Food-as-Medicine startup, Epicured, looks and acts a lot like the consumer meal delivery startups booming during this pandemic (think Freshly, which was just acquired by Nestle for $1.5B) but with one important difference: all the meals are based on diets that have been clinically validated as treatments for chronic disease. The three year old company got its start in GI disorders, turning complex Low FODMAP diets, gluten-free diets, etc. into home-delivered, ready-to-eat dishes that patients with Crohn’s disease, Colitis, IBS, IBD, celiac, or other gastro conditions could actually integrate into their daily lives. (Just Google the list of restrictions on a Low FODMAP diet and imagine the lack of adherence over a 6-8 week period while trying to calm an IBS flare-up…)
Richard Bennett, Epicured’s CEO & co-founder, stops by to talk about why he believes this more convenient, yummy, and easy solution will not only continue to win the hearts of healthcare consumers, but why, ultimately, healthcare payors will look to invest more into innovation around nutrition, particularly as its proven to help with other, more common and costly conditions like diabetes, renal disease, and cancer. Backed in part by Mount Sinai (which not only invested in their seed round, but also lent their GI team to the co-design a special IBS menu), Rich let’s us know a bit about some yet-to-be-released clinical study results AND how Epicured has taken a page out of the “digital therapeutics playbook” by partnering with AbbVie to wrap their solution around one of the pharma co’s drugs as a way to improve medication adherence. Chicken Cacciatore wins over companion app any day!
It’s not just eyeballs that Comcast NBCUniversal and Independence BlueCross’s joint venture, Quil, is after these days. Carina Edwards, Quil’s CEO, paints a compelling picture of the full-scale business model for “health-in-the-home” that her company is enacting. What started out with trusted healthcare content for surgery prep (able to be deployed across a household’s army of devices, including their TV for those 1.3M Comcast Xfinity cable subscribers) is now expanding with more tech and more services to meet the needs of seniors aging-in-place and the fifty million unpaid caregivers looking after them. Ambient, “context-aware” sensors. Voice integrations with smart speakers. And that’s nothing to say of the caregiver-focused programming that addresses everything from caregiver burnout to tackling tough conversations about a range of issues from paying for care to end-of-life wishes. Quil’s pilot of this new senior-focused offering will be rolled out with Comcast’s help this winter, with the full direct-to-consumer commercial launch expected in Q3 2021. As Carina says, “Comcast knows how to pilot technology.” And, Quil has shown its ability to impact healthcare quality measures thanks to studies around its initial surgery-prep offering. Will it be enough to take on others looking to help turn our living rooms into exam rooms? Tune-in around 17:20 to hear just how integrated Comcast and IBX are in the strategy at Quil.
Lots of changes at Bayer G4A: a new investment thesis, new additions to their portfolio, a new Global Head of Digital Health to meet, and a hot new virtual health forum (a free one!) coming up on November 18, 2020. Dominick Kennerson and Sophie Park join us from Berlin, where they’ve got their eyes on the trends shaping the worldwide digital health market. Are pharma companies changing the way they look at digital health companies in the face of the pandemic? Have we gone, well, beyond “beyond the pill”? Dom says Bayer’s been ahead of the curve when it comes to prioritizing digital innovation, and that we’re all going to be “very surprised” in the next 12-18 months about what we see come out of one of the world’s largest life sciences companies. For more clues and additional insight on Bayer’s priorities when it comes to digital health and the future of pharma, give this interview a quick listen then register for G4A’s Agents of Change event. HINT: From the “mad genius” herself…the agenda for the event is Bayer G4A’s roadmap. Bold move!
For more on the Agents of Change event, visit www.g4a.health.
Potential digital health trend for 2021? Weight loss and weight management. Not only has obesity been an “epidemic” of its own for a number of years (40% of U.S. adults are obese, another 32% are overweight) BUT it’s also considered a risk-factor if infected with covid-19 and is a common co-morbidity for a number of chronic conditions. Add to that all the banana bread we’ve been seeing on Instagram and the “quarantine 15” memes that sum up the weight gain brought about by our increasingly sedentary, baked-goods-filled shelter-in-place lifestyles, and you can see where this is likely to go. So, how can health tech help? As healthcare payers and employers look toward weight management as a way to help prevent adverse health outcomes (covid-related or otherwise), we get some advice from Dr. Greg Steinberg, a clinical innovation expert who gained experience piloting novel, health tech solutions for weight management at Aetna. We demystify the relationship between healthcare payers and weight loss solutions, talk about what matters from a cost/value perspective, and, of course, find out what makes for optimal end-user success.
