Why Supporting this Tech Health Startup Is Right Up Pershing Square’s Alley

By Ade Adeniji (Inside Philanthropy) – The Pershing Square Foundation, founded by hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman and his wife Karen, is emerging as a solid health funder. A lot of this has to do with one of the foundation’s priorities in this area, the Pershing Square Sohn Cancer Research Alliance, which supports promising and innovative work by young investigators. The alliance was formed in 2013, and in that first year alone, the Pershing Square Foundation pumped $25 million towards the effort.

But this isn’t the only outfit supported by the foundation in health. The foundation also seems interested in helping to improve health access, particularly for the poor and at risk. State side, Pershing Square has funded outfits such as Health Leads, which works to expand health clinic capacity and improve healthcare access in several major cities. On the global front, meanwhile, Pershing Square has funded places like Last Mile Health, which provides healthcare services in rural Africa.

Moreover, Ackman is yet another Wall Street guy who’s a proponent of philanthrocapitalism, supporting organizations that take a sustainable business-like approach to tackling difficult social issues.

Well, all of this makes Pershing Square’s recent $1.5 million, two-year commitment to the start up CareMessage totally right up the foundation’s alley. CareMessage was founded in 2012 by social entrepreneurs Vineet Singal, Manuel Rivera, and Cecilia Corral in San Francisco. CareMessage “enables healthcareorganizations to facilitate text and voice messaging-based outreach to promote greater patient engagement and improved self-care.”

The startup aims to empower patients, more specifically, patients from disadvantaged populations, which of course is of high interest to Pershing Square.

Engaging patients in their own care is a hot trend right now. A study by researchers from George Washington University, the University of Oregon, and Fairview Medical Group recently added yet more evidence of the big ways this can improve health. In that study, thirty-two thousand primary care patients, most of them female, were studied over the course of two years. Titled, When Patient Activation Levels Change, Health Outcomes and Costs Change, Too, the study found that a higher “activation level”—in other words, greater patient involvement in managing their own care—led to better outcomes for nine out of thirteen indicators.

You can see why health funders would want to get behind a a group like CareMessage.

In the past year, CareMessage has partnered with some of the largest hospitals and health systems in the country, including the Sinai Health System and Stanford Health Care. All of this is to say that CareMessage is on the rise and Pershing Square has taken notice.

CEO of Pershing Square Foundation Paul Bernstein has said that “this is a critical time for healthcare in this country and we strongly support CareMessage’s vision and commitment to making healthcare more accessible for low income communities through innovation and collaboration with medical institutions and patients.” What’s more, a Pershing Square Foundation board member will join the board of CareMessage.

Apart from Pershing Square, other supporters of Care Message include the venture philanthropy firm Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and tech star and philanthropist Paul Buchheit.


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