Baltimore-based b.well Connected Health was in growth mode to begin the year.
The company, which makes a tool that CEO Kristen Valdes calls a “digital front door for healthcare,” raised $16 million in new funding. It also saw what Valdes called new U.S. government regulatory moves to give patients more access to healthcare data as the Woodlawn-based Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released final rules on interoperability and information blocking.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. To be sure, it’s a critical time on the frontlines for healthcare. Yet in many ways, the industry as a whole is navigating an environment of social distancing that means lots of functions need to happen remotely, which has put digital tools in demand. Less than a month after the interoperability changes, the pandemic also brought more new regulatory moves, which allow telehealth and virtual care in ways that hadn’t been available before. For example, states are allowing their citizens to be served by doctors from other states.
Overall, it has put digital tools front and center for healthcare systems.
“COVID really changed the dynamic of the conversation where digital transformation is no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity,” said Valdes.
In this environment, b. well is partnering with ThedaCare, a Wisconsin-based health system that delivers care to a community of 600,000 residents. The two entities are launching a healthcare management application, called Ripple, that allows people to coordinate health information across different parts of the healthcare system, as well as manage medication and get alerts and reminders about future care.
It shows b.well’s work providing software that brings data together that a healthcare system can use to launch its digital health strategy. Giving the patients a single place to bring together data provides a complete view and the chance to offer tools. With consent, it can also be shared with the different professionals one comes across in healthcare, like doctors, specialists and pharmacists.
ThedaCare saw added uses during the pandemic, as Ripple can serve as a tool for COVID-19 resources in areas like telehealth appointments, and navigating folks to ThedaCare testing locations.
“While access to care and timely health information has always been critical, the pace of change brought about by this global pandemic has underscored the need,” ThedaCare CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi said in a statement. “Knowing the desire for COVID-19 reliable information, we accelerated and expanded this priority to provide that for our community members through this tool.”
Valdes said working with ThedaCare is one example of adoption that the company is seeing “across all market segments.” When it comes to the pandemic, b.well is also offering tools for employers as companies are going back to work, such as a way to check-in service that employees can use to report symptoms, and get access to testing. The five-year-old company has also grown its team during this time, from 23 full-time employees and 40 full-time equivalent to 60 full-time employees and 50 full-time equivalent.
The company has been building to deliver digital health tools on the individual level for five years, and now it’s seeing enterprise-level adoption as systems are thinking about reaching their community in a more consumer-centric fashion.
“It’s been a big boost to the business model of b.well which was always designed to meet people where they are,” Valdes said. “Now we’re seeing that that is a biz model that has to be put in place across the country.”