- Homeward is set to provide primary care services in up to 700 Rite Aid stores in rural communities.
- The startup, led by former Livongo executives, was launched in March with $20 million from General Catalyst.
- Rite Aid has always avoided primary care, focusing instead on its pharmacy services.
The new healthcare startup led by a former Livongo president has entered into a major partnership with Rite Aid, the company told Insider exclusively.
Homeward, a startup launched in March with Dr. Jennifer Schneider at the helm, seeks to provide primary and specialty care to rural communities across the United States.
The collaboration is expected to put Homeward’s services in no less than 700 Rite Aid locations, with mobile care expected to begin in Michigan store parking lots in the third quarter and expand out of state by the end of the year. The financial terms of the deal and the timeline for the full expansion were not shared.
The San Francisco startup is operating with $20 million in funding led by General Catalyst to deliver in-person and virtual care, including
to people in rural areas through care teams made up of doctors, nurses and other providers.
Homeward also takes all the risk, which means Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans will pay the startup a fixed amount per patient each month to provide primary and specialty care, starting with cardiology.
Homeward chose Rite Aid as a partner, Schneider said, because of its large footprint in rural communities. The 700 stores where Homeward’s services are expected to eventually be available are all in rural areas. Rite Aid has 2,300 stores in a total of 17 states, making it the fourth largest drugstore chain in the United States.
The commitment to providing Homeward’s services in stores is a big endorsement of Rite Aid, which had stayed away from primary care. It offers the rural healthcare startup a broad reach just two months after its launch.
Schneider previously served as President and Chief Medical Officer of the Virtual Center
-care startup Livongo, which Teladoc acquired in 2020 for $13.9 billion.
Homeward wants to provide her patients with personalized care, which Schneider says became interested when she worked at Livongo.
“We were obsessed with what the person was going through and helped address those pain points,” Schneider told Insider. “It’s the same process here.”
And like Livongo, Homeward is personal for Schneider. She turned out to have
at age 12 while living in rural Minnesota.
After being diagnosed, she said, it took her weeks to see an endocrinologist, a specialist who focuses on hormones like insulin.
About 46 million Americans, or 14% of the US population, live in rural areas. But about 77% of rural communities do not have enough primary care physicians. Specialists are even harder to find.
Homeward’s goal, Schneider said, is to fill in the gaps.
“We’re leveraging technology assets in a new revenue model around full capitation to deliver the care that rural America’s people need,” she said. “And that’s my family. I’m very attached to that.”
Other Livongo veterans joined Schneider in the new venture. Amar Kendale, former chief product officer at Livongo, is now president of Homeward, and Dr. Bimal Shah, former chief medical officer of Livongo, is chief operating officer of Homeward.
Schneider hinted that Homeward would pursue other partnerships this year.
“Our growth business model here is looking at how we can take advantage of existing access and make it more convenient to deliver higher quality, lower cost results to our members,” she said, adding that Homeward was looking at various avenues in the health care field to find businesses. it might help speed up this mission.
The collaboration is another attempt for Rite Aid to bring primary care to its stores. The pharmacy chain is following in the footsteps of Walgreens, which announced a partnership with primary care provider VillageMD in 2020.
In October, Walgreens acquired a majority stake in VillageMD for a whopping $5.2 billion.
Rite Aid says it has no plans to invest in Homeward. Chris Bohrer, senior vice president of payment and strategic initiatives at Rite Aid, told Insider that the pharmacy player would not seek to compete with local providers by owning primary care clinics.
“We are focused on how we use our pharmacists to connect with others in the ecosystem to advance care and fill gaps,” he said.
He added that the pharmacy plans to open more stores in rural areas and bring more services to these communities in the future.