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Introducing Bridge: The Health Equity Innovation Lab

September 9, 2023

The Problem: 

The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on marginalized communities highlighted the pervasive issue of health inequity and associated economic burden in the United States. About 70% of minorities distrust the healthcare system.[i] Black adults are 2X more likely to die from heart disease, half as likely to receive mental health services, 32% less likely to have insurance, and, sadly, live six years fewer than their White neighbors. Today, health inequities drive $320B in spending, and has the potential to surpass $1Tn+ by 2040.[v] Medicaid spends an additional $734B to serve 90M low-income individuals.[vi] Your Zip Code determines your health – For example, in Chicago, the city’s history of structural racism and redlining[vii] has led to disinvestment, income inequality, negative health outcomes in the South Side. 89% of South Side residents are Black or Hispanic, 53% of residents are under the poverty line, and 21% of residents are unemployed. Consequently, while majority would be eligible for SNAP (food stamps), only 19% of residents receive SNAP[viii] benefits and, even worse, ~50% are at risk for food insecurity.[ix]

 

Tragically, the perverse incentives, information asymmetry across stakeholders, high costs of administration has led to stakeholders in the US healthcare and social services system remaining highly fragmented, leading to poor collaboration, accountability, and most critically, overwhelming patients as there are now 350,000+ healthcare related applications. Marginalized patients suffer the most as they are not heard, are victims of poor care coordination, are saddled with medical debt, and lack access to basic yet critical care, like mental health. Unfortunately, there are no platforms by which patients and cross-sector stakeholders (Medicaid agencies, local departments of health, hospitals, investors, start-ups, health plans, and patients) can collaborate to accelerate and scale sustainable, equitable patient-centric care solutions that incorporate the voice of the patient.

Opportunity:

State/Federal governments and private entities have and will continue to invest significantly to fuel health equity and social determinants of health (SDOH) initiatives. In 2021, Medicaid spending grew 9.2% to $734.0B (17% of NHE)[x] and USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs grew 49% to $183B. Across the nation, state agencies are unlocking new funds through 1115 Medicaid Waivers to address health equity and SDOH. Interest groups are forming to tackle disparities in healthcare. Private investments in health equity have been skyrocketing; for example, the digital health equity market received nearly $4B in 2021 by VCs. However, health equity across all of these stakeholders is only a small part of their overall healthcare impact strategy; there is an opportunity to make health equity a core part of transforming healthcare. We are only scratching the surface of innovating in this trillion-dollar market given social determinants of health can drive 50% of health outcomes.[xi]

Our Approach and Value Proposition:

We aspire to build Bridge: The Health Equity Innovation Lab (Bridge). Bridge aims to break cross-sector silos and drives efficient collaboration to build a unified digital front door for underserved patients to become aware of and access their healthcare and social care benefits. There is an opportunity to increase investments and structural supports to unlock the tremendous economic and societal value in the health equity and SDOH ecosystem. We are building a coalition of health equity leaders and a connected platform that equips and empowers innovators to build and scale effective patient-centered and community-first solutions.

Three Phases of Bridge: The Health Equity Innovation Lab

 

  • Phase 1 (2023-2024): Health Equity and SDOH Center of Excellence and Impact Studio: Aggregate best practices, resources, and experts to establish Bridge as the premier center of excellence focused on health equity and SDOH. Assemble a consortium of diverse cross-sector stakeholders to ideate new solutions and enhance existing solutions, provide investment and strategic advisory services, and deploy best practice playbooks.

  • Phase 2 (2024-2025): Unified Health and Social Care Front Door (TurboTax for Health Equity and SDOH). Our goal is to ultimately develop a unified digital front door platform that integrates disparate social care benefits and healthcare benefits to empower patients to easily understand and access their benefits. Additionally, this will enable providers and payors (health plans, employers, gov. agencies) to procure and integrate several point solutions more easily.

  • Phase 3 (2025-2026): Impact Fund: Meaningful investments only flow into billion-dollar and/or high-margin businesses that can scale yet make a significant local impact. Unfortunately, SDOH companies are regional and require a longer-investment horizon due to outcomes being longitudinal. We aspire to increase investments in SDOH by designing a health equity bond, thus enabling SDOH companies to become more attractive to conventional investors, payors, and providers.

Key footnotes:

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