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
A startup PBM? Partnered up with Walmart to bring “everyday low prices” to prescription drug pricing? Is this too good to be true? A.J. Loiacono, founder & CEO at Capital Rx, gives us a quick primer on “Pharmacy Benefit Managers” (PBMs) and why they’ve become known for the element of mystery they bring to prescription drug pricing. With three big PBMs (CVS’s Caremark, Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth’s OptumRx) controlling three quarters of the total market, it’s no surprise that VC-backed challenger companies in this space are rare. So, how does A.J. believe Capital Rx will shake things up? Learning about this new kind of tech-enabled, customer-focused PBM not only inspires hope for a clear future of prescription drug price transparency, but also makes one wonder about the new vision for American healthcare unfolding at Walmart.
Episode 20 of “The THCB Gang” was live-streamed on Thursday, July 30th! Watch it below!
Joining Matthew Holt were some of our regulars: writer Kim Bellard (@kimbbellard), MD & hospital system exec Rajesh Aggarwal (@docaggarwal), health futurist Ian Morrison (@seccurve), WTF Health Host Jessica DaMassa (@jessdamassa), and guest Jennifer Benz, communications leader at Segal Benz (@jenbenz). We discussed how employers & health plans need to build trust in order to improve engagement data, how health consumers’ are changing the way they interact with health care, and how to support patients when they are accessing the system.
If you’d rather listen, the audio is preserved as a weekly podcast available on our iTunes & Spotify channels — Zoya Khan
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has underscored the need for efficient and innovative emergency response. Major health organizations, such as the American Hospital Association, have provided resources that can be utilized for organizational preparedness, caring for patients, and enabling the workforce during the pandemic.
The Emergency Response Innovation Challenges asked innovators to develop a health technology tool to support the needs of individuals as well as health care systems affected by a large-scale health crisis, such as a pandemic or natural disaster. The Challenges saw a record number of applications— nearly 125 applications were submitted to the General Public Challenge and over 130 applications were submitted to the Health Care System Challenge.
There is still health tech funding going on in late July? Wow! On Episode 138 of Health in 2 Point 00, Jess asks me about Ro getting $200M from General Catalyst to expand their telehealth platform, Indigo Diabetes raising 38M Euros to develop its CGM Sensor, Angle Health landing $4M to create a health plan for startups, and Sidecar Health closing a $20M for their point-of-service payments! — Matthew Holt
I was driving home the other day, noticed all the above-ground telephone/power lines, and thought to myself: this is not the 21st century I thought I’d be living in.
When I was growing up, the 21st century was the distant future, the stuff of science fiction. We’d have flying cars, personal robots, interstellar travel, artificial food, and, of course, tricorders. There’d be computers, although not PCs. Still, we’d have been baffled by smartphones, GPS, or the Internet. We’d have been even more flummoxed by women in the workforce or #BlackLivesMatter.
We’re living in the future, but we’re also hanging on to the past, and that applies especially to healthcare. We all poke fun at the persistence of the fax, but I’d also point out that currently our best advice for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is pretty much what it was for the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic: masks and distancing (and we’re facing similar resistance). One would have hoped the 21st century would have found us better equipped.
So I was heartened to read an op-ed in The Washington Postby ReginaDugan, PhD. Dr. Dugan calls for a “Health Age,” akin to how Sputnik set off the Space Age. The pandemic, she says, “is the kind of event that alters the course of history so much that we measure time by it: before the pandemic — and after.”
Analysis on peer accountability focused community building efforts in making lifestyle changes through digital therapeutic programs
Before we jump ahead to the medicine piece, what the heck does a community even mean? In the past, communities were more likely associated with a group of people living in the same physical location such as a neighborhood, school, or a town. I remember my neighborhood soccer community very well, for instance. Instead of being born into or trying to fit in, community is something we choose for ourselves and express our identities through. With the advancement of accessing the high-speed internet globally, today’s community has no physical or geographical boundaries.
Community builder Fabian Pfortmüller brilliantly explains the difference between communities and other groups. He asserts that unlike project teams or companies who are optimizing for external purposes (collective goals); communities optimize for internal purposes (the relationship and the shared identity). His definition of a community deeply resonated with me and the communities that I had the opportunity to build.