SEATTLE — Seattle-based Truveta, a health care data services startup backed by 17 major health systems in the United States, is announcing Tuesday it has raised $95 million in a private fundraising round.
The venture is developing a platform that will aggregate anonymized data from tens of millions of patients across 40 states, and make it available to health-care providers, researchers and pharmaceutical companies.
Its owner health systems, including Providence-affiliated Swedish Health Services and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, both based in Washington state, have agreed to share much of their patient data with the platform. Three new health systems have joined the partnership: MedStar Health, which mainly covers Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland, and Texas Health Resources and Baylor Scott & White Health, which mainly cover Texas.
The network now encompasses health systems that provide more than 15% of all patient care in the United States, the company said. All 17 are “approximately” equal investors, with no outside investors, Truveta said.
“We felt like 15% of care in the U.S. would really allow us to ask and answer questions that we’ve never been able to ask before,” said Truveta CEO Terry Myerson, who is a former head of Windows at Microsoft.
Nearly 40% of Puget Sound patients will be included in the platform’s data sets, according to Truveta.
The money will largely be invested in developing the platform’s cloud technology and adding staff. At present, Truveta has about 100 employees, three-quarters of them in Seattle, and the company plans to double its head count by the end of 2022.
“No one system can do what we will collectively achieve together by leveraging our data to improve every aspect of healthcare,” said Barclay E. Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources, in a Truveta statement.
T.A. McCann, managing director at Pioneer Square Labs, a Seattle-based venture capital firm that is not involved in Truveta’s work, said getting that many organizations on board could become “a bit of a snowball rolling down the hill.” He said other health systems may feel “left out” if they don’t participate in the initiative because Truveta has gotten key thought leaders not only to invest in the platform, but also to become customers.
On the other hand, “With lots of capital comes usually lots of people,” he said. The engagement of so many health systems could also mean each brings its own priorities, such as specific disease focuses. It may “get slower before it gets faster,” he said.
Truveta intends to have an introductory version of the platform ready for use by early adopters by the end of 2021.
Truveta was born out of an idea Providence had in 2018 to build a platform that could help find “valuable needles of insights buried within the haystacks of data” that the health system managed but could not find, according to a blog post from Myerson, who joined the company in 2020.
The pandemic accelerated the company’s mission of “saving lives with data.” As an example, it hopes to help pharmaceutical companies better evaluate drug safety or help healthcare providers better determine modes of treatment, based on the unique medical information it assembles.
From the start, Truveta has said patient privacy is a top concern, and its data will be anonymized through a process called “de-identification.”
“It’s not just taking away your name, Social Security number [and] birthday,” said Myerson. He said Truveta will be using third party auditors for the security and anonymization of the data, and it will apply other industry-standard techniques to protect privacy.
Adam Tanner, author of “Our Bodies, Our Data: How Companies Make Billions Selling Our Medical Records,” said any company handling medical information should consider patient consent. We should “have a say on whether or not intimate medical information about us is sold commercially,” he said.
Truveta said patient consent for research will be provided through its health provider members in accordance with the federal law restricting release of medical information.
The company is also aiming to address health equity through its data collection and aggregation, ensuring “representation across geography, race, ethnicity, gender identification, language, and other socioeconomic dimensions,” it said.
New members MedStar, Texas Health and Baylor bring with them significant data on the large Black and Hispanic populations in their coverage areas, which will add transparency and insight, Myerson said.
Many health systems today still don’t collect meaningful information around the social determinants of health, such as food security, living conditions and income stability, among others factors, said Tanjala Purnell, an associate director at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. Even when they do, different health systems rarely collect them in the same way, she said. That represents one of the challenges around aggregating healthcare information. “The data can only speak to what we capture.”
Truveta hopes to add even more health systems in the future. But the ultimate goal is to be able to add additional members without requiring them to invest to get access to the shared data sets, Myerson said.
Myerson said the company aims to “be representative of the full diversity and richness of our country — if not the world — and that does require more members.”