Six competitor CEOs and one ex-CMO discuss the biggest-ever digital health merger
By JESS DAMASSA & MATTHEW HOLT
It was the news that stunned the world of health tech. And us! So we had seven of Teladoc and Livongo’s biggest competitors weigh-in on what the merger means for telehealth, digital health, the future of health care delivery–and their businesses! You’ll hear from the CEOs of Omada, Ginger, One Drop, Vida, Lark & Cloudbreak, with some spicy commentary from Lyle Berkowitz who was, until recently, CMO at MD Live. From reaction to the merger to speculation about how this will impact the future of digital health funding, fasten your seat belts for some impactful and fun infotainment about all the implications of the deal.
Episode 21 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, August 13th! Watch it below.
Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) today are some of our regulars: policy & tech expert Vince Kuraitis (@VinceKuraitis), MD turned leadership coach Maggi Cary (@MargaretCaryMD), patient advocate Grace Cordovano (@GraceCordovano), and Consumer advocate & CTO of Carium Health Lygeia Ricciardi (@Lygeia). It was a great conversation surrounding the patients’ role in all the technology being deployed, how providers can work to close the gap in care, and whose duty is it really to ensure a person is “healthy”. Give it a listen below if you missed the live show
If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
JUST before the Teladoc-Livongo merger was announced, I had a chance to catch up with Doctor on Demand’s CEO, Hill Ferguson. The future for telehealth, he said, is “bright green” — and I’m pretty sure it’s looking even greener now! Doctor On Demand has stood out among telehealth companies for being particularly early on virtual primary care and it sounds like they’re going to continue developing that line of business — in which they have key partnerships with Humana and Walmart — with the $75M series D funding they just received.
Add to that a brand-new, first-of-its-kind telehealth program for the Medicare Part B population, and crazy consumer-focused type UX features like same-day scheduling for behavioral mental health care (yes, that’s right, dynamic scheduling for healthcare is here, folks!) and you can start to see how DOD is strategizing to pull away from the pack.
With the competitive landscape shifting, especially after Teladoc-Livongo, how does Hill view the onslaught of new entrants like digital health companies who added telehealth in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, or potential unicorns like Ro or HIMS, who are focused on tying the prescription drug business into virtual care delivery? It’s the insider insight you’ve been waiting for in this era of ‘tele-everything’ healthcare.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I cover all the deals that got overshadowed by the big news of Teladoc and Livongo’s merger. First up is Ginger, the mental health provider which raised $50 million in a D round bringing their total up to $120 million. Infermedica, an AI enabled symptom checker and triage tool, raised $10.25 million in a series A. Next, Xealth landed a $6 million investment from Cerner and LRVHealth, partnering with Cerner and bringing their digital health prescribing tool to Cerner in addition to its current integration with Epic. Finally SOC Telemed is going public through a “reverse” merger with Healthcare Merger Corp. —Matthew Holt
Today, a special Health in 2 Point 00. Jessica DaMassa asks me about the biggest news in public digital health companies ever: this morning’s merger of Teladoc and Livongo. We discuss the deal, the implications for digital health, what’s next for Continuous Clinics, whether our T-Shirts will become a collectors item, and of course what about our book club on August 19! —Matthew Holt
Even before Covid19, virtual care for chronic conditions was a hot and competitive area, with the heat turned up by Livongo Health’s IPO last year and big funding rounds for companies like Omada Health, Virta Health, and One Drop. Another contender in the space, Vida Health, has been best known for taking a “platform” approach to chronic condition management before “platforming out” became the-move-to-make for scaling health tech companies. Their digital health biz actually started out with a “whole health approach” to helping patients manage all their conditions at once, integrating care for diabetes, hypertension, COPD, high cholesterol, mental health conditions, and more from the get-go. Contrast that to some of their biggest competitors, who have adapted to that approach by adding on treatments for co-morbidities as their core businesses evolved.
Is there a benefit to starting out with a holistic care model that those who build it along the way can’t capture? We caught up with Vida Health’s founder & CEO, Stephanie Tilenius, to find out what advantage starting out as a platform play has brought to her business, which just closed a $25M funding round in April and is now available to more than 1.5 million people through employers and health plans.
How will the company scale from here? How will they remain competitive in such a crowded space? Stephanie talks through some of Vida Health’s post-pandemic plans AND how lessons learned from her “previous life” as an exec in Big Tech during that industry’s growth era of the 2000s & 2010s has shaped her thinking about the uptake of technology in healthcare. Not only did Stephanie work at eBay, PayPal, and Google during the birth of the online payment era, BUT she also helped take an online pharmacy company (Planet Rx) public during the dotcom boom.
Though it will be impossible to overstate the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake, we can also acknowledge that it has pushed humanity to creatively adapt to our new, socially-distanced reality—necessity is the mother of invention, as they say. Telehealth is not a new invention, but the necessity of keeping people physically apart, especially those particularly vulnerable to COVID, has suddenly put virtual health care at the center of our delivery system.
Patients and providers quickly pivoted to at-home care as in-person visits were limited for safety, and use of telehealth spiked early in the outbreak. One survey of over 500,000 clinicians showed that by April—only about two weeks after the first stay-at-home orders were issued in the U.S.—14 percent of their usual number of pre-pandemic visits were being conducted via telemedicine. For many, that involved using unfamiliar technology and a big shift in procedures for providers. Congress recognized the need to support providers through this transition and allocated $500 million for waiving restrictions on Medicare telehealth coverage as part of the emergency funding bill that passed in March.
But, as restrictions have begun to lift and hospitals and medical offices are beginning to reopen for non-emergent care, we have seen the use of telemedicine start to taper off. The same 500,000 clinicians were surveyed in June, revealing that telemedicine was used for only 8 percent of the usual pre-pandemic number of visits. Providing quality, virtual health care won’t be as easy as flipping a switch, but we currently have an unprecedented opportunity to carry forward the best version of virtual care and create a more holistic health care system. As we work toward that goal, there are three components our virtual care system needs in order to be sustainable, feasible, and manageable for both patients and providers.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess helps me celebrate my birthday Kylie Jenner-style. On Episode 140, Jess and I discuss Humana investing $100 million in Heal, Lemonaid raising $33 million in a Series B, CVS Caremark announcing 5 new companies in their digital health platform—4 of which are about weight loss, and perplexing health intelligence company Sema4 raising $121 million in a seed round. —Matthew Holt
Today on THCB Spotlights, Matthew sits down with Paul Johnson, the CEO of Lemonaid. Lemonaid just closed a $33 million Series B led by Olive Tree Ventures, expanding their direct-to-consumer online services which provide primary care visits as well as pharmacy and medication delivery to your home and launching into more chronic areas of care, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma and type 2 diabetes. Why did they wind up with an Israel-focused lead investor in Olive Tree as a San Francisco-based company? Where is Lemonaid in terms of growth and revenue? And how is Lemonaid differentiating itself against some of the other chronic care management and telehealth companies? Find out how the company aims to provide care for patients holistically and be the first point of contact for patients in seeking healthcare.
Health tech deals are just back to back this week! On Episode 139 of Health In 2 Point 00, Jess asks me about Withings getting $60M in a new round to develop their connected devices & apps products, Neurovalens raising €5.5M to grow their headset technology that helps with obesity, insomnia, diabetes, & more, Pocket Health raising $6.5M to build out their image sharing platform within in EHRs, and Sidecar Health raises $20M for their price transparency direct pay option. I also talks about Livongo’s new DPP program which provides users with diet tips & coaching sessions to offset diabetes in high-risk populations —Matthew Holt