Amazon Care vets raise $5M for virtual health startup focused on Latino patients

Zócalo Health founders Erik Cardenas and Mariza Hardin. (Zócalo Photo)

A new virtual healthcare startup, Zócalo Health, has raised $5 million to fuel plans to provide primary care focused on the Latino population.

Seattle-based Zócalo was co-founded last year by CEO Erik Cardenas and Mariza Hardin, head of strategy and operations, who were early hires at Amazon Care, Amazon’s hybrid of virtual and in-home services that is shutting down by the end of the year.

Cardenas led technical teams and contributed to Amazon’s COVID-19 response and testing, and Hardin served Amazon Care’s senior business development lead.

“We often found ourselves being the only two Latinos in the room,” Cardenas told GeekWire. “Soon after we met, we connected on our shared values and visions, both dreaming of bringing culture and connection to the healthcare experience.”

A bevy of startups and more established players like Teladoc Health offer virtual care, which skyrocketed in usage during the pandemic. More recently the demand has ebbed, declining nearly 60% from April 2020 to April 2022, according to a recent analysis from Trilliant Health.

Zócalo aims to differentiate itself by serving a specific part of the population.

The company is currently treating patients from California, and will roll out to Texas in early October. Washington state will follow by the end of 2022.

Through a membership model, Zócalo gives patients access to a virtual care team that includes physicians, nurses and mental health professionals. The company will offer a range of services typically addressed in primary care, including mental health conditions, preventative and lifestyle needs, chronic disease management and urgent care. The care team is led by a community health worker, also known as “promotor de salud.”

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Services will also include:

  • Community health worker availability via chat, seven days a week to provide health service navigation and health coaching.
  • Regular health risk assessments for physical and emotional health.
  • Flexible appointment systems that will include customized visit lengths, same-day visits, scheduled follow-up appointments and multiple provider visits, and evening and early morning appointments.

Pricing will be $350 per year, with family memberships for $550 per year. Single-visit consultations will be $50. Patients will not need to rely on translators if Spanish is their native language.

“We have curated a member experience that reflects the culture of the community,” said Cardenas. Training for the community health care workers includes developing skills in service coordination, advocacy, health coaching, community outreach, and care coordination.

There’s been a longstanding need in the Latino community for stronger primary care services, said Cardenas. A recent Pew Research Center survey concluded that only 70% of Hispanic adults had seen a health care provider within the previous year, compared to 82% of all U.S. adults.

“Both Mariza and I had experiences as children and through adulthood where our families and friends struggled through navigating a health system that didn’t speak our language and didn’t show us respect in the exam room,” said Cardenas. “We knew we had to be the solution.”

U.S. Census data show that the Hispanic or Latino population grew from 50.5 million in 2010 to 62.1 million in 2020, from 16.3 to 18.7%. Yet only a small percentage of venture capital funding goes to Latino founders, according to Crunchbase.

The company did not provide information on medical providers associated with the company and will announce its advisory board in the future.

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The seed round of funding was co-led by Animo, Virtue, and Vamos Ventures, and includes Necessary Ventures, Able Partners, and angel investors Toyin Ajayi, Freada Kapor Klein, Nikhil Krishnan, and Erik Ibarra.

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