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These 5 startups are entering 1501 Health, the incubator from CareFirst and LifeBridge Health

Startups from Maryland and California are entering the yearlong program to work with teams from the payer and provider sides. Plus, collaboration space at CareFirst HQ is ready to go when the pandemic allows.

1501 Health's first cohort. (Courtesy image)

Frontline workers have played a high-profile role like never before over the last year, as a response to the pandemic brought healthcare employees treating patients and even military members coordinating a key role in the response. But while society celebrates their contributions, the reality is that these jobs can also come with tough moments, creating stress and making difficult moments harder.

Annapolis-based Even Health is looking to offer digital space to talk about that in group settings, and do so anonymously and comfortably. To do so, the company built an immersive platform called Cabana that’s accessible on smartphones as well as virtual reality headsets.

“Our intention is trying to create more affordable and accessible points for folks to engage in discussion about … difficult transitions in life that people are facing,” CEO David Black said. “We recognize that stigma is a barrier for individuals in not being able to connect with others who are going through those same challenges.”

This work applying technology that’s gaining more use cases in an increasingly critical area of healthcare drew interest from teams at a pair of the region’s leading healthcare institutions. Even Health was one of five startups named Wednesday to the first cohort of 1501 Health, the healthcare-focused incubator created by provider network LifeBridge Health and Healthworx, the innovation arm of top regional insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

In addition to Even Health, here’s a look at the cohort:

Live Chair Heath, the local company that builds resource networks to address health disparities among people of color. The company works with barber shops to provide digital health tools and encouragement around prevention and monitoring for chronic conditions. It is working with barber shops in Baltimore city, and earlier this year was named a RealLIST Startups 2021 company.

BabyLifeAdvice, a Calabasas, California-based company working in maternal and infant care, which offers tech-enabled professional providers in collaboration with health organizations, employers and insurers to provide remote education, monitoring and support to expectant mothers and new parents.

Pair Team, a San Francisco-based company offering a tools for providers around Medicaid, including technology, team and support tools embedded in electronic medical records to coordinate patient care and automate value-based care operations.

WellSet, a Venice, California-based company offering a platform for holistic wellness, where users can book individual and group sessions with specialists in more than 30 areas, including acupuncture, health coaching, holistic therapy and Ayurveda.

When the pandemic protocols allow it, 1501 Health will be based out of dedicated innovation space at CareFirst’s headquarters in Canton going forward, but leaders gathered for a virtual ribbon(s) cutting to mark the opening of the space as they announced the cohort on Wednesday. The partners have talked about how they want to bolster Baltimore’s health startup bonafides in their collaboration, and the program sought to attract companies from outside the city as well as supporting those already building here. The cohort was selected from 120 applicants nationally.

Inside the 1501 Health space at CareFirst HQ. (Courtesy photo)

“All our finalists presented unique, achievable solutions tackling some of the most pressing issues in healthcare, but the companies we chose offered solutions and services that were most strongly aligned to the 1501 Health strategic goals of reducing healthcare costs, increasing access and improving patient outcomes,” said Emily Durfee, 1501 Health’s co-manager from Healthworx, in a statement.

Companies receive $100,000 in investment, as well as mentorship from the teams on both the payer and provider side of the healthcare equation. During the yearlong program, these mentors work with the founders toward quarterly milestones. The program is also opening up access to potential customers, business resources and testing in simulated medical environments.

Even Health is at a stage of having the product built, taking the startup full-time, winning initial Small Business Innovation Research funding and launching with early partners, and Black said this new funding will help. But he believes the “wisdom” from the mentors on both teams will be most valuable for the company as it continues to grow. Having been in the area a number of years, he pointed to their role in the region: CareFirst is the mid-Atlantic’s largest insurer, while LifeBridge Health operates a network of hospitals in the Baltimore area. Both have innovation teams, which partnered over last two years to create the program and space.

“Anything that is innovative in healthcare has to be done pretty thoughtfully and has to be studied and measured. It’s wonderful to have partners that are actively involved in the delivery, financing and evaluation of healthcare effectiveness,” Black said. “We couldn’t have two better organizations to get to partner with at this stage in our company’s maturity.”

Companies: LifeBridge Health / CareFirst

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