Anti-Bias Fund: Addressing Systemic Bias in the U.S. Healthcare System
CEO of Mahmee discusses how her company is aiming to dismantle systemic racism
We recently hosted a webinar with Mahmee’s Co-Founder and CEO, Melissa Hanna, as part of our Anti-Bias Fund series. This new fund offers a portfolio of promising, venture-backed companies with diverse founders/teams or business models that address systemic biases. In the words of AVG CEO Mike Collins, “this is a way for investors to do well and do good.”
Mahmee is a prime example of such an investment, not only because the team is diverse, but the business addresses some of the systemic biases in the U.S. healthcare system. The session was hosted by Krithika Kumar, a Principal with Strawberry Creek Ventures, our AVG fund for Cal Berkeley alumni and friends of the community. Strawberry Creek invested in Mahmee, along with co-investors Backstage Capital, Mark Cuban, and Serena Williams. The discussion below is an edited, condensed version of Melissa Hanna’s full remarks. Click here for the complete recording.
Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee
Melissa received her JD from Southwestern Law School, where she now teaches as an adjunct professor. She previously worked in operations and strategy at startups in healthcare, education, digital media, and consumer goods. Melissa was named to Inc. Magazine’s “2019 Female Founders 100” list and was one of Huffington Post’s “Culture Shifters” of 2020.
What does Mahmee do?
Mahmee is a telehealth and care coordination platform for maternal and infant health care. We partner with hospitals and health systems, plans, and networks. We connect those very large organizations to their patients and patient care and also to providers working in independent capacities or in community-based programs. We’re building much more comprehensive regional care ecosystems that ensure patients are receiving proactive and preventative care and that gaps are closed from conception through the baby’s first year of life. That is the critical time where we really need to be providing more attention and support to mothers, babies, and those who are caring for them.
How is Mahmee innovating?
The United States spends more than any other developed nation [on maternal healthcare] and has the worst results in return. How do we spend the most and get the least in return? That sounds to me like an infrastructural challenge.
Can we restructure the way that the industry operates so that it is not as wasteful, not waiting for people to get sick or have an illness or an injury related to childbirth? If we can instead reframe to a proactive, preventative healthcare model, we can lower spending, increase positive health outcomes, and unlock billions in value in saved lives and less spending.
Our mission is deeply rooted in the dismantling of systemic racism in the United States healthcare industry. We are also trying to build digital infrastructure in a market that just hasn’t had it. I’m incredibly committed to that cause — and it is capitalistic in every way. If someone can solve this, they’re going to create a billion-dollar solution.
In what ways is Mahmee helping to address bias?
Mahmee is very focused on not just connecting the industry but also dismantling bias that runs rampant through the healthcare system. As a country, we spend more than any other developed nation to provide healthcare to mothers and babies.
A unique aspect of this vertical is that 50% of the patients are private paying or privately insured and about 50% publicly funded. The Medicaid market has long been written off as a place where innovation can’t really occur or create return on investment. We are providing solutions that stretch across the socioeconomic continuum, ensuring quality of care regardless of how you’re paying for it and how and where you’re receiving it. We work with both public health systems and private health systems, a unique aspect of our business model.
[In addition], when you parse out the data, [you see] black women are three to four times more likely to die or to experience a serious injury or incident related to childbirth than the rest of the population. Even when you control for education and socioeconomic status, the most educated, wealthiest black woman is still at higher risk of dying from something that’s completely preventable than the lowest educated, poorest white woman in this country. We can’t make healthcare better for anyone if we aren’t looking at how to make it better for the people who are most at risk.
Can you provide a case study of how Mahmee works?
One story that stands out for me is where Mahmee provided the technology solution to connect patients to proactive and preventative services to support a patient. A mother was enrolled into Mahmee by a private health organization. Following her discharge after a healthy postpartum recovery, she was chatting with our staff. We have our own clinical team to provide support, answer questions, and provide quick care coordination. The patient mentioned that her arm was twitching and shaking — as well as her left leg.
We realized that it was an issue that our team has been trained to identify and escalate. We immediately flagged that patient as high risk in the provider system. We also picked up the phone to verify that concern, then called the doctor’s office. And this case was really a pressing concern. The patient was suffering from the early stages of septic shock.
She was admitted within hours to the hospital and put on antibiotics. As it turned out, her healthy delivery had actually produced a tear in her uterine lining that had become infected. She could have suffered from a much more serious issue within days — potentially a hysterectomy.
This is not just about a cute app and a way to chat with your doctor. It’s a lifesaving tool that is creating infrastructure to bring the industry together and support our most vulnerable families.
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