Text-based primary care company Curai Health raised $27.5 million in funding. The Palo Alto-based startup was co-founded in 2017 by Neal Khosla, who previously worked in machine intelligence at Google, and Xavier Amatriain, who built Netflix’s recommendation engine. Curai also recruited MDLive’s former chief medical officer, Dr. Sylvan Waller.
Khosla said he had the idea for the company as he began thinking more about healthcare access. Why does it take most patients two to three weeks to see a physician, and why do so many people go to Google with their healthcare questions instead of a healthcare professional?
“We have this amazing supply of knowledgeable doctors in our country and we need to figure out how to scale them,” he said.
Up to this point, Curai has been consumer-facing, with a relatively low cost of about $8 per visit. Going forward, the company hopes to build out partnerships with employers, payers, and public sector organizations, to make its text-based primary care service available to more employees.
“We see it as not just being a primary care service, but a safety net for healthcare access,” Khosla said. “We can provide you with a primary care physician to help you navigate over time and build a suite of services around that.”
Curai currently offers two different text-based services. The first is somewhat familiar: users can chat with a provider anytime about an urgent health concern. But the startup has also built out a version of text-based care where patients can chat with the same physician across multiple visits, such as if they had questions about a medication or health condition.
Patients’ care teams include a licensed physician in the U.S. and clinical associates, which are trained physicians overseas.
Behind all of this, Curai is building out an AI decision support tool to work with clinicians. For example, it can help with charting, prompting questions for patients before they start a visit, and pulling important information into a patient’s medical record.
The AI system isn’t trained to work with all conditions, but is building up its capabilities over time, Amatriain said. The company’s algorithms are trained on de-identified healthcare data, and Amatriain added that the company encrypts all patient data to ensure it is secure.
“The AI is humble in a way because it’s learned when it’s being helpful, whether the doctor has accepted (its suggestion) or not,” he said. “The AI learns to be more helpful and suggest things that are more appropriate given the context of the situation.”
Morningside Ventures led Curai’s series B round. Previous investors General Catalyst and Khosla Ventures — the firm founded by Khosla’s father, Vinod Khosla — also participated in the funding round. Morningside’s Stephen Bruso will join the company’s board of directors as part of the deal.
The startup plans to use the funding to expand its platform to additional states. Curai is currently only available in the state of California, but plans to expand to half of the U.S. by next summer.
Photo credit: Venimo, Getty Images