When Accolade went public in July at a $1.2B valuation, the BIG question facing the health tech unicorn pre-dated the covid-19 pandemic and the chaos facing its clientbase of large, self-insured employers: Could they scale? Raj Singh, Accolade’s CEO, tackles the question head-on, buoyed by customer growth that has doubled twice over a fiscal-year-and-a-half and an expanded need for his company’s high-touch, concierge health benefits navigation services. As beleaguered employers struggle with making sure their employees have the health benefits they need to weather the pandemic, Accolade’s focus on making sure that those benefits remain as cost-contained as possible seems to be more attractive than ever. What else is resonating with self-insured employers these days? Raj talks about what will (and won’t) change when it comes to population health management in 2021 and gives us a reality check on whether or not employers and their employees are really using digital health tools like Livongo, Virta, Hinge, Kaia, Ginger, et. al when baked into their benefits ecosystem.
Looking for more proof that telehealth has truly become a global trend in healthcare delivery? Our “man-on-the-street” in Italy, Roberto Ascione, CEO of Healthware Group, offers a detailed state-of-play on virtual care uptake across Europe, including how policy-makers, entrepreneurs, and investors are playing much more significant roles in spurning an increasingly “digital friendly” healthcare ecosystem in the wake of covid-19. On the eve of Frontiers Health 2020 — one of Europe’s leading health innovation conferences, of which Roberto is Chairman — we find out how those backing healthcare’s quickly evolving “tele-everything” revolution are planning to come together to push this agenda even further.
Note: Frontiers Health takes place THIS WEEK, on Thursday November 12 and Friday November 13. Check out the full agenda at www.frontiers.health. Fans of WTF Health get a discount! Just use code FH20WTF25 for 25% off registration fees. See you there!
Even though kids make up 20% of the total national patient population, investments in startups that use tech to improve their care is, at best, a dismal 1% of the total investments made in digital health and health tech each year. Why is there such a lack of innovation (and investment in innovation) in Pediatrics? Omkar Kulkarni, Chief Innovation Officer at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, talks us through the challenges that have so-far stymied a health tech takeover of the pediatric care market and how KidsX is out to change all that. Already, Omkar’s recruited several dozen of the world’s leading Children’s Hospitals and Pediatric care units into KidsX, bringing with them supportive payers and investors who want to add to the collaborative consortium’s ability to drive change into this stretch of the healthcare continuum. These “champions” aim to create more targeted opportunities for startups who want to pilot or co-develop peds-focused solutions with the leading pediatric care providers who will ultimately use them, the payers who will ultimately reimburse for them, and the investors who ultimately will fund scaling them. Startups are currently being recruited until October 7, 2020 to participate in the KidsX accelerator’s first cohort and it’s a pretty sweet deal. The bottom line: Lots of support, no equity take; this is NOT just for early-stage startups and it’s NOT just for health tech. Healthcare incumbents in care delivery orgs, health plans, and pharma companies are also invited to join in, along with those healthcare investors who want early-access to emerging pediatric startups and solutions, or a seat at the table as KidsX plans for its own investment fund.
It’s the telehealth market reality check you’ve been waiting for! “Rogue” digital health consultant Dr. Lyle Berkowitz unpacks the numbers and the market potential for virtual care from the unique vantage point of a primary-care-physician-turned-health-tech-entrepreneur with nothing to lose. Having been 1) a clinician, 2) the Director of Innovation at Northwestern Medicine, 3) the founder of a health tech startup (Health Finch) that successfully exited to Health Catalyst, and 4) the former Chief Medical Officer at one of telemedicine’s biggest players, MDLive, few can boast such a wide-reaching, deep understanding of the inner workings of both the innovation and incumbent sides of the virtual care market — AND have a willingness to talk about it all with complete candor!
