SonarMD gets $10M to address "high beta" patients with engagement tech

Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners and Arboretum Ventures led the round.
By Jonah Comstock
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Chicago-based SonarMD, which uses digital technologies to help payers improve the health of certain high-volatility patient groups, has raised $10 million in Series A funding. The raise is a joint investment between BCBS Venture Partners and Arboretum Ventures.

What they do

“What SonarMD does is we are providing care management services for what we call high beta chronic conditions,” CEO Devin Gross told MobiHealthNews. “And we define high beta as those conditions that have high volatility in cost and clinical outcome that can be more technically managed with clinical intervention.”

High beta is a term that comes from the stock market, where it refers to high-volatility stocks that don’t track with the market. High beta patients, by analogy, have highly variable costs and outcomes. The company's starting example is GI conditions like Crohn's disease, where they have focused their efforts so far.

“If you look at healthcare, where much of the focus has been over the last decade has been in chronic condition management— things like diabetes and hypertension, which are high-cost from a population health standpoint which are not necessarily high cost on an individual basis,” Gross said. “We would call those low-beta. Per capita cost is actually low on an individual, but high from a population standpoint. When you look at what we’re talking about, take Crohn’s disease, a small percentage of the population but the per capita cost, the per individual cost, is very high. And the fluctuation of the cost and clinical outcomes is significant because there’s high variability.”

In order to tackle these conditions, SonarMD partners with payers via a risk-sharing business model. It provides doctors with a technology suite aimed at improving adherence and engagement.

“So SonarMD actually grew up around this technology solution,” Gross said. “It’s a concept of how do you ping the patient (which is where the name Sonar comes from) on a monthly basis and if there’s higher intensity do it more often. But do it to solicit information around, in this case with Crohn’s patients where we’re starting, five critical pieces of information that allow us to assess very quickly ‘Are they heading off the rails or are they not heading off the rails?’ from a management perspective, through an algorithm.”

Patients can respond to the pings by phone, text or email. SonarMD’s offering also includes specialty pharmacy optimization, because high-beta conditions often go hand-in-hand with high-cost drugs.

What it’s for

The company plans to use the funding to scale the business. In particular, they intend to hire additional team members.

“We’ll scale the business from a care coordination standpoint, from an account management standpoint, and from a provider relationship standpoint, as well as continuing to enhance data analytics from a technology standpoint,” Gross said.

Looking ahead

Long term, the company will look to move beyond its current suite of GI offerings to serve a wider variety of conditions.