“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
Innovation is the backbone of successful companies – a crucial aspect to competitive differentiation in the business world.
But with the world around us changing so quickly, it can be hard for organizations to stay on top of the latest trends and differentiate between those that will have a lasting impact vs. those that are just a passing fad.
Enter Cigna Ventures, the strategic venture fund of Cigna Corporation. The team, which was stood up about six years ago with just two people, has grown to nine individuals tasked with giving great ideas the momentum to make an impact. The team partners closely with entrepreneurs who share Cigna’s tenacity to unlock bold new opportunities to improve people's health and make health care more affordable, simple, and predictable. The team is made up of investment professionals and business development experts. While strategically aligned to Cigna, Cigna Ventures maintains autonomy to make investment decisions with the same rigor and speed of a traditional financial investor.
“We're ultimately looking to partner with entrepreneurs to accelerate our strategy and bring innovation into the organization by becoming strategic partners with the companies that we deploy capital with.”Tom Richards, senior vice president and global leader of strategy and business development at Cigna
Cigna Ventures’ investments are focused on maximizing impact across three areas of focus:
Below, we deep dive into each and showcase some of the innovations that have come out of Cigna Ventures’ investments.
Health Care Insights and Analytics
Craig Cimini, managing director at Cigna Ventures believes unlocking the right data has the potential to make life-changing impacts on Cigna's business and the customers and communities we serve.
“Data and analytics provide us with a powerful tool to unlock insights and then use those insights to personalize the care experience for our customers,” Cimini told Cigna's Newsroom staff. “These tools can also help us predict future events, which can help us to improve health outcomes for our customers.” For example, data and analytics could help Cigna identify people who show early clinical signs of a rare disease and guide our outreach to these individuals about preventive care.
One recent partnership the Cigna Ventures team has made in the data and analytics space is with a company called Datavant, which has created an open ecosystem of data connection points to securely organize disparate health care data and facilitate seamless exchange of that data, while complying with privacy regulations. Hundreds of organizations trust Datavant to securely connect patient data across the health care industry.
“The fragmentation of health data across institutions holds back every part of medical research and patient care,” Travis May, founder & CEO of Datavant, said in a press release. “By making it safe and easy to connect data across institutions, Datavant aspires to accelerate medical research, improve clinical trials, and ultimately enhance patient care. We have already seen real-world data make a clear difference in our understanding of the current public health crisis, and we believe that real-world data will accelerate our understanding and ability to treat other diseases.”
In 2022 and beyond, Cimini said, Cigna Ventures will lean into AI and predictive tools – technology that enables more personalized experiences and predictive solutions through the application of AI and machine learning.
Digital Health and Experiences
Digital technology will power the future of health care experiences, Cimini said, stressing that consumers need to be at the center of how they're receiving care.
“Right now it’s pretty fragmented, and it can be a really frustrating experience,” Cimini said.
“We need to source and utilize more solutions that are oriented around the consumer experience and receiving care in whatever way is most convenient for the patient.”Craig Cimini, managing director at Cigna Ventures.
For example, we’ve seen a massive acceptance of virtual care over the last 18 months: Before the pandemic, research finds, just over 1% of medical and behavioral doctor visits were conducted virtually. Today, they make up nearly 25%, with 58% of Americans saying they are comfortable with virtual consultations replacing in-person visits, especially if virtual care is more convenient (47%), decreases their costs (44%), allows for free virtual follow-ups (37%), or enables long-distance care when out of their area/traveling (35%).
“Think of how seamless the digital experiences are for consumer brands like Netflix, Apple, and Amazon,” Cimini said. “Consumers have come to expect that same level of service and experience in health care that is more akin to other services they consume in their life – in terms of personalized, immediate, and convenient. Digital health solutions also make quality care more accessible and affordable.”
Over the last 18 months, Cigna Ventures has formed a number of partnerships in the digital experience space. One such partnership is with Buoy Health for digital customer care guidance. Buoy uses AI to check a person’s symptoms in combination with the latest medical information to offer people personalized information and treatments as well as proactive next steps to seek care.
In 2020, more than 200,000 Cigna customers completed COVID-19 assessments on Buoy Health’s COVID-19 symptom checker. The technology was able to help users determine whether they required in-person care. Across all Cigna platforms, 77% of users did not require in-person care, a potential savings of nearly $3.7 million dollars. Additionally, the use of this tool and the subsequent data that it generated lessened the strain on the health care system by allowing customers to seek out alternative care if they did not have COVID-19 symptoms. By steering patients who did not have COVID-19 away from provider visits, Buoy’s COVID-19 Symptom Checker helped save providers more than an estimated 7,500 hours, which allowed health providers to focus on COVID-19 cases.
Care Delivery and Enablement
Care delivery and enablement is all about alternative sites of care and enabling care more efficiently, Cimini said. A good example is Cigna's partnership with Arcadia, a health care data and software company that is dedicated to helping health care companies achieve success through value-based care.
The company’s website describes its work this way: “We help innovative healthcare organizations across the country succeed under value-based care with high-quality aggregated data, actionable insights, and provider-friendly workflow applications.” Arcadia helps health plans, like Cigna, by making care and risk documentation gaps actionable within their existing clinical workflows. The technology combines clinically integrated data with predictive analytics to help providers find the patients most likely to engage and close a care gap, while improving the health plan’s risk adjustment program.
Cigna also invested in the virtual health platform MDLIVE, a long-standing partner offering urgent and behavioral virtual care to Cigna customers. In early 2021, Evernorth, Cigna’s health services company, acquired MDLIVE and expanded virtual care access for customers with digital-first primary and dermatology care.
Cigna Ventures is also investing in solutions with remote monitoring capabilities to improve access and outcomes, reduce care costs, and simplify the experience for specific health needs such as dermatology and maternal health, Cimini said. A partnership with Zerigo Health, which combines virtual care with at-home treatment, and a recent investment in Babyscripts, which combines virtual care and provider engagement with remote patient monitoring for maternal and postpartum care, are good examples of the innovation Cigna Ventures is helping to drive in this space.
Bringing Differentiated Value to Cigna
Because the Cigna Ventures team sits within the strategy and business development organization at Cigna – which helps guide the enterprise strategy for our organization – the group is making informed investment decisions.
“We take a very proactive approach to partnering and being the partner of choice for the companies that that we invest in,” Richards said. “In addition to partnering with these organizations, we also serve on their boards and provide them with expertise and guidance. We have a team of people that are helping these companies commercialize faster and remove some of the ‘large company burden’ that can be challenging for small startup companies.”
Cigna Ventures: Health Care Venture Capital
We partner closely with entrepreneurs who share our tenacity to unlock bold new opportunities to improve people's health and make health care more affordable, predictable and simple.