Feb 24, 2022 - Economy

Scoop: Former Googler raises $22M for heart care

Illustration of a one hundred dollar bill with a portrait of a heart.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Tom Stanis is at it again. After spending nearly a decade building the virtual care offering at Alphabet life science spinout Verily, Stanis has raised $22.6 million in Series A funding for a new health venture called Story Health, he tells Axios exclusively.

Driving the news: Saratoga, Calif.-based Story Health is a virtual care startup focused on heart conditions. Northpond Ventures and B Capital Group co-led the round.

Between the lines: Story is among several remote patient monitoring (RPM) startups focused on extending care for severe conditions into the home.

  • This hot sub-sector of health tech is attracting ever-higher amounts of investor interest on the premise that it will cut costs and boost quality.

Context: Currently focused on heart conditions, Story aims to expand into other issues that are treatable with virtual coaching and remote monitoring.

  • "Specialty care is facing capacity challenges, and any way to streamline efforts to get patients the care they need was interesting to us," B Capital general partner Karen Page tells Axios. "And going into cardiology as a wedge into that care area made a lot of sense."
  • The approach is similar to the one taken by several other other Silicon Valley-based digital health startups, including:
    • Athelas, which began with immunocompromised patients and earlier this month raised $132 million.
    • Livongo, which got its start in diabetes and was acquired by Teladoc in 2020 for $18.5 billion.

How it works: Like several other RPM companies, Story Health partners with health systems to help patients with severe illness return home without disrupting their care.

  • Integrating with electronic health records systems Epic and Cerner allows Story to crunch patient data, such as vital signs and medications, and help guide clinicians' decisions about their care.
  • Story's RPM tools include connected blood pressure cuffs, heart rate monitors and weight scales.
  • Currently focused on patients with heart failure, the startup plans to expand into other heart-related illnesses later this year, such as aortic aneurysm and dyslipidemia.
  • The company is currently enrolling patients in a clinical trial focused on studying its effectiveness in heart failure.

Details: New investor LRVHealth also joined Story's Series A round, alongside existing backers Define Ventures and General Catalyst.

  • Founded in 2020, Story has now raised a total of roughly $27 million.
  • The company was last valued at about $88 million, according to PitchBook.
  • Nikhil Roy, formerly a product manager at Verily, co-founded Story and is chief product officer, and Sutter Health cardiologist Ashul Govil is chief medical officer.

What they're saying: The digital health consolidation wave that's seen mergers of employer-facing companies like Teladoc and Livongo hasn't come for startups that partner with health systems yet. But it will, experts tell Axios.

  • "Is a health system going to want to have contracts with company A for diabetes, company B for respiratory disease, and company C for something else?" Mintu Turakhia, a cardiac electrophysiologist and the director of Stanford's Center for Digital Health, tells Axios.
  • "I think we’re in the first wave of disease management," he adds, suggesting that the second phase will see consolidation that allows for disease management across multiple conditions. 

One fun thing: Story's name comes from the idea that quality care requires an understanding of a patients' complete health (hi)story, beyond what happens in episodic visits to the hospital, clinic or emergency room.

  • "It's not just what [patients] tell you in one doctor's visit, but instead what’s happening in their lives day by day," Stanis tells Axios.

Erin Brodwin co-authors the Axios Pro Health Tech deals newsletter. Start your free trial at AxiosPro.com.

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