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Category: Health Tech

The Digital Health Update from Europe: Startups, Funding, Frontiers Health & More

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

Roberto Ascione, CEO of European marketing and innovation consultancy, Healthware Group, and Chairman of Europe’s premier digital health conference, Frontiers Health, literally has a front-row seat to all the happenings in Europe’s scaling digital health, digital therapeutics, and telehealth markets.

With juuuust enough time for American investors and innovators to snag their own ticket for a seat at Frontiers Health in Milan on October 20-21, 2022, we check in with Roberto to see if European health tech startups are fairing any better than their US-based counterparts, if EU-based investors are just as flush with funding as they have been through the pandemic, and if enthusiasm is still high for virtual care and digital health among government healthcare organizations, their health systems, and their patients.

Europe is NOT the same market as the US, and Roberto details some notable differences in the state-of-play and top-of-mind issues facing health tech across the pond. Many of these topics will take center stage at Frontiers Health, including some important governance conversations around digital therapeutics. For the gossip on what’s happening in health tech in Europe, check out this interview and for more on what’s on the agenda at Frontiers (which can be attended virtually for those averse to Milan 😉) head on over to www.frontiers.health.

NeuroFlow & The Tech that Jumps the Care Gaps Between Physical Check-ups & Mental Health Care

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Mental health infrastructure company, NeuroFlow, is a tech platform that integrates into care management systems and EHRs to help clinicians and care managers identify behavioral health conditions in patients as they are getting physical health exams like annual check-ups, post-partum exams, and more. Founder & CEO Chris Molaro joins us from NeuroFlow’s new headquarters just hours before their grand opening to talk about how the startup – which has raised a total $32 million, including a $20 million Series B led by Magellan Health – is helping health systems and health plans integrate and automate workflows so they can better identify, risk-stratify, and serve patients who need mental health services.

Right off the bat, Chris starts out by explaining what NeuroFlow IS by what it IS NOT; NeuroFlow is not a telehealth company and it doesn’t directly deliver mental health care to any patients. Instead, it is a platform that makes it easier for those who are working with patients to be able to more consistently screen for mental health issues, provide follow-up support, and transition patients to the right level of mental health care via a step-care model complete with referral pathways.

The care management component of NeuroFlow gets splashier from here, with the ability to integrate and analyze data from wearable devices and free-form data sources like text messages with providers to flag anomalies in everyday behaviors that might be clues that could indicate that someone may in distress. How else does the tech help build a bridge from physical check-up to mental health care providers, particularly in an era where the supply-and-demand imbalance for mental healthcare is so off? We talk all things scaling-up, how the “modular” business model works, AND we find out why NeuroFlow’s new offices are so important to the company and its Philly roots. Watch now!

THCB Gang Episode 105, Thursday September 22 at 1pm PT, 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) for #THCBGang on Thursday September 22 are delivery & platform expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); THCB regular writer and ponderer of odd juxtapositions Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard); and in a quick late switch everyone’s favorite cynical radiologist Saurabh Jha (@RogueRad) joins us too

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

The Future of Clinical Trials at Pfizer

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

From de-centralized clinical trials to real world data (RWD), real world evidence (RWE), and even social media, the future for clinical research at Pfizer sounds increasingly tech-enabled and focused on meeting and engaging patients where they are.

Pfizer’s Head of Clinical Trial Experience, Judy Sewards, and Head of Clinical Operations & Development, Rob Goodwin, drop in to chat about what Pfizer’s approach to clinical research looks like now, after the rapid evolution it underwent to “lightspeed” the development of the Covid-19 vaccine.

The big change? Rob says they are “obsessed” with de-centralized trials, with nearly 50% of clinical trial visits still happening virtually. And, beyond the convenience factor, both point to de-centralization as a critical factor in being able to recruit more patients into trials as well as improve the diversity of their participant groups. In the end, the decentralized approach, says Judy, is “not just a matter of equity, but good science as well.”

And what about improvements to the cost of drug development? Is it too soon to tell if de-centralization will make an impact on the bottom line? Innovation may be expensive to implement at first, but, explains Rob, “If you can recruit your trial faster, overall, the cost of development goes down and speed to the patient goes up.”

We chat through the full suite of benefits that de-centralized clinical trials are bringing Pfizer and its patient populations, and get into the utility of real-world data, which also saw new notoriety when the Covid-19 vaccine was being developed. How is RWD impacting clinical research even when it’s not being used as evidence in a regulatory approval process? Watch and find out more about how data innovation is shaping the future of pharma!

Ribbon Health & Provider Data’s Holy Grail: The Accurate Provider Directory

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

It’s one of the greatest mysteries of the era of health data digitization: Why is provider directory still so hard to get right?? Ribbon Health’s co-founder & CEO Nate Maslak explains how Ribbon (which started out in the symptom-checker biz) pivoted to take on, once-and-for-all, the miserable state of provider data management to not only fix provider directories (which are still wrong 50% of the time!), but also referral management systems, health plan enrollment data, and now, thanks to those new price transparency rules, price lists.

“All of the different use cases we focus on around enrollment, referral management, provider data management for directory…” explains Nate, “These are actually the same problem that use different words to describe it because of the different parts of the ecosystem that we’re in.” So, as Ribbon gets the process right for provider directory by building an underlying tech platform that uses predictive analytics and network effect methodologies to work its magic to validate-and-verify that kind of healthcare data, then it can apply that framework to ANY healthcare data to the same end. And, maybe one day, layer member-facing services – like instant-booking with a doc – on top of them.

