Carbon Health gets $6.5M to begin rollout of digital platform to integrate multiple parts of healthcare

By Heather Mack

San Francisco startup Carbon Health is a lot of things. In a small part, it is a primary care clinic, but that is mainly the testing ground for its much larger ambition: to be the largest virtual health system – 100 percent mobile – by integrating with provider networks and their payers as well as pharmacies, labs and all the backend technology that goes into healthcare delivery.

Now, a little more than six months after a soft launch in San Francisco, Carbon Health has secured its first round of venture funding with $6.5 million, led by BuildersVC. Javelin Venture Partners, Two Sigma Ventures, and Bullpen Capital also contributed to the round, which will be used to continue developing their digital platform and start rolling out its use through partnership with a couple of (still unnamed at this point) Northern California provider networks.

Aside from the small clinic in San Francisco, everything Carbon Health offers is completely mobile. In fact, the brick and mortar clinic is more case study than headquarters, and mainly functions as a lab test for how the platform aims to serve as an all-inclusive, agnostic care coordination platform regardless of network or payer. While small, private practices are the first customers Carbon Health is looking for, the goal is to create a giant network across whole health systems, and the company’s platform leverages partnerships and integrations with existing technology or replaces it altogether (their main revenue source is through billing services).

"With this new funding, we are officially rolling out our service after internal testing with about 750 patients and a few provider partners," Carbon Health CEO and founder Eren Bali told MobiHealthNews during a recent visit to their San Francisco clinic. “This is very high stakes, and as we deploy the system across 20 to 30 practice in Northern California, this will translate to over 100,000 patients by the end of 2017.”

The app connects patients who are covered under several major insurance plans (including UnitedHealthcare, Humana, BlueCross Blue Shield and Aetna, but not Medicaid) to a virtual visit with a primary care physician employed with Carbon Health. The user begins by scanning their insurance card, filling out an application, providing an emergency contact and then choosing a doctor. After an automated set of questions on the doctor side, a real physician will step in and recommend a course of treatment, (which may sometimes include coming into Carbon Health’s clinic in San Francisco).  

Most of the work is in connecting patients to specialty care and then following through every step afterwards, from scheduling and follow-up to lab tests and medication (which Carbon Health can facilitate through partnerships Quest Diagnostics, LabCorp, Surescripts and prescription delivery service ScriptDash). The company doesn’t yet have partnerships with imaging companies or connected devices, but plans to build those functions out in the future.

Improving patient care may be a big piece, but the main focus is on the physician’s end. With open APIs across the toolset – from EHRs and specialist referral to billing and e-prescribing – Carbon Health’s platform is designed to give providers everything they need to keep everything in one place, eliminating the need for multiple technology add-ons to their practice. Additionally, since the portal is only available via mobile, it is easier to secure the data than it would be on a desktop and internal server, meaning practices that sign up for Carbon Health don’t need to then deal with extra security measures.

“We want to make it easier for doctors to collaborate,” said Bali. "Think of it as an EHR makeover, and a replacement for a lot of separate, fragmented software services they might be using."

Primary care has been a main focus of several startups looking to infuse healthcare with technology and integrated services – such as Iora Health, One Medical or the recently opened AI and gadget-focused clinic, Forward. But Carbon sees a greater need in coordinating care for specialty or urgent care, which means growing the network is key.

“We’re reaching out to everyone, and starting small, with practices that don’t have that much technology integrated into their services first,” Dr. Greg Burrell, Carbon Health’s medical director and founding physician told MobiHealthNews. “What they do have is a patient-centered approach to their practice, so we can provide the software to help them achieve that through workflow automation and interoperability.”

While there are a few concrete models for what Carbon is based on, the company doesn’t wholly embrace any of them. For example, they aren’t trying to create an entirely mobile experience for healthcare services through telemedicine, and they aren’t devoting a significant chunk of their resources to building more primary care clinics, although they are open to the idea of creating more practices if they find enough gaps in coverage. They also have no plans to become an tech-enabled insurer like Oscar.

“What we’re more like is an ACO,” Bali said. “Or think of how Kaiser has everything connected and how all of the services are in one building through one portal. That’s what we want to do, except with no building.”