Nashville health-tech startup lands $16.5 million to transform pain treatment

Nashville-based axialHealthcare has landed a $16.5 million in new backing to help grow its customer base and improve the technology its leaders believe can change the way pain is treated in America.
Founded in 2012, Axial (stylized axialHealthcare) spent three years on “extensive” research and development, working with a team covering all facets of pain management and technology, CEO John Donahue said in an interview Wednesday. Having built a database drawn from millions of Americans’ patient pain claims and outcomes, the company went to market with its first client late in 2015, and now works with about half a dozen large insurer clients.
With this new funding in hand, Donahue said, the company will be able to capitalize on a growing pipeline of potential clients and expand the capabilities of its technology. That technology, the company argues, should not only help providers improve their patients’ lives and outcomes, but also reduce opioid misuse across the country.
axialHealthcare participated in Healthbox, a health-tech accelerator that ran one session in Nashville, in 2013. Headquartered in Cummins Station, the company now employs 50 people, most of whom are based here, and their team is “growing,” Donahue said.
Donahue, who moved to Nashville in 2011, said he’s found Nashville to be an easy place to recruit not only health care talent, but also the developers and engineers necessary to build axialHealthcare’s technological tools. Some business owners in the city bemoan a shallow talent pool, but Donahue said the company has been able to fill its needs, including by recruiting talent away from high-profile tech markets on the coasts.
“[Nashville is] a tremendous spot to build a health care business,” Donahue said.
The $16 million round of funding was led by Oak HC/FT, a health care services investment firm based in Connecticut. Prior axialHealthcare investors .406 Ventures, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners and Sandbox Advantage Fund also participated in the round, according to a new release.
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“Over the last four years, axialHealthcare has curated the country’s most comprehensive database of evidence-based best practices for pain treatment,” Nancy Brown, a venture partner at Oak HC/FT, said in the release. “The rate of opioid misuse, abuse or overdose underscores the need for a smarter, information-driven approach to pain treatment that payers, providers and patients can use. axialHealthcare has pioneered evidence-based pain management solutions and is leading the way in addressing barriers to safe and effective pain treatment. I am excited to join their board of directors to continue to solve these issues.”

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