Originally published by Fierce Healthcare on March 16, 2023
Jonathan Bush's latest health tech venture, Zus Health, picked up $40 million in fresh capital to continue building out its health data platform as a common layer digital health companies use to build their tools.
The company, which launched in 2020, provides easy-to-use patient data at the point of care via API, embedded components and direct integration with electronic health record software. The Zus platform is centered around the Zus Aggregated Profile, or ZAP, which represents a single, comprehensive and actionable view of a patient's healthcare information, according to the company.
The financing was backed by investors Jazz Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, Maverick Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).
When asked how Zus Health planned to use the funding, Bush, Zus Health CEO and a well-known health tech entrepreneur, quipped: "Carefully and slowly."
He added, "We don't intend to spend a lot of money on sales and marketing. It'll just be running this core, very sophisticated engineering and product group. We'll be kind of following the bouncing ball adding more and more content, making it more enriched and then building more actions that will automatically be taken through the ZAP medical records API," he said in an interview Thursday.
With the latest financing, the startup plans to add unique data sources to its platform along with workflow and referral solutions and integration pathways to enable healthcare providers to leverage external patient data and collaborate around a shared patient record.
The startup banked the funding round despite the challenges in the current fundraising market. "Zus's ability in this market to secure the capital and support they need to really scale their platform is a testament to the potential of the company to create the connective tissue for healthcare," said Andrew Firlik, managing partner at Jazz Venture Partners and newly added Zus board member, in a statement.
The company has raised $74 million to date as it gained $34 million in series A financing back in 2021.
The company currently employs about 54 employees and is now working with about 30 companies, Bush said. Zus says its network provides access to data across more than 70,000 provider sites and 270 million patients.
Bush pegged the company's current valuation at $190 million.
In an interview with Fierce Healthcare in 2021, Bush called Zus Health a "Build-a-Bear for EMR, patient relationship management and CRM (customer relationship management)." The company provides a shared data record back end and a software development kit that enables digital health companies to build and scale quickly at a lower cost, he said.
Companies can instead devote more resources to the front-end technologies that differentiate them in the marketplace, he said.
"I believe that we've finally reached an inflection point in medicine where the information that providers would like to work off of is not just the information that they themselves have typed, or the customers have typed into a survey form written onto a clipboard, but, in fact, the whole truth about the patient," Bush said. "What Zus enables those EMRs to do is have a 'full patient button.' This allows EMRs to have such a filter to say 'I want to see only the things I typed myself' or 'I want to see everything about this patient.'"
"Providers can say, 'I want my EMR to text me every time a patient doesn't pick up a prescription,' and that becomes available with an always-on current picture of every patient," he said.
Bush knows a few things about EHRs as he co-founded Athenahealth, an ambulatory EHR software company, in 1997 and ran the company until he resigned in 2018 amid pressure from activist investor Elliott Management.
Zus Health also inked a partnership with Elation Health, an electronic health records company for primary care practices. Elation says it will integrate Zus' patient data profiles to enhance its own data collection. More than 23,000 clinicians use Elation Health's EHR system, and those providers will be able to access expanded patient records from hospitals, clinics, labs and pharmacies in real time, according to the companies.
"The Zus partnership will drastically accelerate Elation's ability to build out market-leading EHR solutions to support population health and value-based care initiatives," said Kyna Fong, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Elation Health, in a press release. "Together, Elation and Zus are optimizing how external health data is synthesized within the EHR platform, which will support many of our key goals, such as reducing clinician burden, strengthening the patient-physician relationship, and driving primary care success."
Zus Health has teamed up with several other health tech companies to open up access to patient health history at the point of care. The company launched a partnership with Healthie, an EMR, scheduling and engagement platform for digital health companies, to enable Zus-created components containing a patient’s medical history to be embedded in a provider’s Healthie EMR.
Zus also teamed up with EHR startup Canvas Medical to integrate ZAP into the company's Canvas Contributor Program, which enables third parties to develop new features and integrations to the Canvas platform. Canvas Medical developed a cloud-based digital health platform for primary care practices as well as accountable care organizations and independent physician associations.
Healthcare data today remain highly fragmented, with providers frequently spending more time gathering patient data and entering the into their EMR than with their patients delivering care.
The healthcare industry lacks information fluidity, and with that a shared, consistent understanding across providers of how and when their patients are interacting with the healthcare system, according to Bush.
Zus Health is building out its shared data platform as federal regulatory changes open up access to patients' health records. The 21st Century Cures Act requires data sharing among nonaffiliated providers and mandates that patients should have access to their electronic health data through third-party apps.
Alongside the ZAP, the Zus platform includes a FHIR-native data store and is built on common patient record technology to facilitate real-time, cross-provider insights into every patient, which saves customers a significant amount of time in their daily operations, according to the company.
Along with helping physicians, clinical staff and developers save time, patient data access can also lead to improved health outcomes, higher patient satisfaction and greater cost savings for healthcare organizations by facilitating more informed, holistic care and fewer duplicated tests and procedures, according to Zus Health.
Bush aims to scale the Zus Health platform to become the "go-to source" of aggregated health records for U.S. patients, replacing pages of unstructured data from PDFs and faxes with an "always-on network of healthcare insights," the health tech veteran said.
"Healthcare has needed a shared patient record for decades at this point, and we believe Zus is our best hope to achieve this vision and help deliver on the promise of technology-enabled care," Jazz Venture Partners' Firlik said.
It marks the second health tech company Bush has launched in more than two decades. Bush, a cousin of former President George W. Bush, ran Athenahealth for about 20 years. The company was sold to Elliott Management and private equity firm Veritas Capital for $5.7 billion in November 2018.
He reentered the health tech space in 2019 as executive chairman of Firefly Health, a primary care startup. He also holds board and advisory roles at several healthcare startups.