Doug Ghertner of IVX Health

Doug Ghertner of IVX Health

A once-small chain of infusion centers has accumulated major investments in a bid to disrupt a $19 billion market — and that chain plans to grow until it reaches the top.

IVX Health offers infusion services to people with chronic health conditions. The eight-year-old company moved its headquarters from Kansas City to Middle Tennessee under its former name, Infusion Express, in 2018 with nine facilities in its portfolio. And it selected former Change Healthcare executive Doug Ghertner to guide the company through its transition.

The goal was to become the top brand in the infusion market, Ghertner says, and has since its move attracted more than $122.5 million in funding — the latest round totaling $100 million from Great Hill Partners — that has supported network growth, service expansion and a total rebrand. To date, IVX Health operates more than 50 centers across 16 markets, providing therapies for conditions including multiple sclerosis, Chrohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, among others.

“If you think about health care, it is a $4 trillion industry with billion-dollar niches. And our view is that in all of those, you tend to see one-to-two brands that own the national mantle,” he says. “When we looked at this infusion market, our view was there wasn't really a national brand out there. And so for us, our focus was how do we take this markedly differentiated lower-cost, better-experience offering and avail as many patients as we possibly can around the country, and be the national brand for patients who are seeking care to manage their complex chronic condition?”

Unlike traditional infusion settings, IVX focuses on the patient experience by offering private suites with reclining chairs, flat-screen TVs, free internet and a 1-to-3 nurse-to-patient ratio. The company's centers are open on weeknights and Saturdays to cater to patients who can’t schedule appointments during typical business hours. And they do it at a much cheaper rate: Ghertner says services at IVX centers cost about 50 to 65 percent less than hospitals, and are price competitive with other alternatives including physician offices or — increasingly — in the home.

“I’ve been in health care for 25 years, and I would tell you that, by and large, those tend to be mutually exclusive. You either lower costs or you improve the experience; rarely do you find businesses that do both,” he says. “And I think what got us so excited about IVX is that we are at that intersection of increasing consumerism while improving cost and experience.”

IVX gets its business largely through insurers and referring physicians. The cost structure and patient satisfaction rates are fairly attractive pitches for most payers, and the company deploys business development managers to specialists to compete for referrals. Now Ghertner says his team is working to solidify its position in insurance facility portfolios.

“There’s not a health plan in the country that will tell you that site of care is not a top one or two priority, whether that’s ambulatory surgery centers, urgent care, telemedicine, outpatient imaging,” he says. “This really was just one more flavor, and it happens to be in a very high-cost, high-growth area for them.”

Near-home health

In an industry quickly innovating around home health, Ghertner wants to add “near-home” to the lexicon — where he and his team can balance accessibility and comfort with clinical efficacy.

IVX facilities are strategically placed in retail storefronts with extended hours, and serve as an alternative to hospitals and physician offices that currently provide the bulk of infusions. The point is to meet consumers where they are, with an easier and more enjoyable environment, while decreasing costs and maintaining good health outcomes.

Ghertner cites a study published by the JAMA Network that included facilities like IVX and compared point-of-care settings, finding that infusion services offered in-home had a 25-percent higher rate of adverse health events and a 28-percent higher rate of therapy discontinuation after an adverse event. He said IVX leverages its nursing team and patient engagement tools to boast a 99.9 percent therapy completion rate across all facilities — and currently has a Net Promoter Score of 96. (NPS is based on patient feedback, and the median score across all of health care is 44. Top performers have an NPS of 72 or higher.)

“Home absolutely has a place, but what we would tell you is also look to build near-home alternatives, where you get the same convenience of the home but you get a much more robust clinical setting,” Ghertner says.

Expanding markets and services

IVX Health has a long list of investors — including Great Hill, McKesson Ventures, Health Velocity Capital, Nueterra Capital and CrimsoNox Capital — that has helped fill in the voids along the way.

One of the country’s largest drug wholesalers, McKesson, co-led an early funding round in 2017, prior to the company’s boom, and solved its most critical failure point, according to Ghertner: access to drug supplies. The latest round, which closed in September, raised $100 million from Great Hill, a high-growth, consumerism-minded investor with portfolio brands that include Bombas socks and online home retailer Wayfair.

IVX has historically opened three new markets per year, but plans to use the momentum to accelerate that pace. The team is also piloting new service expansions and exploring how infusions can be used to treat different disease states and conditions. One example of this is expanding into the pediatric space, which IVX deployed in several markets as it found demand.

“Our North Star is how do we help as many patients as we can,” Ghertner says.

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