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Virtual Care Regulatory Round-Up: Telehealth & Digital Care ‘State-of-Play’ by Nathaniel Lacktman

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Just as HHS extends the Covid-19 public health emergency waivers until July, we kick-off a brand-new monthly interview series about the state-of-play for all things telehealth and digital care policy and reimbursement. Called the WTF Health Virtual Care Regulatory Round-up, we’re partnering with our friends at Wheel to feature health policy experts, lobbyists, health plan folks, and other virtual care experts and insiders who can keep us updated on the changing regulations and what they will mean to those health tech co’s whose businesses rely on virtual care.

Attorney-to-the-stars-of-telehealth, Nathaniel Lacktman, who chairs the Telemedicine & Digital Health Industry Team at Foley & Lardner and is a Board member of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), kicks the series off for us with an update on those public health waivers and how he is coaching health tech businesses in preparing for the inevitable transition of care that will come when they come to an end.

What will happen to patients who live across state lines from their virtual care providers? What business decisions need to be made to avoid abandoning patients and maintaining continuity of care? Nate’s not bullish on a federal national license, but there are some cases where cross-state patient-provider relationships can continue to exist – they just might not work for everyone’s business model.

And, on the subject of telehealth business models, Nate gives us his take on where he thinks reimbursement will be headed, how policy around virtual prescribing will be impacted post-pandemic (particularly around controlled substances), and whether or not Medicare’s originating site requirement will be put back in place. We also get Nate’s perspective on which virtual care business models seem to be working best among health tech startups and what legal risk those more ‘reckless’ players might be creating for the rest of the field without even realizing it. Great education on virtual care and what’s happening in the space RIGHT NOW. Watch!

Special thanks to our series sponsor, Wheel – the health tech company powering the virtual care industry. Wheel provides companies with everything they need to launch and scale virtual care services — including the regulatory infrastructure to deliver high quality and compliant care. Learn more at wheel.com.

CVS Health’s Head of Enterprise Virtual Health Weighs-in: ‘What’s Next’ for Telehealth at CVS, Aetna

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

What are the BIG questions a BIG healthcare company like CVS Health is trying to answer when it comes to virtual care and creating the healthcare business model of the future? I’ve got Dr. Creagh Milford, CVS Health’s Head of Enterprise Virtual Health, who’s purview covers both CVS Pharmacy (9,000+ stores including 1,100 Minute Clinics) and Aetna, which provides health insurance to 39 million people.

Creagh’s big concern right now: how to weave together existing care models with virtual so 1) the consumer has a single front door and 2) the provider workforce – which includes everyone from pharmacists to primary care docs and beyond – is coordinated and working together. As you’ll hear, there’s a lot of thinking about “pivot points,” or where the patient and provider meet in the virtual-and-in-person ecosystem. The goal is to make those interactions easy and seamless – for both patient and provider alike – and we get into the strategic thinking, clinical operations, and tech underpinnings that are evolving to make those transitions possible.

Long-term, Creagh believes that healthcare consumers have “voted with their fingertips” and that virtual care is here to stay, but as part of a hybrid model in which questions about quality and cost are still being worked out. Will incentives ultimately realign to make virtual care more enticing across the healthcare system? What types of technology will be next to augment the hundreds of thousands of virtual visits a year coming out of Minute Clinic, or happening as part of an Aetna plan benefit? Here’s how one of the biggest healthcare companies in the country is driving virtual care forward. Watch now!

ATA’s CEO Ann Mond Johnson Takes on the “Telehealth Cliff”

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

The BIG takeaway from ATA’s Annual Meeting is best bottom-lined by ATA’s big boss, CEO Ann Mond Johnson, in this interview: “From an overall perspective, we just don’t want to go over that ‘telehealth cliff.’”

ATA, the re-branded American Telemedicine Association, has not only evolved along with virtual care through the pandemic, but has also been critical in redefining telehealth as modality for healthcare and re-framing access to it as a bipartisan issue that everyone in DC can get behind.

Ann talks through the high-level changes she’s witnessed for telehealth adoption over the past two years and gives us her predictions for what’s going to happen next – particularly when it comes to the business of virtual care, consumer demand, and, most importantly, regulations and reimbursement. Lots happening thanks to ATA’s new affiliated trade organization, ATA Action, which is lobbying to ensure that the waivers that enabled the acceleration of telehealth during the Covid-19 public health emergency become permanent. The time is NOW for health tech co’s to get involved! Tune in to find out how.

Vida Health Starts Prescribing: Meds, Labs, Devices, & More for Mental Health & Diabetes

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Big news coming out of Vida Health today as the chronic condition care startup announces that it will now be able to prescribe meds, med devices, lab tests, and more to its members. This puts Vida Health among the first of the digital health chronic care companies to evolve its offerings beyond apps-and-coaching, leading on this trend to take digital health chronic care into a more full expression of virtual care.

