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Category: Health Technology

Putting the “e” in DNA

BY KIM BELLARD

The Wall Street Journal had a great article a couple days ago that tickled my fancy on two fronts: DNA, and the deep ocean.  Both fascinate me. It introduced me to a term I’d not heard before but have now discovered is a thing: “eDNA.”  It’s something I suspect we’ll be hearing more about, and a technique we’ll be using much more, in the years to come.

The article, Finding New Drugs From the Deep Sea via ‘eDNA’, talks about a different approach to discovering potential sources of new medicines: “environmental DNA,” or eDNA.  As the US Geological Survey describes it: “Environmental DNA (eDNA) is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment.” You may not want to know this, but “Sources of eDNA include secreted feces, mucous, and gametes; shed skin and hair; and carcasses.”

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Zap Away

BY KIM BELLARD

Speaking as a sometimes forgetful “senior citizen,” when I found out that non-invasively zapping brains with electricity can result in measurable improvements in memory, that’s something I’m going to remember.

I hope.  

In research published in Nature Neuroscience by Grover, et. al., a team lead by Boston University cognitive neuroscientist Robert Reinhart produced improvements in both long-term and short-term (working) memory through a series of weak electric stimulation – transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). The authors modestly claim: “Together, these findings suggest that memory function can be selectively and sustainably improved in older adults through modulation of functionally specific brain rhythms.”

The study provided the stimulation using something that looks like a swimming cap with electrodes, applied for twenty minutes a day for four days.  The population was 150 people, broken up into three separate experiments, all ages 65 to 88.

The results were amazing.  “We can watch the memory improvements accumulate … with each passing day,” Dr. Reinhart marveled.  

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Stop Talking About the Bubble and Start Telling Your Story

BY MICHELLE SNYDER

Unless you have been off the grid for the past few months (which frankly sounds kind of nice right now), you know that the digital health market has changed dramatically.   While not surprising to those of us who have been through the boom-and-bust cycles of the past two decades, it nevertheless has been an awakening for many investors and entrepreneurs.  

As an entrepreneur, there are some things you cannot control – the macro-economic climate, supply chain disruptions and narcissist led wars halfway around the world.  But what is entirely within your control is how you tell your company’s story and your ability to make investors want to join you on the journey.  

As a longtime storyteller for several digital health companies and a current story listener (aka investor), I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately.  Though the word “storyteller” can have negative connotations for some people, I value and appreciate great storytellers who engage me right off the bat, get me excited about the “why” and clearly articulate why it’s in my best interest to invest in their company.

The art of storytelling has always been important, but in the current digital health funding environment, it is quickly becoming essential for success.  Are you telling your company’s story in the most effective way?  Read on to find out.

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Keycare raises $24m & Dr Lyle thinks he’s found a virtual care niche!

Lyle Berkowitz has been very well known as a techy doc for years. He’s ran an innovation center at Northwestern, written books, been featured at tons of conferences (including Health 2.0), had a stint at MDLive and was founder and Exec Chair at HealthFinch which was bought by Health Catalyst. But instead of lying on the beach drinking MaiTais, Lyle has decided that there’s room for yet another virtual care play, and today his new company Keycare is announcing a $24m round and a deal with Spectrum Health (Michigan). What is it? It’s a virtual medical group that’s going to be supporting traditional health systems with care after-hours, out of state and much more. Is there room in the telehealth market for yet another niche play? You may guess that I asked and Lyle explained why!–Matthew Holt

Particle Health, Complete Patient Records & ‘The Business’ of the Information Blocking Rule

By JESSICA DAMASSA

Particle Health’s CEO Troy Bannister stops by to not only talk about the API platform company’s $25M Series B, but to also explain exactly what’s going on in that patient data ‘exchange-standardize-and-aggregate’ space that, these days, looks poised to pop as the 21st Century Cures Act Information Blocking Rule stands ready to make hospitals share data like never before.

Troy calls Particle a “network of networks” and what that means is that their API pulls patient records from organizations and businesses that are already aggregating them (so aggregating the aggregators) to get all the lab data and medical data a clinician would want to in order to have a more complete picture of their patient. For clients like One Medical or Omada Health, who deliver value-based care and take on risk, having such a robust historic data set on patients – along with a more complete picture of their comorbidities – helps improve decision making and outcomes.

So, how is Particle Health working now – and what will change – as the Information Blocking Rule gets implemented? Troy’s written about this for Forbes, and explains what has him fired up here too. Turns out their model has room to accommodate a big pivot: giving patients access to their own ‘network of networks’ record. Find out what sets Particle off in this new B2B2C direction and how they will be using that Series B funding to build out deeper analytical tools to help everyone make better sense of what the data in all those records can show us.

Link to Troy’s Forbes piece on Anti Information Blocking Rules

Link to Jess’s chat with Micky Tripathi, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, on Anti Information Blocking & TEFCA:

Jenny Schneider on Homeward’s $50M Series B, 30K-Patient Partnership with Priority Health

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Just FIVE MONTHS after launch, rural health startup Homeward is proving its potential for growth with MORE funding – today announcing its $50 million Series B (that’s $70 million total for the folks keeping score at home) – AND a huge 30,000-patient partnership with Priority Health. Co-founder & CEO Dr. Jennifer Schneider is here to breakdown both bits of news and give us some context about what they indicate about the rural healthcare market.

