to direct care to senior patients in skilled nursing facilities or when they are being treated by emergency medical technicians or paramedics, MacNaughton said. The goal is to improve outcomes, avoid unnecessary hospitalizations and improve bottom lines.

“In two or three years, this company will be the market leader in treating vulnerable complex patients remotely and we will be bringing care to patients rather than bringing patients to care in nursing homes,” Peck said.