Symptom checker startup Buoy Health’s $37.5M Series C caught a lot of attention among health tech market watchers because of the collaborative support the funding round garnered from health plans. THREE payor orgs – UnitedHealth’s Optum, Humana, and Cigna – participated in the round, and co-founder and CEO Andrew Le is here to tell us why.
What’s interesting is how the health tech startup’s model has evolved past “symptom checking” and into patient decision-making to better solve the underlying uncertainty that typically causes a patient to “shotgun into care” that’s often a poor fit clinically AND financially. “If you don’t solve the clinical uncertainty first,” says Andrew, “then nothing else matters.” Health plans, though, are likely also seeing the potential of making sure that their members are routed to the right kind of “covered” care. And Buoy’s big plan is to help that along with a full-on marketplace of curated solutions – think telehealth, digital health apps, digital therapeutics, and so on – that round out the benefit design of a traditional health plan. Suddenly, symptom checking seems a means to a very different end…
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess makes me pronounce some impossible words while we cover lots of funding deals. Redox has raised $45 million in a Series D, bringing their total up to $95 million. Nanit, another baby monitoring company, raises $25 million in a Series C, Innovaccer raises a $105 million D round, and psychedelic biotech company MindMed acquires digital health company HealthMode. —Matthew Holt
We will also had a special guest who is possibly the most successful corporate venture capitalist in health tech–Merck’s Bill Taranto. He had a decent run last decade– you may have heard of Livongo which he was a big investor in! We talked with Bill about the future of investing, what role investing in digital health has for drug business and what he’s expecting in the big health care realignment. Apparently Merck treasury took all the cash he made with Livongo so he couldn’t give it to us, but he has $500m+ top spend and as he said, “you want a Billion Dollar exit? Put me on the board”
You can see the video below live and the audio will be on our podcast channel (Apple/Spotify) from Friday
“Telehealth has a much bigger role to play than just carrying out transactions,” says Amwell’s President & CEO, Roy Schoenberg, who joins Jess DaMassa for a sweeping philosophical discussion about how telehealth’s role will continue to evolve through the covid19 pandemic and the changes its forced on the healthcare market. Conversations about telehealth that were once about the value of improving “access to care” are now about the technology’s potential to drive “quality of care.” And Amwell – which says it is a “technology infrastructure company” focused on helping traditional healthcare players transition into digital distribution – is pushing past the old notion that virtual care is merely a “product to get a Z-pak.”
Roy gives us updates on Amwell’s much-buzzed-about partnerships with United Healthcare and Google, the later being focused on how the telehealth co is looking at integrating some of those famous Google technologies (think natural language processing, translation, and geolocation-ala-Maps) into virtual care delivery in a way that sounds like a lot more than just a “switchboard.”
Two other colorful Roy Schoenberg soundbites to tease you into this conversation about the immediate future of telehealth from the leader of one its biggest players: 1) “the notion that we are no longer looking at the home as an illegitimate place of care is drama in in every sense” and 2) “I think the next war-zone, the next place where there’s going to be a lot of heated confrontations and conversations, is state licensure.”
On Episode 186, of Health in 2 Point 00 – I have bad jokes about Olive.ai-related Circulo raising $50m, online/offline clinic Eden Health grabbing $60m, cancer app Carevive getting $18m & provider engagement play Loyal getting $12m. Will Jess DaMassa think the jokes are funny? You’ll have to watch to find out but you can make a pretty good guess!—Matthew Holt
On Episode 185, Jess has beat us to an interview on WTF Health before we cover it here on Health in 2 Point 00 – Modern Health raised $74 million in a Series D, so how does this compare to other mental health and wellness companies? Owlet is going public via a SPAC for their infant monitoring tech, and Mymee raises $8.7 million for patient self-tracking on the autoimmune disease front. —Matthew Holt
We touched on the impact of the extremes of global warming on health! And in a pandemic nonetheless!. Plus the wild world of SPACs, more funding for mental health, and the sausage making of health care’s place in the upcoming stimulus bill. But I’m not sure the group is ready for the big policy move that the pandemic may give us the opportunity to pursue! A great conversation nonetheless.
