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THCB Gang Episode 80, Thursday Jan 27 — 1pm PT- 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang at 1pm PT 4pm ET Thursday for an hour of conversation on what’s happening in health care and beyond will be regulars medical historian Mike Magee  (@drmikemagee) and writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), and TWO special guests.

Shantanu Nundy @DrNundy  is Chief Medical Officer of Accolade and last year we had him on to talk about his book Care After Covid. This week, with Lisa Cooper and Kedar Mate he wrote in Jama adding “advancing health equity” as a new part of the “quintuple aim.”

Our second guest is Janae Sharpe @CoherenceMed from the Sharp Index, which is dedicated to increasing awareness of and reducing physician suicide and burnout through support and data science

Are we going to be able to cover everything about physician burnout and health equity in just one hour? Unlikely but we’ll give it our best shot!

Video will be live (and then preserved) below. If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is available from Friday as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels. 

Big Health’s Softbank Money, FDA Board Member Send Strong Signals About Digital Therapeutics Market

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

With a $75 million investment from Softbank last week, and the addition of former FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Anand Shah to its Board of Directors this week, Big Health has sure kicked 2022 off with some noise! But, this is more than just big news for Big Health as CEO Peter Hames is here to tell us. This is a story about the market potential for an all-tech approach to mental health care, AND an important endorsement for digital therapeutics – specifically, those that do NOT require a prescription.

Big Health sits at the intersection of two of the hottest health-tech markets: digital mental health care and digital therapeutics. Its approach, via apps Daylight (for anxiety) and Sleepio (for insomnia), has been flagged as unique because 1) unlike other leading digital mental health companies like Headspace Health or Lyra Health, Big Health’s approach to care is tech-driven and does not depend on coach or clinician intervention, and 2) unlike its digital therapeutics rivals, Pear Therapeutics or Click Therapeutics, Big Health’s business model isn’t relying on prescriptions to get paid.

Big Health is, in other words, proving the market potential for a different “breed” of tech-first, PBM-backed digital therapeutics, and I ask Peter about it head-on as we discuss Softbank’s investment. The mega-fund has placed bets on all sides now, having invested in Cerebral, which delivers clinician-first mental health care and prescription medication, and prescription DTx company Pear, which went public in December 2021. So, what should the market make of the fact that Softbank sees room for Big Health alongside Cerebral and Pear? How have high-profile deals with CVS Health and the NHS in Scotland proven out the model? And, what does the addition of Anand Shah (and his insider perspective on the FDA’s sentiment toward digital therapeutics) indicate about what’s ahead when it comes to the regulatory environment for DTx in the future? So many market dynamics at play, so much to talk about!

#HealthTechDeals Episode 5: Infermedica, Wellster, Casana, Babylon, and Atlas Health

How many more beloved TV characters does Peleton have to give a heart attack to before somebody steps in? Jess can’t take it anymore, and we hash out some new deals: Infermedica raises $30 million; Wellster gets a fresh $20 million; Casana the smart toilet seat maker raises $30 million; Babylon buys DaytoDay Health and Higi; Atlas Health raises $40 million. -Matthew Holt

Infermedica raises a big round and demos new product

Infermedica is a company that started by creating symptom checking and chatbot functionality in Poland back in 2012. It’s spread to delivering that patient-facing diagnosis functionality via API and now as preparation for a physician visit. Today they announce a $30m series B and demo their new product which helps prepare a visit, and integrates into the clinician workflow. I spoke with CEO Piotr Orzechowski and Chief Product Officer Tim Price–Matthew Holt.

Writing the Book on Digital Health: Roberto Ascione on “The Future of Health”

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

In Milan, just outside the Frontiers Health conference, I caught up with Roberto Ascione, conference Chairman and CEO of Healthware Group, about his newly released book, “The Future of Health: How Digital Technology Will Make Care Accessible, Sustainable, and Human.”

A primer on digital health and its role in shaping care and well-being, the book is intended to provide an overview of the digital health market and what it means for the way healthcare will be delivered and consumed in the future.

Loaded with real-world examples and guest perspectives from a number of Roberto’s fabulous friends from across the healthcare and life sciences industries, the book aims to tell the story of health-and-tech in a way that is fun and fast – and doesn’t require healthcare expertise to understand!

Roberto and I quickly cover the main themes of the book, and why it’s so important RIGHT NOW for patients, clinicians, and healthcare entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators to read about where health tech came from, where it’s at, and where it’s headed. You know your market category is coming-of-age when it hits the bookshelves!

The Tests were a Test

By KIM BELLARD

Raise your hand if you’ve gone out shopping for home COVID tests, only to find empty shelves and signs apologizing for the lack of availability.  Raise your hand if you’ve been able to obtain one, but were surprised at its cost.  Raise your hand if you took one and weren’t quite sure you did it right, or wondered who, if anyone, would be getting the results.

Vox says that the COVID home test reimbursement process “is a microcosm of US health care,” and I think they’ve understated the situation.  Testing has been a microcosm for the US health care system generally.  It was a test, and our healthcare system failed.

Continue reading…

Vida Health Hires New Chief Medical Officer from Hims & Hers: A Sign ‘Scripts’ Are Coming Soon?

