More than eight million children in the United States are chronically absent from school—meaning they miss at least 15 days a year. Chronic absenteeism is often caused by poor health, which tends to significantly affect those with limited or inadequate access to health care.
Founded by a team consisting of a former Apple software engineer, a pediatric emergency director and a K-12 education professional, Hazel provides healthcare access to students at no cost to their families. According to TechCrunch, 40 percent of the company’s clients don’t have a primary care physician.
“We built this incredibly powerful model that partnered with schools and brought access to healthcare to families,” Hazel chief executive Josh Golomb told TechCrunch.
The startup teams up with school nurses to operate virtual medical clinics supported by teams of physicians. The medical providers are available to treat acute situations, conduct health screenings and prescribe over a dozen over-the-counter medications.
“At the schools we had an iPad on a stand,” Golomb explained. “You hit a button and in a few minutes you would be talking to a doctor.”
According to the company, nine out of ten children return to class after seeing a Hazel health provider, and chronic absenteeism in these schools has dropped by 40 percent.
When the COVID crisis struck, Hazel worked to provide underserved families with medical care that was no longer accessible at school. The startup launched Hazel at Home, allowing families to receive health services remotely through a mobile phone, laptop or Chromebook.
“Even though Hazel can’t operate within school walls anymore, we’ve been working closely with districts to provide support to families affected by school closures through Hazel at Home, an initiative we mobilized quickly after access to healthcare, especially via schools, became limited for many people during the pandemic,” co-founder Raquel Antunez said in June 2020.
“With our new program, students can connect with a licensed Hazel healthcare professional from home and receive medical expertise, prescriptions, and assess whether they should stay home or seek hospital care,” she continued. “I feel lucky to work with a team that understands this need and remains dedicated to helping students and adjusting to our given circumstances.”
During the past several months, the company’s user base quintupled as school districts saw the importance of ensuring that students had access to healthcare. Golomb explained that many states have made telemedicine a priority due to the pandemic.
“As soon as COVID happened there was a lot of recognition by districts that we have to have a solution around student health and wellness,” Golomb explained. “Pre-COVID we went from 300,000 in our network of districts to now, when we just passed 1.5 million. [The] rate of engagement went down but our overall expansion has increased dramatically.”
Hazel raised $33.5 million in Series C funding to further expand throughout the country, with participation by Owl Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Uprising, the UCSF Foundation Investment Company and Centene Corp.
Robert Scott Lazar