The video is below but if you’d rather listen to the episode, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels.
Chronic disease prevention is often lumped into chronic disease management – but should it be? Aren’t there different nuances to preventing diseases than to treat them? Making the case that healthcare’s “primary prevention” businesses deserve their own category is the CEO of Newtopia, Jeff Ruby. Newtopia’s just announced the creation of a new category of healthcare provider, the Habit Change Provider, in effort to more accurately describe the role of companies working to change the way people behave in their everyday lives. What they eat, whether or not they exercise, how they deal with stress and anxiety – in short, this is the business of influencing the many micro-decisions that, cumulatively, add up to our overall health and whether or not we’ll be impacted by “lifestyle diseases” like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, mental health issues, and more.
Newtopia’s been in this business for over a decade, starting its path to commercialization with Aetna and a three-year randomized control trial of more than 2,800 Aetna employees that proved the power of prevention: physical risk reduction, clinical cost savings, and the “holy grail” of any population health model, in-year ROI. So confident is Newtopia in their approach that the company goes at-risk on outcomes, a compelling enough value proposition to attract clients like Accenture, JP Morgan Chase (and it’s now defunct joint-venture with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway, Haven) and the whole of CVS Health (which acquired Aetna.)
Is this starting to sound different than those chronic condition management companies yet? Listen in to hear more about the details behind Newtopia’s approach, which even leverages genetic testing to “remove blocks for habit change” by helping people identify what they’ve inherited from their parents (slow metabolism, difficulty processing fats, body’s ability to handle stress signals) so they can get past blaming themselves and start developing healthy lifestyle improvements.
With all that has been going on, I’ve been remiss in reflecting on General Motor’s big announcement a couple weeks ago: it is going to have an all electric, zero emissions fleet of “light duty” vehicles (cars, SUVs, pickups) by 2035, and be carbon neutral by 2040. One of the largest manufacturers of internal combustion vehicles for over a hundred years is recognizing that its past is not its future.
Of course, I immediately wondered what the equivalent move in healthcare would be, and from whom.
In the announcement, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra declared:
General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world. We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.
You can just imagine Henry Ford fuming in his grave.
GM has had electric vehicles for some time, but they remain a small percentage of its business, as they do among the auto industry generally (Tesla’s market cap notwithstanding). GM had supported the Trump Administration’s policies efforts to rescind emission standards, which benefited internal combustion engines, but quickly changed course in light of Biden Administration priorities on climate change.
GM now plans to spend some $27b on electric and autonomous vehicles over the next few years. “We’re committed to fighting for EV market share until we are No. 1 in North America, Ms. Barra said at an investor’s conference. “EVs are core to creating GM shareholder value.”
Digital mental health startup Modern Health just closed a $74M Series D, bringing their funding total to $170M, and earning the company a $1.17B valuation that makes it the FASTEST-EVER female-founded company to hit unicorn status. CEO Alyson Watson explains what sets Modern Health apart in the incredibly crowded, well-funded, and highly-competitive mental health tech space where the growing issue of skyrocketing demand for care is likely soon to become a shortage of care providers.
Modern Health is hoping to win here by becoming a one-stop-shop for a full-suite of mental health services. They’re bundling together all the different kinds of mental health point solutions currently out there – from tech-enabled self-service cognitive behavioral therapy programs and peer-to-peer group therapy all the way to one-on-one virtual visits with clinicians – and differentiating by designing a better way to intake patients, so care can be more accurately and cost-effectively matched to patient needs. Says Alyson, “If you’re just solving mental health through the old-school way of connecting someone to a therapist, and that’s your be-all-end-all and your only solution…well, eventually, that bubble will burst.”
Founded in 2017, the company has grown both its client-base (220 employers) and coffers quickly. They’ve already acquired Kip, another digital mental health biz, and are looking for more. Tune in to hear what Alyson’s got on deck for 2021 and what she expects to be driving further growth in the mental health virtual care market.