CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield builds bridges by investing in healthcare innovators

This content is sponsored by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Providing affordable, accessible, equitable and quality healthcare is what CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) strives to do every day, but the company goes a step further by building bridges and investing in other businesses that can help advance its overarching goals.

CareFirst, the largest not-for-profit health plan in the mid-Atlantic region, does this by supporting startup companies that offer various healthcare innovations.

“Our team creates partnerships with and invests in startups to bring forward sustainable solutions to make healthcare better,” said Doba Parushev,  Vice President of Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst.

“We solve healthcare challenges by working with others who help us be faster and often more effective than we can be on our own,” Parushev said.

How bridges are built

Healthcare entrepreneurs set out to build products or services that benefit healthcare consumers.

Simultaneously, health startups need to build business models, clinical validations and compliant technology stacks for the complex and highly-regulated healthcare industry.

That is a difficult tightrope for entrepreneurs to walk, which is why Healthworx steps in and works with startups to simplify the process.

“Startups are quick to adapt to the needs of the people they serve and creative in responding to challenges we all face,” said Parushev. “That makes them a natural fit for what we as Healthworx and CareFirst are seeking to achieve.”

Healthworx not only seeks out healthcare startups that work toward actually preventing and treating illnesses, but it also looks for businesses that strive to improve the overall healthcare ecosystem.

“That means meeting our members on their own terms, improving the ease and intuitiveness of our own systems and making the health journey much more transparent and seamless every step of the way,” Parushev explained.

Success stories

The list of startups that have benefitted from funding and support from Healthworx is long, but there are a few specifically in the mid-Atlantic region that stand out, according to Parushev.

One of them is “Scene Health,” which is located in Brooklandville, Maryand.

The company offers a medication adherence program that empowers patients through video technology and human engagement.

“Their mobile app allows individuals to stay on top of their medications and can connect them to a team of pharmacists, nurses and care coaches,”Parushev said. “That’s a major step in helping to address medication challenges.”

Further south in Columbia, Maryland is “Live Chair Health,” which builds networks of clinical and non-clinical resources and offers a range of services to address minority health disparities.

The company initiates client discussions in community spaces about chronic health issues that disproportionately affect minority communities.

“They help us leverage community gathering spots, such as churches and barbershops, to engage with our members where they actually are as opposed to having them come to us,”Parushev said. “We believe that by building those trusted relationships on the ground, we impact the uptake of preventative care.”

Then there is “Socially Determined” in Washington, D.C. which is an analytics platform that helps to quantify and visualize social determinant risk.

It illuminates who, where and how social risk impacts communities and populations.

Read more: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield strives for better health outcomes through public health – WTOP News

“We started working with them almost exactly at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Parushev said. “It proved to be very opportune timing in that they were critical in helping us understand where we might have issues of access to food, transportation or housing, and which areas may be more vulnerable and more severely impacted by COVID.”

The ‘incubation’ program

In an effort to seek out and support even more healthcare innovators, Healthworx and LifeBridge Health launched 1501 Health, an incubation and investment program that provides funding and mentorship to early-stage companies.

Through the program, Healthworx works with startups to understand their unique needs as they design for both health consumers and systems.

Based on their goals, the program delivers one-of-a-kind mentorship from healthcare experts to help innovators integrate and scale their solutions into the larger healthcare industry.

“We recognize that as we see a lot of opportunities for improvement in health care, none of us actually knows where the next big thing is going to come from,” Parushev said. “That means we need to have the ability to work with anyone from large established companies all the way down to the startup from two guys in a garage.”

Through 1501 Health, startups can secure up to $125,000 to fund their growth over the course of the program.

Companies should consider applying for the next cohort when applications open if they are leveraging emerging technologies or have a team that is passionately working on a groundbreaking solution that could improve healthcare access, reduce the total cost of care, improve clinical outcomes or improve patient and provider experience. Stay up-to-date on 1501 Health news by visiting their website here.

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