K Health launches funding round for virtual family portal
New York-based digital health provider, K Health, has launched its Series E funding round for the new K Parents initiative for family healthcare, already securing $132mn for the project.
The virtual solution is a ‘first of its kind’ system built on medical intelligence with easy-to-access doctors and will provide much-needed affordable services for families.
Research carried out by K Health revealed that cost and access are the most significant barriers to parents getting care for their children. In a recent survey of 2,200 parents in the US, 83% of parents said they worry for days or weeks before reaching out to a doctor, and nearly 20% of parents use social media or a search engine for medical advice.
The virtual healthcare platform is also launching at a time when parents are under unprecedented levels of stress, struggling with work, the cost of insurance, and remote school during the pandemic.
Currently, K for Parents offers ongoing paediatric insights and care for children ages 3-17. It provides a free symptom tracker and connects families to round-the-clock healthcare answers, sharing doctor’s treatment of children with similar conditions.
Using AI to analyse data based on millions of users and information provided by thousands of paediatricians, children can now receive free treatment and as part of an adult membership and no insurance is required.
The platform also brings world-leading medics to its patients from the Cleveland Clinic and Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“K Health is changing the equation of access to high quality medicine,” said Allon Bloch, CEO and co-founder of K Health. “Our system opens access to the best doctors at a fraction of the cost and without the wait. This new funding and expansion to care for the whole family gives more people the break they need today.”
The $132mn funding round was led by GGV Capital and Valor Equity Partners with participation from Kaiser Permanente pension fund and LTS Investments, the investment offices of Lemann, Telles and Sicupira, behind 3G Capital, and will enable K Health to enhance its services.
Currently, K Health's technology and symptom checker is based on anonymised, real-world data from over 400 million patient visits in the US and Israel. Data used in the development of the app includes patient visits recorded in Maccabi Health Services (MHS) – Israel’s second-largest HMO.
In November last year, K Health also announced a collaboration with Mayo Clinic through the Mayo Clinic Platform. The joint work focuses on improving and accelerating the deployment of virtual care models to improve health outcomes. The company also has a partnership with Maccabi Healthcare Services, Israel's second-largest HMO with 2.4mn members; as well as Anthem, to offer K Health to its 43mn members.
The rise in virtual health solutions globally were given an unexpected boost by the COVID-19 pandemic because it has enabled forms of healthcare to continue, despite stay-at-home and social distancing orders.
Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital agreed, saying, “The world needs a new archetype for health care, and K Health’s data, world class doctors, and team are resolute enough to deliver this.”
Tung believes the new initiative will solve several healthcare challenges. “GGV backs companies with potential to serve the greatest number of people, and by solving the healthcare inequities of access and affordability, K Health is one of the most impactful consumer health companies constructing the future of care for us all.”
Antonio Gracias Valor Equity Partners’ Founder and CEO, said, “It’s impressive to see the pace at which K Health is expanding to translate decades of rich data and doctor experience to meet families where they are.”
He added, “We believe that K Health will be game changing for families while also improving the broader health care system to enable faster, more efficient, and more seamless resolution of primary care concerns.”
AI Shows its Value; Governments Must Unleash its Potential
2020 has revealed just how far AI technology has come as it achieves fresh milestones in the fight against Covid-19. Google’s DeepMind helped predict the protein structure of the virus; AI-drive infectious disease tracker BlueDot spotted the novel coronavirus nine days before the World Health Organisation (WHO) first sounded the alarm. Just a decade ago, these feats were unfathomable.
Yet, we have only just scratched the surface of AI’s full potential. And it can’t be left to develop on its own. Governments must do more to put structures in place to advance the responsible growth of AI. They have a dual responsibility: fostering environments that enable innovation while ensuring the wider ethical and social implications are considered.
It is this balance that we are trying to achieve in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to ensure government accelerates, rather than hinders, the development of AI. Just as every economy is transitioning at the moment, we see innovation as being vital to realising our vision for a post-oil economy. Our work in his space has highlighted three barriers in the government approach when it comes to realising AI’s potential.
First, addressing the issue of ignorance
While much time is dedicated to talking about the importance of AI, there simply isn’t enough understanding of where it’s useful and where it isn’t. There are a lot of challenges to rolling out AI technologies, both practically and ethically. However, those enacting the policies too often don’t fully understand the technology and its implications.
The Emirates is not exempt from this ignorance, but it is an issue we have been trying to address. Over the last few years, we have been running an AI diploma in partnership with Oxford University, teaching government officials the ethical implications of AI deployment. Our ambition is for every government ministry to have a diploma graduate, as it is essential to ensure policy decision-making is informed.
Second, moving away from the theoretical
While this grounding in the moral implications of AI is critical, it is important to go beyond the theoretical. It is vital that experimentation in AI is allowed to happen for its own sake and not let ethical problems stymie innovations that don’t yet exist. Indeed, many of these concerns – while well-founded – are born out in the practical deployment of these end-use cases and can’t be meaningfully discussed on paper.
If you take facial recognition as an example, looking at this issue in abstract quickly leads to discussions over privacy concerns with potential surveillance and intrusion by private companies or authorities’ regimes.
But what about the more specific issue of computer vision? Although part of the same field, the same moral quandaries do not arise, and the technology is already bearing fruit. In 2018, we developed an algorithmic solution that can be used in the detection and diagnosis of tuberculosis from chest X-rays. You can upload any image of a chest X-ray, and the system will identify if a person has the disease. Laws and regulations must be tailored to unique use-cases of AI, rather than lumping disparate fields together.
To create this culture that encourages experimentation, we launched the RegLab. It provides a safe and flexible legislation ecosystem to supports the utilisation of future technologies. This means we can actually see AI in practice before determining appropriate regulation, not the other way around. Regulation is vital to cap any unintended negative consequences of AI, but it should never be at the expense of innovation.
Finally, understanding the knock-on effects of AI
There needs to be a deeper, more nuanced understanding of AI’s wider impact. It is too easy to think the economic benefits and efficiency gains of AI must also come with negative social implications, particularly concern over job loss.
But with the right long-term government planning, it’s possible to have one without the other; to maximise the benefits and mitigate potential downsides. If people are appropriately trained in how to use or understand AI, the result is a future workforce capable of working alongside these technologies for the better – just as computers complement most people’s work today.
We’ve to start this training as soon as possible in the Emirates. Through our Ministry of Education, we have rolled out an education programme to start teaching children about AI as young as five years old. This includes coding skills and ethics, and we are carrying this right through to higher education with the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence set to welcome its first cohort in January. We hope to create future generations of talent that can work in harmony with AI for the betterment of society, not the detriment.
AI will inevitably become more pervasive in society, digitisation will continue in the wake of the pandemic, and in time we will see AI’s prominence grow. But governments have a responsibility to society to ensure that this growth is matched with the appropriate understanding of AI’s impacts. We must separate the hype from the practical solutions, and we must rigorously interrogate AI deployment and ensure that it used to enhance our existence. If governments can overcome these challenges and create the environments for AI to flourish, then we have a very exciting future ahead of us.