This is an analyst’s perspective on the telehealth market — with a twist of insider expertise — so expect to hear some good rationale behind predictions about how much care will remain virtual once hospitals and doctor’s offices return to normal, how “real” health system enthusiasm is for building out telehealth capacity to execute on the “digital front door” idea, and whether or not all these well-funded telehealth startups will have what it takes to win market share from traditional care providers.
BONUS on Primary Care: Is this the area of medicine that’s going to be the “battleground” where digital health and virtual care companies will be going head-to-head with incumbents for market share? Lyle says 50-plus percent of primary care “can and should be automated, delegated, virtualized, etc.” and boldly predicts that in 10-20 years we won’t even have primary care physicians anymore. Tune in to find out why starting at the 8:00 minute mark, where we shout out Crossover Health, Oak Street Health, Iora Health, and more.
Telehealth die-hards, don’t think for a second I’d miss this chance to also get some input on Teladoc-Livongo, Amwell, Doctor On Demand, SOC Telemed, the impending IPOs there, digital first health plans, virtual primary care, health systems (who Lyle hopes “don’t shoot themselves in the foot” with their opportunity to jump into the space) and, ultimately, who’s really going to ”WIN” in virtual care moving forward. For this, jump in at 17:00 minutes and hold on!
Digital Mental Health startups continue to scale up — in customers, revenues, and investments — as the covid19 pandemic wears on. One of these companies, Ginger, has tripled its revenue this past year, expanded its client base to count more than 200 health plans and self-insured employers, and, for good measure, just added a fresh $50M Series D to their coffers. How much more money can investors put into digital mental health startups? Are things “frothy” in this space, or is investment just “catching up” to meet a latent demand that’s just really been brought to light? And, what is one of this category’s leaders planning to do now that they’re extra flush with cash? (Don’t forget, they’re sitting on a $35M round that closed late 2019…)
Ginger’s co-founder & COO Karan Singh and CEO Russell Glass join us to weigh in on the mental healthcare market’s state-of-play, including the buzz around their own business as both a potential acquisition target and a potential acquirer of additional behavioral health tech. We cover everything from investment to healthcare incumbent’s recent cries for more clinical validation, but my favorite part of this whole interview is when we start talking about the competition and tackle Lyra Health’s recent $100M raise and $1.1B valuation. Tune in around the 15:55-minute mark for some very DETAILED competitive analysis about Lyra-versus-Ginger from Ginger’s own CEO.
As this market gets more crowded, competition heats up, and healthcare consumers receive the benefit of more solutions to access at lower prices, Karan and Russ also help me speculate on what’s ahead, including whether or not they think we’ll see a “digital mental health equivalent” of a massive game-changing-market-moving deal like we saw when Teladoc merged with Livongo to shake up of both the virtual care and chronic condition management spaces.
Despite the fact that kids make up 20% of our national patient population and that their parents are likely just the tech-savvy market of health consumers that most digital health companies are targeting with their own virtual care solutions, very little has been done to use technology to ‘transform’ the way that they take care of their kids. One of the founders hoping to push this market into a growth spurt is Naomi Allen, co-founder & CEO of pediatric behavioral health company Brightline.
From seed to Series A in just 8 months ($25M total funding), Brightline is already looking to scale out its full-stack clinical model to help tackle the behavioral health issues that are often under-diagnosed and under-treated in kids. Naomi says that 75% of all severe mental illness manifests before age 14, but that only 1 in 5 kids will ever even get a behavioral health diagnosis. And more shocking? Of those that are diagnosed, only 1 in 5 of those kids will ever even receive any care.
The supply-and-demand equation is off — stymied not only by a clinician shortage, but by literally poor reimbursement from health plans concerned about the lack of quality metrics, measurements, and processes in pediatric behavioral health despite the prevalence of those kinds of quality guidelines around adult mental health care.
So, how is Brightline going to fix this? Technology, clinicians, coaches. A full-stack clinical model with a “scaffolding” of support for parents built around it using telehealth, digital tools, and, for those health plans, metrics. Tune in to find out more about their business model, what Brightline’s kids are saying, and how you can find their services yourself if you think your child might need help.