Transitioning an elderly patient to palliative care can be a difficult decision for caregivers, but it’s one that families and clinicians across the globe make every day. Seattle-based KenSci contends that technology can help all parties make better, more informed choices.
The startup’s software has gained traction in hospitals, where KenSci says crunching patient mortality data leads to healthcare savings. Now KenSci has $22 million in new funding to support its growth.
The company’s latest round of financing was led by Polaris Partners, and the other participating investors included Mindset Ventures, Osage University Partners, and UL Ventures, KenSci says. The startup says it has raised $30.5 million in outside funding since launching in 2015.
An estimated 1.7 million patients in the United States use palliative care services, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. But research suggests patients are on average being transitioned to end-of-life care too late: 28 percent of patients transferred to hospices died or were discharged within a week, as several members of KenSci’s team wrote in a paper published last year. The startup says that by using advanced risk-forecasting tools, such as KenSci’s software, hospitals could more accurately predict mortality risk over the next six to 12 months, for example. With that information, patients can be moved to palliative care at the right time, the company says. KenSci’s software is now in use at healthcare organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
KenSci’s digital tools are designed for more than just making end-of-life care decisions. The startup’s subscription-based software helps hospital systems predict which of their patients have the highest likelihood of getting sick, what they’re likely to come down with, and how long they’d need to stay in the hospital if providers don’t intervene proactively. For those patients who do end up in the hospital, KenSci says it can predict which patients present the highest risk of readmission within 30 days of discharge.
Lowering the care costs for just a small chunk of the patients a hospital sees can have a major financial impact, says Samir Manjure, co-founder and CEO of KenSci (pictured above).
“Ninety percent of the costs in healthcare come from 10 percent” of the patients who receive care, he says.
Kensci is among the startups riding a wave of interest—and investment—in cutting-edge technologies built for the healthcare industry. Early-stage digital health businesses hauled in $14.6 billion in venture funding in 2018, according to New York-based StartUp Health.
Manjure, who spent 16-plus years at Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and held various leadership roles at the company, co-founded KenSci with his childhood friend Ankur Teredesai. Teredesai, who serves as the startup’s chief technology officer, is also a computer science professor at the University of Washington Tacoma.
KenSci has developed machine learning algorithms that pool information from a variety of sources, including patients’ electronic health records, data collected by wearable devices, and insurance claims, to predict future risks.
The startup has partnered with several large hospital and clinic networks to try to provide better and more cost-effective care to populations of patients with certain conditions. One such tie-up was with Tacoma, WA-based MultiCare Health System, and focused on readmissions of chronic heart failure patients. KenSci has also worked with NHS Scotland to make predictions on patients who have—or risk developing—pulmonary disease, and with Kaiser Permanente to help hospital workers coordinate the care of high-risk patients.
KenSci’s competitors include IBM (NYSE: IBM) Watson Health and Optum, which is part of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), Manjure says. Other companies that make software healthcare organizations can use to define specific patient populations and track their health include Evolent Health (NYSE: EVH) and Health Catalyst.
KenSci currently has about 70 people on its team, who work from offices in Seattle, Singapore, and Hyderabad, India, says Manjure. The startup plans to hire more engineers in coming months, and its headcount could grow by as much as 75 percent by year-end, he says.