Vida Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Carroll, introduces us to the new offering which he tipped us off about when we met him a few months ago, new to his role at Vida and coming in hot from Hims & Hers where he built similar services as he took that company public as CMO.

The new prescribing services will cover both sides of Vida Health’s integrated model: mental health and cardiometabolic health, but in different ways. On the mental health side, Pat says members will be able to receive prescription meds for anxiety and depression ONLY at this time; on the cardiometabolic side, members working with Vida Health will NOT be able to get prescription drugs to help with diabetes or heart health, but would instead be able to get continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) prescribed, specialized diets, and labs, like A1C testing, that require a script.

Do these prescribing services begin to turn Vida Health into a primary care provider? If not, how do these new prescribing and medication management roles integrate with whatever other primary care offering is in place through a member’s plan or employer without adding cost or confusion to the patient experience? We talk through the evolution of both care model and business model as Vida Health adds another layer to its full-stack chronic condition management platform.

The Pandemic, Bad Habits, Riskier Population Health & The Case for Prevention Coming from Newtopia

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

With 61% of American adults reporting a negative behavior change – troubled sleep, changes in diet, increased alcohol consumption, more time on screens, etc. – as a result of the pandemic, AND healthcare payers looking at 2022 cost increases in the range of 8-10%, one has to wonder just how bad our collective health has become thanks to the past two years.

Jeff Ruby, CEO of tech-enabled habit change provider, Newtopia, shares some startling stats about our population’s health, particularly when it comes to those lifestyle-related metabolic disorders that his company is trying to prevent. And, thus, we get into a fiery conversation about condition prevention versus condition management… at-risk payment models versus per-member-per-month models… behavior change versus prescription drugs… and whether or not a biz like Newtopia (running at-risk on goals related to prevention) is better placed or worse off as a result of this population that, though sicker and riskier than before, is showing up in greater numbers to try their program.

It’s clear where Jeff stands with his genetics-plus-behavioral-psychology-based platform, but questions about how to best handle our population’s health as the pandemic wans are still very much up for debate. Even on the public markets – Newtopia was one of the first digital health companies to go public during the pandemic, hitting the Canadian TSX as $NEWUF in March 2020 – investors’ sentiment for virtual care just isn’t what it used to be. Maybe we can apply some behavior change psychology there too? (wink, wink) Though Jeff talks about “uncertainty about how US healthcare works” in the context of the market, it seems like that “uncertainty” is also pervasive in our approach to spending for chronic care – especially now. Are dollars toward prevention dollars that are better spent? A compelling case is made…

Amwell CEO Roy Schoenberg: Telehealth Tech Is Now Changing Provider & Payer Business Models

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Amwell’s ($AMWL) President & co-CEO Roy Schoenberg called it early when he predicted pre-Covid that there would be a paradigm shift for telehealth that would take the technology from “healthcare product” to “healthcare infrastructure.” Now he’s back as (in my opinion) the best kind of market analyst to give us a new high-level take on where telehealth is headed next, how its customers’ demands have changed, and how the public market’s understanding of this technology and its utility in healthcare is starting to evolve.

The bottom line: Telehealth as infrastructure is just the tip of the iceberg. As Roy puts it, “The organizations that we work with now understand that distributing healthcare over technology is part of their future.” And whether it’s payers, health systems, private practices, or even Medicare, the seismic shift Roy sees now is that instead of looking at telehealth as a way to do their old business using new channels, the new channels are being looked at as an opportunity for healthcare organizations to completely remake their old business models. “Technology,” he says, “is being considered a change agent for how healthcare is actually arriving at the hands of its patients.”

So much more ground covered in this big telehealth trends conversation – it’s the PERFECT watch for the week before the American Telemedicine Association’s Annual conference. In addition to an update on the roll-out of Amwell’s new platform Converge (2/3 of the way there) and the integration of its latest acquisitions SilverCloud Health and Conversa Health, you’re going to want to listen in to our little gossip sess about telehealth policy and reimbursement at 17:45 AND our talk about the health tech investment market of privately and publicly traded companies that starts at the 20-minute mark.

The Next Next-Gen PBM? Healthcare Navigation Biz Rightway On Making The Pivot

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

More traction in Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) innovation, this time coming out of care-navigation-plus-PBM startup Rightway. CEO Jordan Feldman and Chief Pharmacy Officer Scott Musial (who Jordan calls the “Godfather of PBMs”) drop in to talk about their 1500 employer client base and how the business is now even winning over health plans who are tired of working with the ‘Big Three PBMs.’

