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Exclusive: Care.ai gets $27M for hospital sensors

Erin Brodwin
Nov 21, 2022
Animated illustration of a hospital bed with a loading symbol rotating on top

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Care.ai CEO Chakri Toleti just secured $27 million for his company's ambient clinical sensing technology with a bold goal.

"I want to kill the EMR," Toleti told Erin over dinner last week at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas, referring to the electronic medical record.

Why it matters: Error-prone and time-consuming, EMRs are almost universally disliked by clinicians, patients and founders — a realization that led Toleti to found Care.ai, which uses ambient sensors to monitor patients in the hospital. Go deeper

  • "It's the most antiquated way of capturing what's going on" in a clinic or hospital, Toleti said.

Details: Crescent Cove Advisors, a San Francisco-based private equity and credit-led investment firm, provided the funding.

How it works: Care.ai's technology includes ambient sensors designed to detect bed exits and prevent falls in hospital rooms.

  • The sensors also track caregivers throughout a facility and provide contactless patient screening and check-in, with the ultimate vision of making manual tracking in medical records less necessary.
  • Unlike remote patient monitoring solutions, Care.ai's technology isn't worn by the patient — taking the onus off the patient to be aware of their device at all times.

What's happening: Toleti says 1,500 facilities are using Care.ai's technology including Jupiter Medical Center and Northfield Hospital.

Yes, but: While boosting caregiver efficiency is a great start, the real test of any health tech tool is whether it improves patient outcomes, SVB Securities senior managing director Stephanie Davis tells Erin.

  • It's too early to know whether the majority of hospital automation technology can do that, Davis says.
  • Still, Davis adds, "we can definitely see the technology saving clinician time, which makes the really big difference."

What's next: Care.ai is considering making a "smaller" acquisition — something in the realm of $5 to $10 million — in the next year, Toleti says.

Driving the news: Pandemic-induced staff shortages and burnout are spiking demand for automated tools promising to boost efficiency while cutting costs. Toleti says Care.ai's virtual, ambient monitoring can help.

  • "Nursing shortages mean care teams are increasingly burdened," says Toleti. "That's driving adoption of our technology."

Yes, and: EMRs are highly manual, requiring primary care clinicians to spend more than half their workday typing and charting, per a 2017 study published in the Annals of Family Medicine, and such manual processes can contribute to medical errors that harm patients.

Context: Care.ai's competitors include General Electric, which offers its own suite of clinical sensing tools, as well as in-hospital remote patient monitoring companies, such as wearable sensor developer BioIntelliSense, which last year raised $45 million in Series B funding.

Reality check: Despite years of hype, the vision of "smart hospitals" — AI-powered, hyper-efficient places where caregivers and tech go hand-in-hand — has yet to fully arrive, with steep integration challenges and competition from point solutions focused on either the home or the hospital.

  • "All of this has to be integrated, otherwise it doesn’t work," says Davis. "All these different venues of care — hospital, home, virtual — are different venues of the same care, so it does not make sense to have different tech platforms for the same care that you’re getting."
  • "The arc of hospital-based technology tends to be a long one," Davis adds. "I do think we are headed in that direction and some of the ambient clinical intelligence solutions are a very big first step, but we’re still far away."

🎥 One fun thing: Toleti in a previous life helped design sensors for filming action scenes in Bollywood movies, and one day had the idea of using the tech in health care.

  • His previous health tech startup, a mobile patient engagement platform called HealthGrids, was acquired by Allscripts (NAS: MDRX) in 2018 for for $60 million in cash and $50 million in earnout payments.
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