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF Health

Vida Health’s new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Carroll is bringing a very unique expertise to the chronic condition management startup’s C-suite: pharmacy. Pat just left virtual pharmacy co, Hims & Hers, where he helped take the company public as CMO after building-out their virtual primary care practice. Before that, he was CMO at Walgreens…

We get to know Pat – brand-new in his role as Vida Health’s first-ever CMO – and catch glimpses of how his years of experience as a primary care doc and executive leader at leading consumer-focused pharmacy businesses will likely be shaping Vida’s future delivering care to poly-chronic patients.

Vida Health’s current approach to diabetes management and mental health care has stood apart for being fully-integrated from the get-go, tackling the mind-body connection through digitally-based coaching and counseling. While Pat acknowledges that this approach has thus far yielded “remarkable outcomes,” he definitely seems interested in finding out if those outcomes could be even better if a virtual prescriber group were involved as well.

Will this be a partnership with a medical group? Or something Pat sees Vida Health building out itself to fully support its 100% at-risk-on-outcomes model? A compelling set of questions, particularly when you consider Vida Health’s investor-and-client relationship with the largest managed Medicaid plan in the U.S. (Centene participated in their $110 million Series D round in May 2021), the prevalence of complex diabetes cases (30% are multi-chronic), and the interesting data point Pat shares about Vida’s ability to get more people to see their primary care docs, increasing PCP visit rates by 10%. Interesting opportunity for Vida Health to further compete with Teladoc-Livongo and other virtual-first primary care providers aiming to deliver on the chronic condition care spectrum.

The Covid Vaccine’s PR Crisis: Health Innovation vs the Take-Down Power of Disinformation

By JESSICA DaMASSA

Misinformation and disinformation (intentionally wrong information) have plagued the storyline of the Covid19 vaccine since the early days of its development, creating a healthcare communications crisis that has not only stalled U.S. vaccination rates, but has also raised questions about how medical and scientific experts will ever again win trust across audiences and communications platforms that are becoming increasingly fragmented, and sometimes hostile.

Yesterday, on the two-year anniversary of the first Covid case in the U.S., I sat down with Dr. Carlos del Rio, Professor of Infectious Diseases & Epidemiology at Emory University, and Jon Reiner, Editorial Director at 120/80 MKTG, to check-in on the vaccine conversation and, more generally, what we in the health innovation community can learn from this situation as we attempt to introduce other new medicines, breakthrough technologies, and scientific advances to the world.

Dr. del Rio served as a vaccine expert in a public service campaign that 120/80 MKTG put together called “Just the Facts on Vax,” which sought to combat vaccine disinformation early-on with a series of bite-sized, social-media-ready videos that put infectious disease experts front-and-center to answer common questions about the vaccine. The full campaign can be viewed on 120over80 MKTG’s YouTube channel, but can it still have an impact? And, in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to people’s personal health, evolving medical or scientific information, and a litany of communication platforms that can position nearly anyone as an expert, how do real experts build trust? An interesting – and timely – chat about the power of information and the “trusted expert” archetype in the context of one of the most unique healthcare stories of our lifetime.

Headspace Health Merger Update: First Look at How Ginger-Headspace Combo is Really Going to Market

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Headspace Health CEO Russell Glass says the merger-of-equals between on-demand mental health care provider, Ginger, and consumer meditation app, Headspace, is starting its upward trajectory on the “merger J-curve” and this monster 30-minute chat gets into the how-and-why.

We start out talking about the company’s recent acquisition of chatbot-based self-care app Sayana, but quickly turn to the integration of Headspace and Ginger and where things stand in terms of bringing those offerings together after three months of operationalizing. A combined vision and set of values have been launched with all 900 employees, and Russ says its enterprise clients (there are now 3,500 of those) are just weeks away from getting a fully-integrated platform that proves reporting for both Headspace and Ginger, allows launch from a single eligibility file, and offers communication that spans both service lines.

What’s “extra” in all this – and gives us a real glimpse of where Headspace Health is headed in terms of positioning itself to health plans and employers as standout from the Lyra Health / Quartet Health / Modern Health pack – comes out when Russ is describing the company’s partnership with Blue Shield of California at the 15:25-minute mark. The plan’s members can now access Headspace Health’s full-spectrum of services (meditation to therapy) via Blue Shield of California’s Wellvolution platform, which provides intelligent intake, smart patient routing, ongoing measurement and adjustment of services, and the ultimate ability to help prove-out mental health care’s connection to the reduction of downstream healthcare costs over time. As Russ says, “All of this is part of a long-term vision for what this could mean to a broader population, not just those who may need acute care, but to think about the entire population and how you pull the cost out of healthcare by managing behavioral health in a smart way.”

The big finish to this BIG conversation is Russ’s take on what’s ahead for both Headspace Health AND the digital mental health care market in 2022. Tune-in around the 20-minute mark to start this segment off with the IPO question that I never get answered, then lots of detail on where Headspace Health is looking to acquire and expand, what he thinks the headline story will be when it comes to the business of mental healthcare this year, and which patient population will rise to the top in terms of mental healthcare need.

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