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Category: WTF Health

Futurecasting with Amy Abernethy: Verily, Real-World Data, Clinical Trials & Health Policy in 2022

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

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…

Transcarent’s Valuation Soars Past $1B. Hear Why Glen Tullman Says It’s More Than Worth It.

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Transcarent raises a whopping $200 million Series C funding round that values the year-ish old business at over $1.6 billion – valuing the up-start higher than quasi-competitor, Accolade, which is sitting on the NASDAQ with a $1.3 billion dollar market cap. Executive Chairman & CEO Glen Tullman shares some very revealing details about the round, why he’s deliberately added leading hospital systems onto his cap table, and what he’s got to say to the doubters who might question whether not Transcarent is a billion-dollar business just yet. (Spoiler alert: Glen says Transcarent didn’t even take the highest valuation they were offered…)

The investors are interesting for all those who want to read into the strategic messaging there: late-stage Livongo investor Kinnevik led the round alongside Human Capital and Ally Bridge Group, existing investors came back in, and, probably most surprising, are hospital systems Northwell Health, Intermountain Healthcare, and Rush University Medical Center. Apparently, other hospitals wanted in too but missed the chance thanks to a tight timeline. Glen explains his rush and why the capital is essential to further build out Transcarent’s offering in light of the market opportunity he’s seeing among employers.

This is a payment model innovation play, folks, that is basically arming those large, self-insured employers with the bargaining power and healthcare ingenuity of Glen Tullman, and what he says is the best executive leadership team he’s ever assembled. The pieces are certainly starting to come together, and it looks a lot like a new age payer to me. Transcarent’s basically got the prescription drug pricing power of a PBM in its relationship with Walmart… a national network of top-end health systems who are either partners or have skin in the game thanks to this funding round… the centers of excellence business it bought with BridgeHealth… AND some ‘coming soon’ care-at-home, cancer care, and behavioral health offerings Glen teases us about here. All that is offered to employers at full risk to Transcarent, which takes no copays or coinsurance from members, doesn’t charge any per-employee-per-month fees to their employers, and is keeping providers happy with payment up-front. If it’s not a payer because it’s better than our current definition of a payer, that might be the only reason why!

Still, Glen tells us that partnerships with some of the market’s “most innovative” payers are coming soon, along with new customer announcements. And, what will he spend this $200 million on to further build-out Transcarent’s offering? I’m not afraid to ask if there’s a chronic condition management co he’s got his eye on acquiring!

BREAKING: Innovaccer CEO on Healthcare Cloud Startup’s $150M Raise & $3.2B Valuation Announced Today

BY JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Health tech infrastructure startup, Innovaccer, announced its $150M Series E and newly assigned $3.2B valuation today, and I’ve got CEO Abhinav Shashank with the essential intelligence on how this company is pursuing health IT’s holy grail: the single patient health record.

This is a story of cloud technology’s uptake in healthcare, which has lagged behind other sectors like banking and retail in terms of industry-wide adoption. Abhinav tells us that the “economic incentives” are finally aligned for cloud to really take-off in healthcare, as the technology will be critical to any models where care is longitudinal instead of transactional and a singular view of a patient’s clinical data, labs, scans, and claims will be essential to healthcare organizations taking on more risk.

So what, exactly, does Innovaccer do? What’s the work, and how do they get paid? Who has access to the data they’re landing in the “Innovaccer Health Cloud”? Will patients one-day be able to access this single record themselves? And, what stops Epic or Cerner from just doing this and owning the space outright? No detail left unexplored in this one and – for the benefit of those of us who are not very plugged into the IT underpinnings of the EHR – Abhinav breaks it all down for us in a way that even us non-techie health tech market watchers can understand!

