Virtual Healthcare Assistant Startup HeyRenee Raises $4.4M
Virtual assistant for healthcare developer HeyRenee has raised $4.4 million in an oversubscribed seed funding round led by Quiet Capital. HeyRenee and its eponymous platform are set to launch this spring as an open place where healthcare providers and patients can curate what the startup terms a virtual ‘concierge’ to interact with patients and guide them through their health plans.
HeyRenee is essentially a digital health resource pooling together information and guidance from providers. Aimed specifically at people with chronic conditions, or those who are underserved, the idea is that Hey Renee will improve health outcomes without the need for frequent and expensive acute care later on. Insurance companies and employers would hire HeyRenee to reduce their costs by curating the help the patients need. It can remind users about pills they need to take, monitor health vitals, handle prescription refills, and set up virtual or in-person visits with doctors. All of the patient’s info is there so they can check on what they need to do even before getting reminded by voice, text, or within the app on a mobile phone. There are also plans to turn it into an Alexa voice app.
“HeyRenee is a personal healthcare assistant that unifies the myriad complex aspects of healthcare into one intuitive, delightful experience specifically designed for underprivileged, older Americans who often have lower health and tech literacy and multiple health, social, and cultural factors that require coordinated attention to realize improved outcomes,” HeyRenee CEO Nick Desai explained. “Quiet Capital and [partner] Morgan Livermore are exceptionally high value-added lead investors. Along with Fika, Tau, and our other investors, they fuel our unrelenting pursuit of health equity for all Americans.”
HeyRenee was founded by Desai and Renee Dua, who together previously founded the medical professional network Heal for arranging virtual and in-person house calls for patients. The startup has now raised $8.2 million and rapidly upped its reach over the last five months. The platform is currently undergoing a pilot test as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services PandemicX health equity-focused program. The coordinated care concept can save $7,700 per patient per year on healthcare costs, according to HeyRenee. It’s especially useful for the three-quarters of seniors who don’t have one in place.
Voicebot’s own research has noted the surge of interest in conversational AI for healthcare among consumers. As can be seen in the visual on the right, interest was already high in 2019 and rose another 5% in 2021 to 56%. The actual percentage who have used a voice assistant for that purpose has jumped enormously from 7.5% to 21%. Consumer interest in accessing information about illnesses, not least COVID-19, and a growing number of voice healthcare options have pushed interest along even more. Response to demand comes in every form from full AI medical assistants to simple tools from CVS that read prescriptions on bottles out loud to people with limited vision.
Startups that offer some combination of conversational AI and healthcare are seeing a lot of cash thrown their way as a result. Orbita, Hyro, and Avaamo have all seen significant funding rounds, and it was healthcare and tools like COVID-19 vaccine bots that helped make Nuance worth almost $20 billion to Microsoft.
Big companies are not ignoring this interest either. Alexa has been augmenting its own healthcare capabilities, adding the ability to find and map out testing and vaccination sites for COVID-19 and releasing the Halo fitness tracker, later adding Alexa voice controls. The tech giant has also begun running an accelerator for such startups with its new AWS Healthcare Accelerator.