Investing Outside the Lines

Since its inception, CHCF has worked to catalyze improved care delivery, especially for the underserved. We support many organizations working inside the health care system to increase access and the quality of care in places where those are in short supply. But another signature responsibility of philanthropy is to support innovations, which often come from new and unexpected places. Reaching them often means using new tools, like investments instead of grants.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is providing new opportunities for innovation by changing payment structures to promote better outcomes and greater efficiency. This opens the way further for CHCF and other philanthropies to more fully use investment tools — such as program-related investments (PRI) — to fund new ventures whose business models and leadership hold significant prospects for improving care access and health outcomes or reducing the cost of care.

Through our Innovations for the Underserved program, we launched the CHCF Health Innovation Fund in 2010. It has provided early investments to a portfolio of companies whose products and services not only have wide applications, but also promise to significantly help improve care delivery for the underserved.

One of our earliest PRI forays was with CareInSync, which has mobile care coordination software that enables hospital and community-based providers to collaborate on patient-transition plans. The product gives providers a dashboard with checklists, notifications, and reminders designed to speed discharge, improve patient flow, and reduce hospital readmissions. Our investment helped the company show its value in a community hospital setting and led to its acquisition by a company that can expand the reach of the solution.

A current investment is in PipelineRx, which offers telepharmacy and remote medication-order processing services to US hospitals. Through the PipelineRx portal, a hospital connects with a remote team of pharmacists experienced with in-patient hospital care. This around-the-clock service enables real-time order review, better throughput, higher quality and safety outcomes, and access to essential pharmacy services. Why invest philanthropic dollars? Because the service can help rural and under-resourced medical facilities — the ones that care for large numbers of underserved patients — provide better access to better care.

We also know that there is strength in numbers and partnerships. Recently, we launched a collaboration with The Kresge Foundation to invest at least $5 million in companies with technology- or service-based solutions that help community health centers and clinics make their resources go further, increase patient access to care, and/or lower the cost of providing care.

We are looking for real impact. To be eligible, companies must demonstrate how their product or service can maintain or improve patient experience while accomplishing one or more of these goals:

  • Enhance health center efficiency by at least 20%
  • Increase access to highly needed health services for 100,000 patients annually
  • Reduce costs by $25 million annually

There is a steep learning curve when philanthropies decide to move out of our grantmaking comfort zone. But there are leaders who can help make the journey smoother. I urge you to read our survey of health foundations engaged in mission investing as well as a series of Q&As with leaders in the field.

With an end goal of better care and lower costs for California, we welcome other health-focused foundations to invest and learn with us. Impact investing bridges sectors, ideas, and health markets. By learning and investing together, we can help leverage our philanthropic energy and dollars to greater effect.