Lumata Health: Pioneering Next-Generation Eye Care

At Cortado Ventures, we are in the venture capital business of maximizing risk-adjusted returns with high-potential, early-stage startups. We seek transformative technology solutions with as little risk as possible. Some would say we are looking for the product-market fit engines driving value creation. Few opportunities fit such a thesis, as well as our investment in Lumata Health, an OKC-based startup pioneering ophthalmic care that is equally impactful and simplistic.

The Low-hanging Fruit of Healthcare Gains

Healthcare is an industry as old as civilization, and improvements in care quality have increased rapidly since the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries. Modern medicine is a result of centuries of research into procedures, drugs, and therapies to extend and improve the lives of humans. While yearly research gains once improved care in large tranches, the advent of modern medicine has led to more incremental progress.

Drug development is now highly costly and time-consuming, and the marginal benefit between a blockbuster drug and its predecessor tends to be underwhelming. If a new drug could improve mortality rates by 30%, there is a strong chance it would warrant a Nobel Prize for the creators as it would represent an extreme outlier in the age of incremental scientific advancement.

The engines advancing healthcare progress are innovators like Lumata Health that maximize the effectiveness of known medicinal and therapeutic regimens by ensuring patients can access, understand, and follow the treatments recommended by their providers. The US health system is replete with examples like cardiac rehabilitation, where researchers — whose peer-reviewed paper was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 2020) — found that participation improves mortality rates by 32%. That’s a frustrating conclusion when only 19–34% of US patients follow a treatment plan after a cardiac episode. This is a Nobel Prize-level improvement in outcomes with no additional R&D expense.

When patients leave their doctor’s office, their care team loses visibility and the ability to impact care. Centuries of research and peer-reviewed literature inform the physician’s recommendations for the patient. Yet, there is no way for a doctor to spend 24 hours a day with each patient, ensuring they follow medical and therapeutic instructions or return to the clinic promptly for efficacious procedures.

The patient–provider relationship drives healthcare in the US, and there is a well-documented need for a company specializing in extending that relationship outside the clinic walls. It’s high time clinical teams are empowered to focus on clinical medicine by owning the adherence journey outside the clinic…

Chronic Eye Care Management of the Future

Enter Lumata Health, pioneers of human-led, intelligent eye care management, helping ophthalmologists and their care support staff partner with patients to overcome preventable blindness from chronic eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Lumata Health employs Certified Ophthalmic Assistants (COAs) with an average of 12 years of in-clinic experience to augment a clinic’s often over-burdened staff. COAs provide immediate value with a comprehensive suite of services to drive clinic efficiency. Data already indicates vital metrics for reducing patient visit time, decreasing missed appointments by more than 60%, and reducing inbound phone calls to clinics.

Lumata Health’s COAs help patients focus on partnering with their provider to tackle the leading causes of preventable blindness and less on the logistics of their care. In live one-on-one phone calls, COAs offer guidance on financial assistance programs, prescriptions and refills, insurance challenges, transportation to and from visits, information on a patient’s disease and care plan, and care coordination.

These supplementary services qualify for reimbursement by most payers, including Medicare, through Principal Care Management codes billed separately from traditional office visits. Patients benefit greatly, and clinics generate significant revenue without startup fees, commitments, or burdensome EMR integrations.

“Our mission is to stop preventable blindness for the ten million Americans currently at risk of losing their vision. Lumata Health’s patient-centric solution, tailor-made for ophthalmology clinics, leverages our proprietary data-driven continuous care approach,” said Landon Grace, co-founder and CEO of Lumata Health. “This not only provides crucial one-on-one support for patients but also effectively streamlines clinic operations. Clinics adopting Lumata Health’s platform and care support services have experienced an impressive 60 percent decrease in delayed appointments. This not only preserves patient vision but also contributes to substantial cost savings in overall care. Moreover, it opens up an additional revenue stream for healthcare providers.”

Source: World Health Organization

Why Cortado Invested

1) Experienced Management Team

Ophthalmologist Stephen Fransen, MD, who specializes in retinal care, created Lumata Health because he “was tired of seeing too many patients make their way to him only after losing their vision due to conditions that are highly treatable if caught in time and managed properly.” Dr. Fransen was joined by his co-founder, Landon Grace, Ph.D., who has spent the past 15 years tackling some of the most challenging problems in engineering and healthcare on behalf of organizations like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, and Matt Wills, who has spent the last decade building tech-enabled healthcare service companies, including a leading regional specialty infusion pharmacy. Matt summarizes the Lumata Health opportunity as “building a business that makes sense in a fee-for-service world that will thrive with the inevitable transition to value-based care.”

2) Quality of Care Improvement and Economic Incentive for Clinics

Unfortunately, there is a significant waste bin of failed healthcare startups that only improve care without improving the economics of clinics, and vice versa. Right or wrong, money remains a powerful motivator and impetus to act. However, without legitimate care improvement, a financial gravy train runs out with added payer scrutiny. Combining care improvement and economic incentives creates an attractive proposition for physicians and venture capitalists alike.

3) Pharmaceutical Partnerships

As digital therapeutics continue to play more of a role in eye care, Lumata is well-positioned to be the go-to-market partner for pharmaceutical companies looking to support their drug portfolio with applications offering at-home vision monitoring. Partnerships like these help both Lumata and the pharmaceutical companies provide additional value to patients, providers, and payers within Lumata’s existing continuous care program.

What’s Next for Lumata Health

Lumata Health is already attracting the attention and business of forward-thinking eye care organizations across the United States. The team is bringing aboard the best talent, advancing technology, and accelerating operations to reach more than 300,000 currently contracted patients. The future is coming into focus to reduce preventable blindness at scale.

Cody Merrill is an experienced health-tech startup executive and workforce-tech founder currently serving as a Venture Executive at Cortado Ventures while launching his next company, Personifyze.AI, which crafts AI Personas for influential creators that convert passive followers to big-ticket purchasers. Cody is also the host of the Midcon Markup podcast and the visionary behind the annual Midcon VC Summit.

At Cortado Ventures, we invest in Pre-seed through Series A startups with a focus on transportation/logistics, life sciences, and energy transition. If you are a Midcontinent startup or looking to invest in these startups, contact us to learn more.