BCBSA backs Lumiata's $14M round to boost COVID-19 risk management using AI

concept showing doctor's hand writing on screen with modern medical technology and the words AI
The pandemic has brought once-in-a-century challenges to insurance underwriters when they had to predict patient risk for 2021 in the summer of 2020. (WrightStudios/Shutterstock)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a pivotal time for advances in artificial intelligence as organizations use the technology to drive research, find new treatments and analyze patient data.

San Mateo, California-based Lumiata is ramping up its efforts to use AI to help identify underwriting risks during the crisis. The company just got a big infusion of cash to help fuel its work.

Lumiata raised $14 million in a series B funding round backed by early-stage venture capital firm Defy.vc, venture capital fund AllegisNL Capital, Khosla Ventures and Blue Venture Fund, the venture capital arm of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

Investors were interested in Lumiata because it offered a way to manage the risk stemming from a tragic loss of life that has hampered the healthcare system, according to Dilawar Syed, the company’s CEO.

“We raised the funding because we felt like this is the moment we need to scale our execution as well as address this moment in time in which there’s a very urgent need,” Syed said.

He added that the investors recognized the broad market fit of Lumiata. The company has now acquired its first set of customers and formed multiyear partnerships. It will help these companies underwrite insurance and manage patient risk.

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The pandemic has brought once-in-a-century challenges to insurance underwriters when they had to predict patient risk for 2021 in the summer of 2020, according to Syed.

“They are in the business of managing risk, but the scale of this risk they haven't seen,” Syed said.

screen shot of AI company Lumiata's patient risk dashboard
Lumiata's cost and patient risk dashboard (Lumiata)

The Lumiata AI platform uses machine learning to analyze disparate healthcare data sets. It also incorporates deep learning and supervised learning, a type of ML that matches inputs to outputs and uses labeled data sets to train algorithms. AI helps healthcare professionals predict which patients will come back for repeat visits.

“We rely on massive data sets; we rely on the power of algorithms,” Syed said. “They are inherently built for these unforeseen moments.”

AI enables healthcare companies to identify underwriting risks on populations and employer groups, reduce costs and improve care. Healthcare providers can draw on predictive analytics to provide personalized care. In 2021, multiple health plans will use Lumiata to underwrite health plans and set pricing based on a patient’s predicted risk.

Scaling the AI platform

Lumiata built a scalable platform that uses ML and pre-trained models. It pulls data from more than 120 million patient records as well as healthcare professionals’ clinical expertise and proprietary clinical intellectual property. The platform also uses a no-code method of programming to enable healthcare providers with limited tech expertise to make use of the data.

Lumiata plans to use the funds to scale its cloud-based enterprise AI platform and open a new office this year in Guadalajara, Mexico. It will also invest in more data scientists and engineers.

RELATED: AdventHealth, Berg tap AI technology to reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients

“On the engineering side, we will bring in more talent to make sure that the platform is robust enough to handle that scale, given just the sheer amount of data that it will handle and the speed,” Syed said.

Neil Sequeira, co-founder and partner at Defy.vc, said the direction of Lumiata in accelerating AI was a factor in deciding to invest in the company.

"Lumiata is moving healthcare forward," Sequeira said in a statement. “Our firm believes that investing in Lumiata will accelerate AI and machine learning and have a material impact on the industry.”

There has been rapid adoption of AI and other advanced technologies during the health crisis. AdventHealth is using biotech firm Berg's AI-enabled technology platform to gain insights on people that have tested positive for COVID-19 and reduce mortality rates from the disease.

At Northwell Health, the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research developed an AI tool to help hospitalized patients avoid sleepless nights in order to speed up their recovery and discharge them faster. The COVID-19 pandemic also has exacerbated clinician burnout and health systems are looking to deploy AI tools to address it, such as the solutions developed by startup Suki to help with tedious documentation tasks.

Aiding the healthcare industry during the pandemic is just the beginning for Lumiata, according to Syed.

“If there was one time for AI to actually be deployed to manage such a massive, unforeseen phenomenon, that time is now,” he said. “This is just a very first step for us to address the incredible need that is out there, improve our healthcare and deliver a hopefully societal benefit in an obviously very challenging time.”