Newly merged virtual care company Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand is partnering with large employers like Walmart and Target to launch a program aimed at reducing health inequities for Black Americans.
The Black Community Innovation Coalition includes large companies like Best Buy, Medtronic, State Farm and Accenture. The goal is to remove barriers to care and build a care concierge and navigation platform for Black patients.
The coalition will also conduct market research studies, employee focus groups and population health studies to support the platform, which is set to launch in early 2022. Some areas the coalition may explore are maternal health, cardiometabolic disease, access to primary care and behavioral health.
“We’re proud to be on the leading edge with Grand Rounds Health, Doctor On Demand, and other employers in developing a resource to help improve access to quality healthcare for the Black and African American community,” Lisa Woods, Walmart’s vice president for physical and emotional well-being, said in a statement.
“The effort aligns with Walmart’s commitment to address disparities in healthcare access, engagement and outcomes. Together, through collaboration and innovation, we will make it easier to find good doctors and make quality healthcare attainable for underserved populations.”
WHY IT MATTERS
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted long-standing health inequities in the U.S. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis from early August 2020 found Black individuals made up more COVID-19 cases relative to their share of the population in 30 of the 49 states reporting cases, and made up more than their share of deaths in 34 of 44 states reporting death information.
Maternal health, an area the coalition wants to explore, is also affected by inequality. In 2019, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was two and half times the rate for non-Hispanic white women and three and half times the rate for Hispanic women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Health disparities in the Black community have been a known problem for decades, and the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the inequities around access and advocacy that have been driven by a pattern of structural and interpersonal discrimination. The time is now to deliver solutions that drive meaningful change,” Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer of Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand, and executive leader of the coalition, said in a statement.
“We are proud to have built the capabilities to help under-resourced populations over the past decade into a solution tailored for Black Americans. The community has long deserved resources that provide agency over care direction, advocacy, and access to improve trust, care experiences, and outcomes.”
THE LARGER TREND
The social determinants of health have become a hot topic in the healthcare industry as more startups aim to tackle health disparities.
Care coordination startup Unite Us announced the purchase of fellow social determinants-focused NowPow earlier this week, about a month after the company said it planned to acquire analytics firm Carrot Health.
Earlier this month, Mae, a digital health platform that provides pregnancy and postpartum support to Black people, launched with $1.3 million in pre-seed funding.
Cityblock Health, a primary care startup for the Medicaid and low-income Medicare populations, raised $400 million in early September.