There are a couple surprising facts in this one that add up to why investors like ARCH Venture Partners and Human Capital (co-leads), General Catalyst (which led the Series A), and Lee Shapiro and Glen Tullman (old buddies and former Livongo colleagues who went in on this with personal funds outside of their fund 7wireVentures) were excited to jump into a quick Series B.

Surprising Fact 1: 90% of all rural Medicare beneficiaries are covered by just 7 payers, which makes the Priority Health deal a bigger deal than even that massive 30K patient population might indicate.

Surprising Fact 2: Homeward’s market of rural Americans is actually TWICE as large as the diabetes market that spurred the investment and growth of Livongo.

For all the math, the details on how the business actually works five months in, and how Homeward is actually going to market as a ‘healthcare infrastructure’ provider rather than just a next-gen medical group, you’re going to have to give this one a watch!

US Cardiac electrophysiologists meet reimbursement reality and don’t like it.

By ANISH KOKA

It’s been a while but Anish Koka, a one time regular writer on THCB and occasional THCB Gang member, is back publishing up a storm on his Substack channel. You may recall that his political and clinical views don’t always mesh with some of the wooly liberals we feature on THCB (cough, cough, me), but we are delighted to be back publishing some of his pieces–this one is on reimbursement.–Matthew Holt

The subspecialty of Cardiology known as electrophysiology has seen explosive growth over the last few decades in large part because of a massive expansion in the suite of procedures now offered to patients. It used to be that electrophysiologists would spend the majority of their careers implanting pacemakers and defibrillators, but the last 2 decades saw an explosion in electrophysiology procedures known as ablations. Ablations essentially involve burning cardiac tissue in a strategic manner to get rid of arrhythmias that may be afflicting a particular patient. The path humans took from first taking an electrical picture of the heart with a surface ECG to putting catheters into the heart to map and treat dangerous arrhythmias is one of the great achievements of the modern era.

Giants of the field like the recently deceased Mark Josephson essentially created a field by going where no humans had gone before. Dr. Josephson did much of his work in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania publishing seminal papers that lead to a greater understanding and eventual treatment of previously incurable malignant arrhythmias. As is true of all trailblazing work in medicine , there were no reimbursement codes in the beginning , just desperate patients with no place to turn.

The procedures being embarked on were rare and the patients were very complex. The renumeration that was awarded from Medicare was reflective of this. But two things almost always happen once a highly reimbursed procedure code comes on line – technological advances makes the procedure easier, and the population that the procedure is intended for massively balloons.

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How Happify Health Became Twill: Inside the New Biz Model & What’s Next

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Mental health digital therapeutics startup Happify Health has spent the past 5 years quietly ‘self-actualizing’ into a brand-new, tech platform company that just launched this week: Twill. This is a big pivot – not just a brand change – and we’ve got co-founder & President Ofer Leidner and newly-hired Chief Operating Officer Megan Callahan (who formerly ran Lyft Health) here to tell us how it all went down AND what will happen to the old Happify app.

Wellness-app-no-more, Twill has emerged as a health tech infrastructure company. Its core product (called Sequences) is the open architecture, digital back-end that ties together a health plan, employer, or pharma co’s various digital point solutions – wellness apps, digital therapeutics, virtual coaching, peer support groups, telehealth platforms, etc. etc. – to create one neat-and-tidy, hyper-personalized, automagically-navigated patient care journey based on condition or patient population.

Big brands like Elevance Health (Anthem), Biogen, and Almirall have already bought-in, with products already in market for conditions as diverse as maternal health, multiple scleroses, and psoriasis. Not forgetting its mental health roots, Twill is bringing in its own vast resources from the ole Happify days to run digital mental health support under each of these disease-specific point solutions. Ofer and Megan say that Sequences can be developed for ANY condition or to target specific populations of patients and they plan to launch 2-3 new Sequences each year.

What else is ahead for Twill now that it’s revealed from its stealthy start? Happify Health had raised $73 million in March 2021 in a big round lead by Deerfield Management Company – what should we expect next? Tune in for all the details on the transformation, the new products, and how other digital health companies can expect to work with Twill in the future.

Quickbite Interviews: NeuroFlow

I was at the AHIP conference in Vegas late last month and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quick bite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am dribbling them out–Matthew Holt

Next is Julia Kastner, CPO & Chris Molaro, CEO, Neuroflow, and it includes a great brief product demo from Julia

Inside Vida Health’s Move Into Musculoskeletal Care

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

In the ‘point solution versus platform’ debate, mark another score for integration as Vida Health jumps into the musculoskeletal (MSK) care space. This is a move we’ve seen before among the digital health chronic condition management set (remember when Omada acquired Physera, Dario Health acquired Upright, and everyone was waiting to see if Livongo would make a play for Sword or Hinge?) so why is Vida just jumping in now?

Dr. Patrick Carroll, Vida Health’s Chief Medical Officer, lets us in on the strategy behind the startup’s move into the MSK space and what it signals about how employers (and their employees) are starting to view digital health and virtual care within the larger scope of available care options out there.

As for Vida’s MSK program, it’s different than what you might expect. According to Pat, the program is strictly focused on lower back pain and helping members quickly find the physical therapy and, if needed, mental health care that can make a real difference to their overall health in a manner of weeks. If something more complex is discovered, Pat says Vida is working with partners – including those digital-first MSK clinics – to refer out. Is this the long-term play or will Vida eventually build out or buy its way further into MSK? We find out what’s ahead for the cardiometabolic care company as it launches yet another new offering to improve access to care.

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