You may know the term “digital therapeutics,” but how about the specialized category of “digital neuro-therapeutics”? MindMaze, which has developed a platform approach to creating prescription digital therapeutics for neurological diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s has just landed $105 million in fresh funding from Concord Health Partners to further advance development of this unique category of pDTx’s.
CEO Tej Tadi, CFO Kevin Gallagher, and Chief Medical Director John Krakauer get us smart on the neuroscience behind MindMaze, their device-plus-gaming interventions, and how they are gaining reimbursement for their brain health and recovery therapies. Each therapeutic is a bit different – MindPod Dolphin, for example, helps patients rehab upper limb motor skills by way of a dolphin-themed gaming experience that incorporates sensors and an anti-gravity vest. The team says there are 10 clinical trials underway across seven indications, with the goal to bring at least three new prescription digital therapeutics to market by next year.
How will this new funding – and a partnership with the American Hospital Association – aid US market expansion for Swiss-based MindMaze? We explore the company’s growth plans, talk about market readiness for digital therapeutics, and even find out the backstory behind how Leonardo DiCaprio ended up on their cap table.
Joining Matthew Holt (@boltyboy) on #THCBGang at 1pm PT 4pm ET Thursday for an hour of topical and sometime combative conversation on what’s happening in health care and beyond will be: Suntra Modern Recovery CEO JL Neptune (@JeanLucNeptune); the double trouble of vaunted futurists Ian Morrison (@seccurve) & Jeff Goldsmith, WTF Health host & Health IT girl Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa). Today’s special guest returning to #THCBGang is the “I make unicorns” King Bill Taranto from Merck GHIF (@BillTaranto).
You can surmise that there will be some discussion around #DigitalHealth valuations!
The video will be below. If you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved from Friday as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels
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.
Insight on what’s ahead for the future of clinical research, real-world evidence, and personalized healthcare from none other than former FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner and current President of Verily Life Sciences’ Clinical Research Platforms, Amy Abernethy.
Amy testified before Congress a few weeks ago to answer their questions about some of the buzziest tech and new virtual models emerging to re-shape the way clinical data is collected for regulatory approval of medical devices, drugs, and digital health applications. We get the inside scoop here on what they asked, how they reacted to her answers, and what she thinks is ahead in terms of the investments they might make and the policies they are likely to explore in order to use more technology and decentralized clinical trials to bring greater equity, diversity and safety to the development of new medical products and prescription drugs. And that’s not all! We also get into a little chat about 21st Century Cures 2.0 and how the FDA is thinking about leveraging real-world data and real-world evidence for high-level regulatory questions. Hot space to watch, and Amy is excited!
Beyond this “fresh off the Beltway” analysis of what’s ahead in health tech policy, Amy talks too about what’s next for Verily. Sounds like the business might have an acquisition in its future…
Is this a big surprise? Even during Covid, Pega’s annual 2,000-person Patient Engagement Survey shows that 63% of patients are unhappy with the communication they receive from their payers and providers. Which begs the question… just how bad was it before? (Answer: 86% unhappy– yikes!)
Pega’s VP of Healthcare & Life Sciences, Kelli Bravo, has run this survey three years and counting and drops in to share the highlights (if we can really call them that) of the survey results and how she thinks enterprising young health tech startups can capitalize on the opportunity to help.
For those in the business of trying to talk to patients — which is all of us — let’s look at this as a wake-up call. Let’s stop speaking “health care” and start using language everyone can understand about their care, what it will cost, and what all the options really are. Pega is attempting to do its part in that department, and we get an update on how they’re fairing at helping to make healthcare feel more like retail. The rise of the healthcare consumer is a real thing. Now, with new data to back up claims about what they’re demanding in terms of how they prefer to be talked to and communicated with.
Signify Health (NYSE: SGFY) has called their approach “Value-Based Care 2.0” and, today, they’ve received an important designation from CMS that could set an exciting precedent for scaling up episodes-of-care, value-based models for the under 65 commercial health insurance market. The plan to receive this important approval as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (AAPM) is the State of Connecticut’s health plan – a massive plan that covers the State’s 220,000 employees and retirees. To talk about what this first-of-its-kind approval signals for the future of value-based payment models are the State of Connecticut’s Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Signify Health’s CEO Kyle Armbrester.
What’s so important here is the combination of episodes-of-care (which is like value-based care-lite) and the under-65 market (which is not as rich with value-based care case studies as the over-65 Medicare market). That a State government with a massive population of covered lives AND a vested interest in helping keep local hospitals and health systems vibrant economic engines in the community is leading the way on this novel payment model design is significant. And, Comptroller Lembo gives us the details about how he’s viewing it as a win-win – after quite a few battles along the way. To win in health innovation, you’ve got to follow the dollar! Tune into this chat to see where it’s headed as episodes-of-care models get a huge boost from CMS.
Not all who wander are lost: Nomad Health lands a $63M Series D round after a year of 5X revenue growth for their tech-driven healthcare staffing marketplace that helps hospitals hire nurses on-demand. This round, led by Adams Street Partners with participation from all existing investors, brings the company’s total fundraising up to $113M. Co-founder & CEO Alexi Nazem stops by to tell us how the startup is not only planning to expand its focus from nurses to other types of healthcare providers but how the process of doing so will transform Nomad from an on-demand staffing agency to “‘THE’ workforce management platform for healthcare.”
Alexi puts it this way: “In healthcare, the product is CARE. And, who is the product team? It’s the doctors, the nurses, the allied health professionals…and the fact that there’s no intentional management of this group of people who steward $1.5 trillion dollars of cost in the US every year is beyond unbelievable.”
