K Health Closes $50M to Bring AI to Primary Care

Momentum begets momentum, and K Health is building on the recent debut of its AI Knowledge Agent with the close of $50M in equity funding led by Claure Group.

K Health is on a mission to provide access to high-quality medical care at scale by using AI to turn patient smartphones into the first stop along their care journey.

  • K’s clinical-grade AI for primary care takes patients through a personalized chat to walk through their symptoms, develops an assessment grounded in the EHR, then delivers insights to providers to inform their diagnoses and treatments.
  • This allows providers to practice at the top of their license and engage with their patients instead of spending valuable time manually piecing together relevant information.

We unpacked K’s AI Knowledge Agent when it was first unveiled, but the short-and-sweet version is that it’s composed of an array of LLMs enhanced by K’s own algorithms, with a few key differentiators from today’s standard AI applications:

  • It incorporates the patient’s medical history to provide highly tailored responses, enabling a higher level of personalization than standalone models.
  • It’s optimized for accuracy by using curated sources, then leverages multiple specialized agents to verify the answer matches the sources and the EHR data is appropriate.

A core component of K’s blueprint is partnering with health systems to serve as an entry point to their larger care ecosystem, and Cedars-Sinai has been helping co-develop a longitudinal care program that integrates virtual care with in-person services.

  • By combining K’s AI with the patient’s EHR and Cedars-Sinai’s brick-and-mortar assets, patients can be intelligently routed to the right place to resolve their needs, reaching everything from primary care and specialists to labs and tests within the same interface.

K’s competitive advantage is its ability to do more with less. An AI-led model that eliminates the need to build clinics allows K to achieve better outcomes at lower costs than traditional primary care, and profitability looks like it’s in the forecast for next year.

  • The fresh funds will be used to fuel more health system partnerships and continue sharpening K’s AI, which should in turn allow it to keep improving the unit economics that separate it from the likes of Walmart Health (RIP) and VillageMD.

The Takeaway

Primary care is the gateway to the healthcare system, but that gateway is rusting away from the demands of an aging population and a shortage of providers. K Health is setting out to prove that AI can repair the situation, and it now has $50M to help it make its case.

K Health Introduces First-of-its-Kind AI Knowledge Agent

Clinical AI is stepping up to the big leagues, and K Health is the team that’s taking it there.

In an exclusive interview with Digital Health Wire, K Health CEO Allon Bloch took the lid off his company’s new AI Knowledge Agent, a first-of-its-kind GenAI system purpose-built for the clinical setting.

On the surface the AI Knowledge Agent looks and feels like a familiar medical chatbot, with a simple search bar interface for the user to ask natural language questions about their health. It isn’t until you see the responses that you realize you’re looking at something entirely unique.

The AI Knowledge Agent is about as far away from a rules-based chatbot as you can get. The agent is composed of an array of large language models enhanced by K Health’s own algorithms, carrying several major differentiators from today’s standard AI applications:

  • It incorporates the patient’s medical history grounded by their EHR to provide highly tailored responses, enabling a level of personalization that’s impossible to match for standalone models (i.e. a diabetic and a heart failure patient will see different answers to the same question, using their own history, potential adverse drug interactions, etc.).
  • It will be embedded into health systems to serve as a digital front door that intelligently routes patients to the right place to resolve their needs, reaching everything from primary care and specialists to labs and tests within the same interface.
  • It’s optimized for accuracy by using curated high-quality health sources, then leverages multiple specialized agents to verify the answer matches the sources and the EHR data is appropriate. It will even tell you that it doesn’t know the answer rather than hallucinate.

In head-to-head testing against top tier foundation models, K Health’s multi-agent approach led to answers for sample medical questions that were 9% more comprehensive (included clinically crucial statements from the “gold standard” answer) and had 36% fewer hallucinations than its closest benchmark, GPT-4. 

  • Strong results, especially considering that the AI Knowledge Agent shines brightest in real-world situations where it can personalize its answers using EHR context.

