Closely watched Nashville health care startup lands first partner


During a Nashville Health Care Council panel earlier this year, startup Contessa Health landed a notable boost: an industry analyst highlighted the company as one of the area’s startups with the most potential.

Just over half a year later, Contessa’s taken a big step on that path, inking a deal with its first partner. Through its partnership with Wisconsin’s Marshfield Clinic Health System, Contessa will help Marshfield’s physicians provide hospital-level care at home for the following conditions: congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism, urinary tract infection, cellulitis and pneumonia.

Those are not conditions for which home hospital care would traditionally be available, said Travis Messina, Contessa Health’s CEO. But Contessa doesn’t just provide the clinical model to make that care possible, it also offers a bundled payment model through which Contessa receives a single payment and then distributes it to all the providers involved.

That model lines up with one of the health care industry’s biggest priorities: reducing cost while also increasing quality. With Contessa’s bundled payment arrangement, Messina said, the company is incentivized “to maximize quality while minimizing cost.”

“[Marshfield] is moving forward in changing how we deliver care to our patients and partnering with Contessa is a good, sound step, not only for now but for the future as we grow this program together,” Dr. Susan Turney, chief executive officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System, said in a news release. “Health care nationally is amending patient care models to bring care closer to the patient and closer to the home. We see this as a great option for those people in our communities who can benefit from recovering in their homes.”

Although the partnership is Contessa’s first, Messina said conversations are ongoing with a number of health plans and providers. Backed by BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Sandbox Advantage Fund and Martin Ventures (where Messina, a former Vanguard Health Systems employee, also previously worked), Contessa is up to 10 people on the team and looking to add a couple more in the next two months.