The problem is twofold. First, there’s the way temporary staffing is currently being handled: by 2,500 different staffing agencies that take a fragmented, predominantly people-powered approach to sourcing, vetting, and hiring candidates. The cost is high to a health system looking to shore up their nursing staff, and the experience for job-seeking nurses is very opaque, with information being revealed about a job only after a significant investment of time within the application process. If the match falls apart, all the people involved in the process are left to try again.
This leads to the second issue – that, big picture, the status-quo way of temporary staffing is leaving behind a LOT of valuable data. Data about the clinician that is useful to the management of their career, and data about the workforce that would prove valuable to a hospital looking to better manage its care delivery resources.
We journey into the details behind Nomad’s business model, which is cutting costs for hospitals while also increasing pay for the 150,000+ clinicians on its platform. AND, while we’re there, we also find out how they expect their on-demand staffing approach to playing out in the booming virtual care space.
People with Diabetes can get ready to celebrate: “The ‘Era of Lancets’ is over.” Precision nutrition startup, DayTwo, is scaling up its microbiome-based program, which takes the guesswork (and finger pricks) out of Diabetes management by offering its members food predictions that identify how their bodies will respond to any food BEFORE they eat it. The startup just closed a fresh $37M in Series B funding (led by aMoon and Cathay Ventures) and is expanding the rollout of their fee-for-outcomes Diabetes program to health plans and large self-insured employers.
The science behind this has yielded DayTwo the largest gut microbiome dataset in the world, and years of empirical studies on exactly what happens in our bodies as our digestive systems process different foods. Josh Stevens, DayTwo’s President & Chief Commercial Officer, walks us through the research behind the offering, which uses a gut microbiome analysis to rank foods and food combinations based on how eating them will impact a person’s blood sugar – essentially revealing what foods will (or won’t) cause a member’s blood sugar to spike before they even take a bite.
Its 70,000+ members report lower A1C levels (1 point on average), sustained weight loss, and, probably most exciting, an ability to stick with the program because the app (and wrap-around telehealth support from registered dieticians) creates a completely bespoke diet that lets people learn how to eat their favorite foods and keep their blood glucose levels within range. Will this predictive approach really bring about the end of lancet-based blood glucose testing for Diabetes management? Josh says Diabetes remission is a goal made easier by this predictive approach, but how does it stack up to other food-as-medicine approaches out there? I have a gut-feeling that you’ll want to tune in and find out!
Just ONE-year in market, and Calibrate has already closed a $100M Series B co-led by Founders Fund and Tiger Global, with participation from Optum Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Threshold Ventures, and Redesign Health. Why is this virtual care startup getting so much attention (and funding) from so many notable health tech investors? Founder & CEO Isabelle Kenyon is here to introduce us to the telehealth-plus-prescription-drugs business she’s building to help people lose weight.
This is NOT a Noom. Calibrate’s business model is built around a class of $700-$1,300-per month, prescription weight loss drugs called GLP-1s, which it helps its members sort through for both fit AND health insurance coverage (Isabelle says 90% of Calibrate members get the drugs covered by their health plan.) Once the drug is prescribed, the Calibrate member is wrapped in a telehealth-driven, lifestyle intervention program that addresses sleep, eating, exercise, and emotional health to help support the reset of their metabolism. As a result, Calibrate members are losing an average of 14% of their body weight, a significantly better, more sustainable outcome than achieved in clinical research when the drugs were prescribed without support.
There are lots of compelling aspects to the Calibrate story here, and we get through all of them: the 175M-person total addressable market of Americans diagnosed with obesity… the recent FDA-approval of Novo Nordisk’s new GLP-1 drug called Wegovy… and how Calibrate will use its fresh funding to build-out an Enterprise program aimed at meeting the shifting thinking employers, Medicare Advantage plans, and other health insurers have about obesity treatment as “preventative care” against more costly chronic diseases.
What else could this “behavior change + drug” framework – and its unique de-coupled payment model – be applied to? Diabetes, cholesterol, and hypertension sound like they’re all on the table, but how defensible is this? What stops a pharma company from doing this themselves? Isn’t this digital therapeutics?? A VERY interesting discussion about the often-taboo subject of weight loss, pharma, and the disruption of the healthcare delivery system behind both.
Innovation in Medicaid is HAPPENING – and not only is it capable of creating better, less expensive healthcare for Medicaid members, but Cityblock Health is proving that it can also be the underpinning of a business worth over $1B dollars.
Dr. Toyin Ajayi, Cityblock’s co-founder & President, walks through the company’s novel business model, which goes AT-RISK to take care of some of the highest risk patients in all of healthcare. Here’s how it works: the startup contracts with health plans that provide Managed Medicaid services, helps them identify groups of patients that are of highest risk or rising risk, then takes over the financial and clinical accountability for that group. Cityblock then envelopes those members in a suite of highly personalized services that address both their healthcare needs and the social care challenges that are connected to them. In short…Cityblock is a medical practice built at the bustling intersection of value-based care and social determinants of health.
Toyin talks through some examples of the unique challenges facing the 75,000+ members Cityblock works with, particularly what they are learning about what it takes to “earn the right” to provide this population with care. But, is the high-touch, tech-infused core of their model defensible? What stops a huge national Managed Medicaid health plan like Centene or Molina from simply replicating this within their own multi-billion-dollar enterprises? Competition, expansion, funding, and outcomes – we get into it all, and hear Toyin’s near-term vision for Cityblock as it puts the nearly $500M its received in venture funding to work on “transforming the healthcare ecosystem for those who need it most.”