Health and well-being company Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) has spent the past few years adding to its health care services portfolio while aggressively investing around a home-based care strategy.
The Louisville, Kentucky-based company has now revealed its latest step in that direction. On Wednesday, Humana announced a wide-ranging strategic partnership with Heal, the in-home primary care company formed in 2014 by nephrologist Dr. Renee Dua and her husband, Nick Desai.
As part of the newly announced strategic partnership, Humana will invest $100 million into Heal, fast-tracking the Los Angeles-based startup’s growth plans and propelling it into several major new markets. Susan Diamond — segment president of Humana’s home business — will also join Heal’s board of directors as part of the collaboration.
Desai, who serves as Heal’s CEO, described the addition of Diamond and her “unparalleled expertise” as a key perk for his company and its ability to make doctor house calls mainstream again.
Residential primary care visits were common in the 1930s and earlier, when roughly 40% of all patient-doctor visits took place in the home, according to researchers.
“Humana’s partnership and investment accelerate things a lot,” Desai told Home Health Care News. “Humana isn’t just a financial investor, they are a strategic partner that gives us access to patients, technologies and expertise to grow and scale our business rapidly so that millions more Americans can benefit from health care in the comfort of home.”
The strategic partnership with Humana comes just over two weeks after Heal rolled out “Heal Pass,” a monthly subscription program designed to keep vulnerable populations at home and out of emergency rooms. Offered throughout California, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia, Washington, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Heal’s doctors have delivered more than 200,000 visits to date, generally at lower costs and with more engagement than traditional in-office visits as well.
Apart from its in-person doctor visits, Heal offers its patients the option of one-touch telemedicine visits, which have been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a watershed moment to highlight the importance of timely and safe access to quality health care,” Desai said. “But even after COVID-19 wanes, the home remains a preferred place to get care.”
Under terms of the partnership, Humana will help Heal expand its current footprint to offer value-based, primary care via virtual and in-home encounters to new markets such as Chicago, Charlotte, Houston and others. These new markets are part of Humana’s Bold Goal initiative, which is focused on whole-person care by co-creating solutions aimed at social determinants of health and more.
Strategically, Humana sees home-based solutions as “inherently more scalable” than clinic-based ones, Diamond told HHCN.
Humana also believes home-based approaches lead to improved patient satisfaction and health outcomes.
“As seen in other industries, we believe consumers will increasingly demand health care solutions that are more convenient and personalized and [that] better meet their needs,” Diamond said. “Deeper relationships with patients are needed, including a better understanding of the home environment, to deliver comprehensive and higher quality care.”
Humana and Heal plan to launch in the aforementioned new markets in early 2021. The partnership with Humana will “not at all” change how Heal works with other insurance plans — or how it cares for patients with no insurance.
Humana At Home and Kindred at Home are among the other core parts of Humana’s in-home care mission.
Humana — which reported annual revenues of about $64.89 billion in 2019 — also recently contributed to a $135.8 million Series C round for DispatchHealth. In February, Humana additionally announced it was teaming up with Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe on a new joint venture designed to expand access to value-based primary care for Medicare patients.
All of those efforts are instrumental to Humana’s home vision, Diamond noted.
“We consider primary care to be the foundational element to our strategy, given the significant role the primary care physician plays in coordinating the patient’s overall care,” she said. “Through our partnership with Kindred at Home, we offer more comprehensive and higher quality home health services through enhanced clinical models and patient support services. One other example is the ability to provide true emergency-level care to patients in the comfort of their homes, which we intend to do through our partnership with DispatchHealth, which we announced a few weeks ago.”
While its new collaboration with Humana will likely win it more national attention, Heal is used to being in the health care spotlight.
Heal was recognized by the 2020 CNBC Disruptor 50 as the 13th-most disruptive private company in the U.S. earlier this year.