Rcube Health’s ‘Resony App’ Catches Bayer Support for Mental Health DTx for Resonance Breathing

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Digital mental health startups are leaning into the fact that mental health care is not “one-size-fits all” and, as a result, we’re seeing new offerings hit the market that seek to combine typical therapies and their human-plus-machine delivery in novel ways in order to better meet different patient needs. In this interview, we hear about Resony, a digital therapeutic that’s tackling anxiety and stress through a completely autonomous, AI-driven program that brings together resonance breathing and physical relaxation exercises with cognitive behavioral therapy. In other words… working on the physical side of that mind-body connection for the overall benefit of mental well-being.

Resony is just the first DTx coming out of Rcube Health, one of four early-stage startups that have gained the backing of Bayer G4A as part of their Digital Health Partnerships Program Growth Track. CEO and co-founder Ravi Janapureddy introduces us to the business that he’s building on the thesis that true scalability for digital therapeutics in mental health care relies on full automation – no clinical intervention. In a crowded space, how will Resony stand-out as a stand-alone business, instead of a ‘feature’ for a larger, full-service virtual-first mental health care provider? Is this where Bayer might see the opportunity for an “around the pill” or “alongside the pill” approach? Another digital mental health use case to explore!

Lyn Health Out of Stealth: A Niche Healthcare Navigator for Polychronic Patients

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Straight out of stealth and launching today! Lyn Health is out to provide specific, personalized care for patients with three or more chronic conditions in a way that’s meant to compete with healthcare navigator-advocators like Accolade, Transcarent, and Included Health INSTEAD of the crowd of digital health chronic condition management platforms like Teladoc’s Livongo, Vida Health, One Drop, Omada Health, etc. etc.

With employers and health plans getting increasingly burnt-out on point solutions for chronic care – leading many of those businesses to “platform out” themselves in recent years – will a niche-market navigator really stand-out? Is effective care for polychronic patient populations so specialized that it merits adding a specific, targeted service on top of the more general navigator, primary care provider, or chronic care platform solution that an employer or plan might already have in place?

Lyn Health’s CEO Rick Abbott stops by to introduce us to this seed-funded startup, which has raised $10M (backed by Summer VC) and has already attracted some yet-to-be-named health plan and Fortune 500 employer clients. Rick explains that market need that Lyn Health is aiming to satisfy, and how he’s leveraged what he’s learned about the cost of polychronic care from his past life at Premera Blue Cross into an approach that he believes will work to help employers both reduce spend and improve the day-to-day patient experience of managing multiple chronic conditions. Lyn Health is set-up to deliver care with its own physicians and social workers, connecting with patients in a digital-plus-bricks-and-mortar format. And, as for that business model, we get into the big question: at-risk or not?

Excited to meet this startup on the day of its official launch!

WTF Health: Early-Stage Med Device Startup Acorai is Turning Smart Phones into Heart Failure Monitoring Devices

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Acorai is an early-stage medical device startup working with Bayer to improve the way we manage the world’s 65 million patients living with heart failure by using their own smart phones. CEO Filip Peters shows the Acorai device, which is basically an extended smart phone case packed with four different kinds of sensor technologies that work together to measure the pressure inside a patient’s heart, by simply holding their phone against their chest. Of course, the real magic is the algorithm that turns these readings into early detection of a potential incident. How does this stack up against the status-quo way we’re currently caring for these types of patients? Filip says that, right now, the alternative for such monitoring is an IMPLANTED sensor, which many patients aren’t even able to get. As a result, most of the early warning signs of impending heart failure are missed; Acorai’s tech has the potential to be truly revolutionary as it’s able to detect the signs that lead to heart failure hospitalizations up to 30 days in advance.

Acorai has been selected as one of four “Growth Track” companies in Bayer G4A’s Digital Health Partnerships Program, and Filip talks to us about the potential Bayer sees in the daily data stream of information Acorai’s device makes available to cardiologists. A fascinating look at the future of cardiac care!

Inside FarmboxRx’s Groundbreaking Work in SNAP/EBT Benefits to “Eradicate Food Deserts Overnight”

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

HUGE news on the “food-as-medicine” front for Medicaid/Medicare Advantage beneficiaries! Now, they can get fresh fruits and veggies delivered directly to their doorsteps and they can pay for them using their SNAP/EBT benefits. FarmboxRx is behind this first-of-its-kind partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and here to talk through EXACTLY why this is groundbreaking (and what precedent it could set for the food-as-medicine movement in terms of payor support) is founder and CEO, Ashley Tyrner.

