Our responsibility to bring a better cancer journey to scale
Nearly four years ago, we were sitting in a small WeWork room to whiteboard all of the problems cancer patients experience throughout their journey (there are a lot!) and solutions to solve for them. Cancer patients are so vulnerable as they try to navigate their own journey, and most of the time lack an advocate who really understands the system. We didn’t start this idea with a business model in mind but a mission to help as many people as possible. After years in the oncology space, we’ve become de facto informal advisors for friends and acquaintances from all over the country and even the world. We needed to find a way to enable this access and build a business model around it.
We also knew that vision would be difficult to achieve in today’s fee-for-service environment. Care outside of the clinic is not yet a service that is funded by health insurance plans or government insurance, which makes it hard to implement at a systemic level at scale. We’ve spent enough time in the space to know that oncologists were willing to embrace value based care. We knew there were interventions focused on access, interacting with patients outside the home, and comprehensive navigation that worked.
But in today’s fee-for-service environment these things just weren’t being done at scale. We needed to create a new model for value-based cancer care: one that works in collaboration with oncologists to deliver comprehensive cancer care support – whether that’s in the clinic or elsewhere. As we grappled with this challenge, we recruited Brad Diephuis to join our executive leadership team. Brad joined us from the innovation arm of Medicare, and brought a wealth of experience, not only from the government, but as a practicing primary care physician, an entrepreneur, and a cancer survivor himself. Together, we’ve built models to begin enabling the type of care we know that cancer patients need.
Fast forward three years from our founding and here we are. With the announcement of our Series B investment, we’re proud of how far we’ve come and most importantly excited and committed to what comes next. We’re enabling the first wave of value-based cancer care, and paving the way for an entire industry to follow suit.
In the midst of all this activity, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on how we got here and why our future progress is so critical. Our investors have put their trust in our ability to solve a problem that touches almost all of us one way or another. We’re building impactful partnerships with providers, health plans and other risk bearing entities. We have a great responsibility to live up to those expectations and transform the cancer care journey.
Why we do what we do
Thyme Care was created to radically improve the experience of cancer patients and unify the oncology ecosystem. Thyme Care guides members with cancer through their diagnosis and treatment while connecting them to clinical care and supportive resources along the way, when and where they need. In partnership with oncologists, our collaborative care delivery model offers a wraparound layer of support for patients and empowers oncologists to focus on high-quality care. In doing so, we help to streamline a notoriously fragmented healthcare system, reducing care gaps and barriers for a chronically under-supported patient population.
Cancer cuts close to home for many of us. One in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, there has been great progress in developing effective therapeutics and new drugs that are measurably improving outcomes.
But what good is the best care in the world if patients can’t benefit from it?
Access to care and support during the care journey is a problem for too many cancer patients. Some patients can’t afford their medications. Others can’t get a ride to their oncology appointment. Some have additional health-related concerns that get overlooked during cancer treatment. Many patients experience symptoms or side effects that aren’t communicated to their oncologist in a timely manner.
All of these challenges and gaps in care can lead to unnecessary hospitalizations, a poor patient experience, and worse health outcomes. The problems are compounded for those who already face socio-economic barriers to care.
No one is at fault. Oncologists and primary care physicians don’t have the support they need to fully support their patients’ care journey beyond office or treatment visits. Patient navigation services are not reimbursed in the current fee-for-service system. The efforts that do get made are often heroic but not scalable or systematic.
And so patients “fall through the cracks”. Costs go up, for both patients and payers. Health outcomes go down. And the scientific advances that have been made in the cancer space far outpace any improvements in the experience for both patients and oncologists.
That’s why Thyme Care is here.
Betting big on better care
In late 2021, we launched Thyme Care out of stealth with $22M in Series A funding. Our lead investor for this round, Andreesen Horowitz, bet big on our vision and mission. Joined by AlleyCorp, Casdin Capital, and Frist Cressey Ventures, our investors believed that our team of oncology industry veterans and people + technology approach to cancer care would fundamentally change the way cancer care is delivered and accessed. And we couldn’t be more excited to welcome to the table two new investors, Town Hall Ventures and Foresite Capital, that are paving the way for health equity transformation and technical innovation in healthcare and life sciences, respectively.
Town Hall Ventures is deeply focused on eliminating systemic inequities in our healthcare system. They invest in companies that are transforming care in underserved communities to improve health outcomes and address social determinants of health. Their previous investments include impactful and innovative companies like Strive Health, Cityblock Health, Signify Health and VillageMD. We’re honored that Thyme Care has now been added to their prestigious list of portfolio companies pushing the boundaries of what is possible in value-based healthcare. We’re especially grateful for David Whelan, the founder and general partner at Town Hall Ventures, who led the investment in Thyme Care and will be joining our Board of Directors.
Similarly, executive advisor at Foresite Capital and former Elevance and UnitedHealthcare executive Elizabeth Canis was the lead investor from Foresite for this round and will also be joining our Board of Directors. Liz brings decades of experience working with the largest commercial health plans in the country. She deeply understands what health plans are looking for when bringing on specialty partners to better serve their members. Her experience and insights will be invaluable as we more closely integrate with our existing health plan partners and bring on new ones.
We are tremendously grateful to all of our investors. Their faith in our team and conviction that we will transform the cancer care experience and unify the oncology ecosystem is what got us to this milestone.
With great opportunity comes great responsibility – and accountability
The level of responsibility that comes with new investment is enormous. As we grow the number of individuals we support and the oncology practices we partner with, we recognize the impact we can have. We do not take that responsibility lightly.
Innovative oncology practices see and understand the value of patient navigation. The oncology community is looking for solutions to change the cancer care paradigm. They have chosen to partner with Thyme Care because they see the value we bring–both to their practices and to their patients. It is our responsibility to our oncology partners to guide their patients with the utmost care and respect, so that we can all “operate at the top of our license”.
At the center of what we do is our technology-enabled Care Team, who sit virtually beside our members as they go through chemotherapy, support them through the emotional, physical and logistical burden of their diagnosis, and ensure they never miss a beat when it comes to receiving consistent, compassionate care. Our Care Team is supported by our care management platform, Thyme Box, and our data and analytics engine, which supercharges their ability to reach more people with personalized and comprehensive cancer care.
All of this is helping to drive an industry-wide paradigm shift in oncology. As we move from fee-for-service to value based care, we are creating a new model for cancer care. With the recent launch of CMS’s value-based cancer care framework, the Enhancing Oncology Model, we believe we’re at the precipice of that transformation. Our success and ability to reach more patients will help pave the way.
Our investors–who have financed value-based care enablers in other industries–see the potential we have in cancer care. Given the current investment landscape, we are honored they view Thyme Care as a valuable investment to drive value-based oncology care.
The rest is up to us
Once again, none of this would have been possible without our employees. Like our investors, our team took a chance on Thyme Care because they believed in our mission. They invest their time and expertise to build a better future for cancer patients. And in doing so, we are building an organization where people are excited to come to work and enjoy their colleagues. This makes Thyme Care genuinely a great place to be.
Some of our team have been here from the beginning. We’ve recruited from the most prestigious organizations in cancer to bring some of the brightest minds in oncology to our table. We also have medical experts in primary care, healthcare policy makers, product innovators, builders, thinkers and doers who all bring their unique perspectives to our organization. Diverse minds and different points of view help us achieve our mission.
Despite all the progress we’ve made together, our story is just beginning. We’re excited to take a giant step in that journey today and to continue it in the years to come with the support and value that all of you bring.