Backed by nearly $54 million from Andreesen Horowitz and General Catalyst, and we get into what makes this startup’s take on one of the oldest healthcare infrastructure issues so appealing. From platform to business model (which serves a mix of health plans, provider orgs and patient-facing solutions) to grand plans for the future (which include figuring out how “API as a platform” can further productize provider data management and power care decisions) we chat with Nate on all things Ribbon Health.

#HealthTechDeals Episode 46 | Redesign Health, Theranica, Soda Health, and Kyruus

It’s that time of the year! Summer is over and it’s conference season! The Rock Health Summit was a fun session, the highlight of which was diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation. Tune in for Jess’s and my thoughts on the summits, the end of the world, and new deals: Redesign Health raises $65 million, Theranica raises $45 million, Soda Health raises $25 million, and Kyruus buys Epion Health.

-Matthew Holt

THCB Gang Episode 104, Thursday September 15 at 1pm PT, 4pm ET

Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang on Thursday September 15 patient safety expert and all around wit Michael Millenson (@mlmillenson); Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); fierce patient activist Casey Quinlan (@MightyCasey); delivery & platforms expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis); &  policy expert consultant/author Rosemarie Day (@Rosemarie_Day1);

You can see the video below & if you’d rather listen than watch, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.

Meet Voice Tech Start-Up Cardiokol

BY JESSICA DaMASSA

Early-stage health tech start-up Caridokol is developing technology that listens to the sound of a patient’s voice over a mobile phone, landline phone or smart speaker to detect and analyze vocal biomarkers that indicate that the patient may be suffering from disease. The voice tech co is proving its case first in detecting arrhythmias, which are often asymptomatic and usually go undetected until they’ve led to a more serious issue like a stroke.

Cardiokol’s CEO James Amihood explains the tech behind this first use case – which already has one US patent granted and is pending approval on three more – and his plans to expand the company’s base of vocal biomarkers to enter into new disease states and new markets. The company is currently raising a Series A funding round and is planning to expand from Israel and Europe to the US. How could the technology change the game for disease prevention, starting with strokes? James connects the dots to the big vision for the company’s future as he explains how Cardiokol’s tech is already providing those most at-risk of arrythmia a very cost-effective, simple-to-use way to screen and monitor their long-term heart health.

What does CVS’s new deal signify about Medicare Advantage?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

Meanwhile, it’s time for Matthew’s tidbits. A quick moment’s thought of course for the Queen, her family and semi-loyal subjects, of which I am (sort of) one. In fact in the last 7 days my ancestral homeland of the UK has got a new King, a new prime minister and a new manager at Chelsea FC. Still, two of three of those changes seem to happen about every 18 months so we shouldn’t be too surprised that they all happened at once.

Talking of changes, this week’s big American health care news was the other Matthew Holt pocketing a boatload of cash. Yes, Jess DaMassa is still hoping to upgrade her partner on Health Tech Deals without having to change the name on the intro (and ain’t shy about telling me!). The wrong Matthew Holt (from my bank balance’s perspective) has a fund called New Mountain Capital, which owns a lot of health tech assets. It was the majority owner of Signify Health–bought this week for $8bn by CVS, after being the subject of a bidding war between them, United & Amazon.

Signify is very interesting for what it does or doesn’t do. Almost all its business (having acquired and recently shut down a bundled care payments division) is now connected to sending nurses out to the homes of Medicare Advantage (MA) members on behalf of all the big payers (Aetna, United, Humana, etc) to do in-home health assessments of their members. Critics say that these assessments were used to upcode the health risk assessment factor (RAF) of those members, which causes CMS to pay more to those MA plans. MA’s defenders, including George Halvorson on THCB, say that this upcoding isn’t happening, or at least not in that way, and that the better care MA members get actually reduces overall Medicare costs.

Having read a lot and been talked at by both sides of this debate, it seems to me that both things are true. Many MA members have been “upcoded”, in many cases perhaps legitimately, and the CMS data–which is extremely murky & hard to parse–also seems to indicate that MA members’ treatment overall costs less than those in FFS. (I’ll spare you the CMS Trustees report but here is Milliman’s assessment–albeit paid for by MA proponents–using their data. MedPAC disagrees).

Signify brought in over $640m in revenue for those home evaluations in 2021 and is forecasting over $1bn in revenue this year at a healthy EBITDA. But that still means CVS is paying 8 times future revenue & maybe 30-40 times earnings. It will indeed be interesting to see if health plans remain so keen on these home evaluations if (as George Halvorson says) CMS has actually stomped on them being used for RAF upcoding. It’s also not clear if those MA plans competing with CVS/Aetna will be keen on using a company owned by one of their rivals–which might put its thumb on the scale in ways they can’t know about.

Of course, it might just be that what Signify is doing is radically improving the experience and health of those seniors in Medicare Advantage by discovering what health and social issues they have, and helping their plans and providers manage their care better. Wouldn’t it be great if all seniors could get this type of care and attention? And wouldn’t it be great if the taxpayer knew it was both helping improve seniors’ health and reducing our costs? The challenge for Medicare (and the rest of us) is to get to a place where the incentives are transparently only for improving health, and where Medicare Advantage plans are regarded across the board as actually doing only that.

We are not there yet.

#HealthTechDeals Episode 45: CVS buys Signify; Psych Hub; 98point6 & MedMinder

It’s been a week of endings for UK politicians, soccer coaches and tennis GOATs. And a big deal in health tech as CVS buys Signify Health for $8bn. Psych Hub raises $16m, 98point6 tacks on $20m more in a poss direction change & MedMinder tackles that hardest of all questions–Did I take my pill or not? Jess DaMassa almost lets me takeover, but we know who she really wants in charge! Matthew Holt

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