Healthcare-focused venture firms are forming a best practices group for securing health data

Some of the nation’s top healthcare-focused venture capital firms are banding together to form an advisory council with the technology security certification provider, Hitrust, to create best practices for data security for startups developing digital health technologies.

The conversations, spearheaded by the Nashville-based, healthcare-focused investment fund, Frist-Cressey, were designed to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies throughout the healthcare industry by creating best-practices around data security that large healthcare organizations demand before adopting a new service.

“Our service or our software want to be taken nationwide and everybody gets excited and thats’ when you get in front of the Chief security officer’s office and they ask if you’re HiTrust certified,” says Frist-Cressey partner Chris Booker. 

“It makes [startups] more marketable or more viable,” says Daniel Nutkis, the chief executive of Hitrust. “Organizations tend to be reluctant to work with startups… [Our certification] gave venture capital firms a level of comfort and we saw it as an opportunity.. Chris approached us to better develop a program more targeted at early stage companies… so that this becomes an easier program and can make it more wide-scale.”

So far investors including Ascension Ventures, Bain Capital . Ventures, Echo Health Ventures, Frist Cressey Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Blue Cross Blue Shield Ventures, Heritage Group, New Enterprise Associates and 7wire Ventures have all signed on to the venture capital advisory council.

For the firms, it’s simply a matter of protecting what is an increasing percentage of capital commitments. Investors have poured $50 billion into healthcare startups, according to data pulled from CB Insights, and nearly $16 billion of those investments were in digital health companies. Meanwhile, early stage startups are increasingly vulnerable to data breaches and lax security practices — failures of oversight that can mean the difference between life and death for early stage startups.

“Data breaches and privacy violations… these things can destroy a company,” says Booker.

Public health startup Cityblock raises $65M Series B

Redpoint Ventures has led a $65 million Series B in Cityblock, a healthcare company focused on providing improved care to low-income neighborhoods.

The business launched roughly 18 months ago out of Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation incubator known for projects like mobility data startup Coord, which itself raised a $5 million round in October.

“We’re a tech-enabled services company focused on caring for a population that has been traditionally overlooked by the innovation community and generally underserved across healthcare,” co-founder and chief executive officer Iyah Romm told TechCrunch. “We believe we can fundamentally redefine the way that health services are built across the country for low-income populations. These are populations that have never been prioritized.”

Romm has spent his entire career in the public health sector. Prior to joining Sidewalk Labs as an entrepreneur-in-residence in 2017, he spent one year as the chief transformation officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, a nonprofit medical care delivery organization.

Cityblock provides personalized medical and behavioral health and social services across a growing number of clinics on the East Coast. The company will use the investment to open additional clinics and continue the development of its core platform, Commons. The electronic health record helps care workers collaborate and stay up to date on patients, with real-time hospital admission alerts to tools for tracking treatment progress.

Cityblock opened its first clinic, or “neighborhood hub,” in Brooklyn, New York after forging a partnership with EmblemHealth, a New York neighborhood health insurance business. They’ve since expanded to Connecticut via a partnership with ConnectiCare, a Connecticut insurance provider. Cityblock will open clinics in North Carolina later this year. Cityblock’s services come at no additional costs to members covered by partner insurance businesses.

The startup’s hope is to get these low-income demographics in the doctor’s office more often. Preventative care, after all, is a whole lot cheaper than emergency room visits.

“People end up going to the ER when problems are really bad, for conditions that can be managed,” Redpoint partner and newly appointed Cityblock board member Elliot Geidt told TechCrunch. “There are 75 million people on Medicaid alone and a good portion of these people are living in the inner cities. It’s a problem that has a scope larger than most things that we see in the venture community. The big problem with this population is the existing healthcare system doesn’t work for them, it falls short on so many levels.”

New investors 8VC, Echo Health Ventures and StartUp Health also participated in the latest round, as did existing investors including Sidewalk Labs, Thrive Capital, Maverick Ventures, Town Hall Ventures and EmblemHealth.