BYLINE: Ryan Piurek

Newswise — BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An innovative Indiana University-affiliated health care venture will have the support of IU’s global community of investors, donors and entrepreneurs behind it as it aims to revolutionize peer-to-peer support for patients facing life-altering medical diagnoses.

IU Ventures, IU’s early-stage venture and angel investment arm, has announced new investments in inTandem Health, a technology-enabled peer support platform designed to improve the lives and health of patients and their caregivers by digitally connecting them with individuals who have experienced the same diagnoses. IU Ventures will provide financial support to inTandem through two of its major investment programs, the IU Angel Network and the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund.

Founded in 2021 by Paul Hoffman, a pioneering entrepreneur and alumnus of the IU Kelley School of Business, inTandem Health was one of only eight early-stage health care companies selected for inclusion in the most recent Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, a prestigious business accelerator program, based in Los Angeles, that provides companies with funding, mentorship from more than 300 leading clinicians and executives, access to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and exposure to a broad network of entrepreneurs and investors. More than 400 companies applied to be part of the newest class of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, whose alumni have gone on to collectively raise over $500 million after participating in the program.

Jason Wadler, an alumnus of the IU Media School who met Hoffman as a fellow IU undergraduate, is the president of inTandem. The company will use its investments from IU Ventures to further develop its digital platform, which is modernizing peer support programs with a balance of advanced technology and human touch.

“This investment opportunity was a triple threat — talented alumni founders with prior startup experience, a company utilizing proven technology to solve an important health care need and other IU-affiliated investors to help fill out the funding round,” said Jason Whitney, chief venture officer at IU Ventures and executive director of the IU Angel Network. “The peer mentoring problem that inTandem is solving allows previous patients an opportunity to give back to the community by relating their experiences to new patients and providing comfort to those new patients by allowing them to hear, first-hand, what physical and emotional issues are going to arise during their treatment.”

In 1995, Hoffman, who has led various health care businesses for nearly 30 years, conceived and founded HealthCom Partners LLC, the first company to pioneer the patient-friendly billing movement in the U.S. Without external investment, he led business development efforts to scale HealthCom to more than 200 leading-edge hospitals with 80 percent market share in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and the Bay Area. HealthCom was acquired by McKesson, a Fortune 12 company, in 2006.

Hoffman’s inventions have benefited millions of consumers while driving healthier bottom lines for 1,000 hospitals.

In the past decade, Hoffman has suffered and recovered from his own personal health challenges, including cancer, and helped his wife through a serious illness. Enduring these medical issues, he said, has demonstrated to him how valuable a peer mentor can be, but how challenging it can be to connect with people from your health system who understand one’s illness and can offer personalized guidance, emotional support and hope.

“One of the first things someone does when faced with a serious, life-changing diagnosis is search for information online and ask friends and family if they know of anyone who has gone through a similar experience,” Hoffman said. “I, personally, was desperate to find a mentor at my health system who could help me navigate my journey of surgeries and treatments, someone who had managed to survive and thrive. I felt that was the missing part of my care. But I couldn’t find anyone.”

Hoffman instead discovered that many hospitals had “analog” peer-to-peer support programs, but these were often developed in a manual format that didn’t allow them to be scaled to reach larger numbers of patients. They were also not well advertised so many patients were not aware they existed. Hoffman’s hospital had a manual peer program for cancer patients, but he didn’t find out about it until years after his treatment because the hospital’s medical staff didn’t promote it.

Armed with scientific evidence about the significant benefits of peer-to-peer support, interviews with patients who have served as peer mentors, research on programs offered by health care systems and experience from his past business ventures, Hoffman began developing the all-in-one technology platform that became InTandem. The company currently boasts a team of experienced product developers, creative designers, advisors and digital media specialists as well as an advisory board that currently includes several health care luminaries, including the past chairman of the American Hospital Association, Fred Brown; Patrick Hays, past CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association; and Dr. Paul Hofmann, former CEO of Stanford University Hospital and Clinics and Emory University Hospital.

“The first company Paul built was truly a pioneer in online billing systems,” said Wadler. “Paul built the largest hospital online billing system in the country, then he did it again with another company (Passport Health) by reimagining the patient experience as one platform for price shopping, real-time charity approval and bill pay, which Cerner selected as their financial engagement engine for their HealtheLife patient portal. So we all believed in him from the start. And as we started talking to hospital systems about opportunities for greater peer-to-peer support with inTandem’s technology platform, every one of them we talked to said ‘we need this.’ Some didn’t even realize they had existing peer programs.”

Wadler, who serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the IU Media School, said the inTandem team expects support from the IU Angel Network to play an instrumental role in the company’s continued growth and development.

“The great thing about the IU Angel Network for us is that it’s not just an opportunity to receive investment. It’s an opportunity to learn. We’re learning by connecting with other new and emerging business ventures and engaging in conversations about trends within the financial market, on the marketing side, on the industry side and in operations. Most important, we’re getting to talk with and build relationships with other angels, who are attracted to our idea and believe in how we’re trying to empower patients and their families who are facing life-changing health challenges.”

Hoffman believes that human-to-human patient support represents the future of health care and that in the near future, every health care system’s patients care team will include a peer mentor.

“Health care has been throwing cold, hard technology at patients,” he said. “With inTandem Health, there will be a massive unlocking of all the grateful patients at health systems to become ambassador-mentors and inspired guides for new patients facing a life-changing condition and who are scared, overwhelmed and needing help from someone who has walked in their shoes. We are unlocking the greatest unused asset hospitals have: their grateful patients.”

 About IU Ventures

IU Ventures invests in and supports IU-affiliated early-stage companies. Its investment programs include the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, IU Angel Network, Shoebox Fund and Innovate Indiana Fund. It further supports IU founders through the Executive in Residence Program and IU Founders and Funders Network. Student support is provided through a variety of engagements, including the new IU Venture Fellows Program. Each program takes unique approaches to accelerate and support the positive impacts that entrepreneurs affiliated with IU already achieve across the world. IU Ventures is a recognized leader in increasing opportunities for diverse and historically underserved entrepreneurs and investing in Indiana startups with a shared commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.