As announced on Tuesday, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Andy Slavitt, with two co-founders, has launched a venture capital firm intended to “invest in healthcare technology and service companies transforming care delivery to American’s most vulnerable populations.”
Healthcare Informatics Managing Editor Rajiv Leventhal noted in his report Tuesday morning that “The firm, which will be called Town Hall Ventures and will be headquartered in Minneapolis and New York, announced its creation at the HLTH Conference being held this week in Las Vegas. According to a press release, it is being ‘built on a foundation of broad and deep expertise in building companies to improve care in Medicare, Medicaid, risk-based care, complex conditions and in addressing social determinants of health. These areas of focus touch almost 120 million Americans and approximately $1.2 trillion in annual healthcare spending,’” the press release noted.
Leventhal’s report noted that “Along with Slavitt, Town Hall ventures will be led by Trevor Price, founder of Oxeon Holdings, an executive search and investment firm; and David Whelan, managing general partner of predecessor firm Oxeon Ventures and formerly general partner and CFO of investment firm Accretive LLC.”
And Tuesday afternoon at the HLTH Conference, at the convention center at the Aria Resort, Slavitt sat down with CNBC health technology reporter Christina Farr during a general session entitled “Investing in Solutions that Focus on the Most Vulnerable Populations,” for an interview about the new venture.
Farr asked Slavitt, “Why are you making this transition now?” “Let’s look at the national problem, Christina, which is that we have communities around this country with typical medical conditions, yet very poor outcomes,” Slavitt said. “Among those disproportionately affected include people of color, the poor, the elderly, children, and people with disabilities, and certain diseases and conditions. And we probably don’t invest as much in those communities as we should, in terms of technology that can help us. So I think we need to shift. And if we spent the next decade investing in primary care, mental health, drug addiction … is there any doubt we could have better health in this country?”
CNBC's Christina Farr interviews Andy Slavitt Tuesday afternoon at HLTH
“How will you find companies that are going to help do this together?” Farr asked. “I think the problem is that we don’t look like the population at large,” Slavitt replied. “So unless we do a great job studying, listening, and talking to people, we will very likely not build solutions that help the people who need them the most. We haven’t figured out yet how to solve that problem. The good news is that there is a set of incentives in the Medicare and Medicaid system that will make it easier to achieve good outcomes. And there are technological entrepreneurs who are creating great solutions. And so what is it that leads individuals not to fill a prescription or to get a diagnostic test at the right time? If we can create solutions that address those issues, we can make progress,” he said, in addressing the underlying issues. “What we’re doing at Town Hall hopefully will be a catalyst to doing that. And we want to draw attention to” the solutions that could emerge.
Asked for examples of solutions, Slavitt mentioned the challenges embedded in how dialysis is delivered to kidney failure patients. “We spend $100 billion a year on kidney care, and we haven’t changed the way dialysis is provided for four or five decades at least,” he said. “So someone getting dialysis is taking two buses to sit in a room hooked up to a machine as big as an EHNIAC machine. The thing is, you can make machines that are this big,” he said, making a gesture about the size of a microwave, “and there is technology there—and there is funding available. And look at mental health, pregnant moms, early childhood, community-based clinics—all of these are opportunities—we wait for people to get sick until we take care of them—and that needs to change. And by the way,” he added, “it’s not just about medical care. It’s also about housing, nutrition, transportation, socialization.”
Meanwhile, he said, “Trevor Price and David Whelan, my partners, and I, we don’t care whether it’s someone who has an idea on a napkin, or whether they have something more fully developed. But we want to find people who have good ideas and we’ll help them build infrastructure, build a management team, build solutions, build relationships. And we’re not alone; there are other people who see this as well, starting a few years ago with Medicare Advantage and other models, and now it’s moving into Medicare/Medicaid with dual-eligibles as well.”
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