The NextGen PBM story is the headliner here, with Rightway customers saving an average 18% in their first year with the “new-to-the-world PBM” the company has built.

What’s different? Two big things. First, the PBM’s payment structure for the employer. Jordan shares how these are usually rebates-driven or based on spread pricing; Rightway is actually innovative in offering the PBM benefit on a per-member-per-month basis instead.

That leads to the second twist, which is based on gaining cost savings for the employer by pairing the PBM with navigation. According to Scott, this changes the conversation from one that’s solely focused on managing the price of the drugs to managing how employees are utilizing the formulary instead – creating opportunities for lower-priced generics or alternatives that Rightway is happy to point to because it’s not dealing with rebates or dispensing.

So, who is Rightway competing with? Navigators like Accolade, Inc. or Included Health? PBMs like CVS/Caremark, Optum or Express Scripts? Or other emerging ‘combo’ businesses like Transcarent?

We get into the competitive landscape, more about PBMs than you might have ever wanted to know, and what Jordan and Scott are hearing from hard-hit employers looking to recruit and retain employees in the face of the Great Resignation.

Well Health Wants To Stay Unknown: The White Label Platform Behind Provider-to-Patient Text Messages

BY JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Well Health is flying under-the-radar as a white-label patient communications platform that lets more than 400 healthcare providers text message their patients via their hospital’s EMR. In the “is it a feature or is it a company?” debate that often surrounds digital front door startups, I ask CEO Guillaume de Zwirek why Well Health has decided to go out as an infrastructure play rather than own the patient relationship itself. How does he see this strategy lending itself to long-term growth?

One of the best-funded startups that I’ve never heard of (they’ve quietly raised $97 million from the likes of Dragoneer, Lead Edge Capital, Twilio Ventures and others) we get into the details behind the business model, the tech that’s supporting their patient comms platform, and why I haven’t heard about these big fundraises.

Cricket + Fresenius Health Partners + InterWell Health CEO on New Biz & “Take Out Merger” Chatter

BY JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Matthew Holt categorized the triple-merger between Cricket Health, Fresenius Health Partners, and InterWell Health as a “take out merger” — proposing that Fresenius orchestrated the deal to “take out” rising-star kidney care startup, Cricket Health. Well, Cricket Health’s CEO Bobby Sepucha (who will also be CEO of the newly combined entity) “takes issue” with the health tech curmudgeon’s “take out” call and we find out the reasons why.

Listening to Bobby’s explanation, it sounds like the shrewd move Fresenius might be making here in giving up its value-based care arm, Fresenius Health Partners, and its joint-venture with 600 nephrologists in InterWell Health is one that better positions their core dialysis business for the value-based care future that is headed straight toward specialty medicine.

As Bobby puts it, “when you deliver a healthier patient to kidney failure, you don’t obviate the need for dialysis.” Instead, he says, you open up options for other treatments like transplant or home dialysis along the way, as well as the kinds of patient quality outcomes that satisfy the clinical accountability of providers in value-based arrangements.

The other gain is a move upstream for Fresenius. While there are 600,000 dialysis patients each year, the population of Americans with late-stage kidney disease who remain “wildly unmanaged” is 36 MILLION. And they represent $170 Billion in healthcare costs. If InterWell works the way it’s supposed to – with the first value-based care-designed model for late-stage kidney disease management – the potential to impact that patient population is what this merger is all about. Tune in and tell us what you think!

Past the Talking Points: Glen Tullman on Affordable Insulin, Payment Model Reform & Transcarent

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Turns out, that if you’re lucky enough to catch Glen Tullman in an impromptu chat just off the main stage at ViVE 2022, he’s warmed up enough (we could maybe even call it ‘fired up’ enough) to kick it into overdrive, roar past the usual talking points, and tell us what he REALLY thinks about what’s happening in the healthcare market today.

Things are changing. And, if you listen to this chat from start-to-finish, one of the key, overarching themes is payment model reform. From the news about Civica RX’s commitment to $30-dollars-or-less insulin (an initiative Glen helped lead and fund via his family foundation) to the 10X growth of virtual care coming out of the pandemic and the rise of “Big Customer” (aka Walmart and Amazon) in healthcare, the bottom line is that we’re no longer talking about fixing the way care is paid for – it’s actually starting to happen.

What is Transcarent’s role in all this? For those who might still be confused, tune in. This IS confusing, but I think the candor of our situation here may have given rise to one of the best descriptions of the business yet. Glen goes point-by-point on the way Transcarent is attempting to shift the paradigm for cost-and-quality across five (5!!!) different aspects of care at one time, using different strategies, novel technologies, cross-industry partnerships, and never-before-seen relationships with health systems to deliver what “20 years working with payers and 5 years working navigators didn’t deliver” for self-insured employers and their employees.

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