For possibly the first time ever, GenAI has reached the point where it can support actual clinical journeys, delivering answers personalized to the patient’s medical history while connecting them directly to required care. The era of Googling symptoms then calling your doctor feels like it’s finally coming to an end.

The Takeaway

We’re very much in the opening act of clinical AI, and understandably cautious providers are only just beginning to test the waters. That said, it’s easy to imagine that we’ll one day look back at launches like K Health’s AI Knowledge Agent as key moments for building trust and confidence in the AI systems that reshaped care delivery.

K Health Raises $59M for Chat-First Care

K Health is the latest startup to deploy the “battlefield tactic” of raising an unlabeled funding round to help scale its platform, locking in $59M and a new strategic investment from Cedars-Sinai.

K Health’s been moving quickly since rolling out its AI-enabled symptom checker in 2018, raising $330M, expanding to 48 states, and seeing over 10M patients interact with its chatbot.

  • CEO Allon Bloch told Forbes that the K Health platform aims to be the antidote to “Dr. Google” by ingesting user symptoms then stacking them up against its database of millions of patient visits to suggest possible diagnoses.
  • The chatbot itself doesn’t give medical advice, but gives patients the option of having a human doctor take over the chat after providing them with potential diagnoses and a summary of the conversation. Over 70% of users reportedly opt for a chat-based visit.

That might sound similar to Babylon and Zipnosis, but K Health licensed its original dataset from HMO Maccabi in its native Israel, where patients tend to stick with the same payor most of their lives and thus provide a rare longitudinal view of clinical and outcomes data.

  • K Health reportedly did $52M in revenue last year (margins currently still in the red), around 40% of which was direct-to-consumer and the rest was through enterprise contracts. 

The next chapter of K Health’s journey is to build up its roster of hospital clients to serve as a “digital practice partner,” starting with its new investor Cedars-Sinai.

  • Cedars-Sinai will be using K Health for virtual primary care, and by the end of the year expects to have an app co-developed to triage new patients to the system’s physicians.

The Takeaway

One of the more interesting pieces of K Health’s funding announcement was Cedars-Sinai’s input into where K Health fits into its broader digitization strategy. While the health system excels in complex areas such as transplants and neurosurgery, primary care remains difficult to tackle due to physician shortages and burnout. These logistical challenges are the exact problems that K Health looks to address, and they’re also challenges that are far from exclusive to Cedars-Sinai.

Hydrogen Health Begins Primary Care Roll Out

When Hydrogen Health launched in April of this year, it set out to bring new digital health tools to consumers and employers, a goal that is coming into fruition with the announcement of the nationwide rollout of its Virtual Primary Care offering.

  • Hydrogen Health is a joint venture between K Health, Anthem, and Blackstone, offering payors and employers a platform to integrate text-based chats and telehealth visits into their existing services.
  • K Health is Hydrogen’s flagship product, leveraging AI to provide patients with personalized information about how their symptoms compare to others experiencing similar symptoms, while collaborating with affiliated clinicians to improve outcomes.
  • Virtual Primary Care was originally piloted by Anthem over the summer, but Hydrogen is now expanding to other large employers and health plans to help reach an additional 10M people by the end of 2022.

The Next Generation of Virtual Primary Care

Virtual Primary Care advances Hydrogen’s strategy of building continuous primary care relationships, complete with end-to-end diagnosis and management of chronic conditions without a reliance on in-person visits.

The approach combines K Health’s digital-first platform with a recently expanded affiliated clinician network, addressing issues with traditional care models such as low doctor availability and long wait times.

If a patient requires a referral to specialty care, a board-certified clinician will help navigate them to appropriate providers, creating an easy way for consumers to transverse digital and in-person care.

You’d be hard pressed to find a digital health startup that isn’t talking about removing friction from healthcare, but Hydrogen Health clearly plans to be a leader among those walking the talk.

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