As Ashley explains it, FarmboxRx’s produce deliveries have been previously covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicaid, but only under the limited ‘over-the-counter’ healthy foods benefits those plans provide. In some states, this nets to just $20-$25 per month for a family of one. With the addition of SNAP/EBT funding, the budget available for spending on these farm-to-table deliveries expands to $164-$230 per month. A potential game-changer.

We unpack Farmbox further and get into how they’re differentiated from Amazon and Walmart, which also take food stamps online, but don’t deliver produce nationally like Farmbox does. This is a move Ashley describes as having the ability to “eradicate food deserts overnight.” There’s so much more about food insecurity, the way FarmboxRx is working with health plans to use food as member engagement and trust-building tool, and, of course, the backstory behind the business which is basically BOOTSTRAPPED (there’s some venture debt) and raising a Series A.

WTF Health: Accolade Navigates Itself into New Territory: CEO on Personalized Healthcare & Tech Infrastructure

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Healthcare navigator Accolade (NASDAQ:ACCD) is on the move. Not only are they now cruising in care delivery territory with two new primary care/mental healthcare offerings that let them personally guide their 9M members further into the healthcare system, BUT they’re also starting to talk more and more about their tech infrastructure and the “operating system” they’ve built to power that healthcare GPS with shared data and access.

CEO Rajeev Singh stops by to walk us through the strategy behind both sides of this (especially interesting when you consider his tech startup background in the context of those “operating system” statements) and why Accolade launched its own new category (personalized healthcare) as a framework for talking about the new course they’re charting.

We get into the September debut of Accolade Care, which bundles primary care and mental health in a per-employee-per-month model, and Accolade One, which wraps the full Accolade ecosystem around the Care product in a value-based model. At-risk models seem to be rising in popularity these days, and I get Rajeev’s perspective on why Accolade chose to go-to-market with one of those…and one that falls into the usual PEPM structure.

More interesting to me, however, is this whole “operating system” thing and how it’s playing out behind-the-scenes to strengthen integration across the businesses Accolade has acquired (Health Reveal being the most recent) and point solutions its partnering with like Virta, Headspace Health, Sword Health, RxSavings Solutions, and Carrot Fertility. The “purpose-built” architecture Rajeev describes sounds like it’s not only giving Accolade what it needs to better manage population health outcomes within its own offerings but that it, in and of itself, could be a new offering for partners who don’t want to build a tech platform themselves.

New directions explored…next moves discussed…AND Raj’s six-year CEO Anniversary celebrated! Watch now.

Rumor Check with Vida Health’s CEO: Buyer Sentiment on Virtual Care, At-Risk Models, Mental Health

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF Health

To hear Vida Health’s CEO Stephanie Tilenius talk about what she’s hearing from payers, providers, and employers about at-risk value-based models, the shift to virtual care, and the growing importance of mental health services as a culture-builder for businesses forced into a part-virtual-part-in-office world, you get a sense of how her past work leading the various payments and commerce businesses of Google, eBay, and PayPal probably comes in handy. For example, the shift to virtual care, she says, is, “like the Internet in 1999…It’s happening.”

We get an update on exactly how Vida Health is making it happen themselves, and how they expect their newly expanded at-risk model will help. Vida’s always been fees-at-risk on physical outcomes related to diabetes management, hypertension, etc. BUT the mental health side of their offering (which experienced 6000% growth year-over-year during the pandemic) is now at-risk on outcomes too. With so much happening across the industry to move to value-based models, we deep-dive with Stephanie to hear what she’s hearing from her clients, including client-and-investor Centene and hear about growth in the employer market where she sees a major shift in how employers are thinking about healthcare as the new sexy job perk. “Instead of snacks or transportation or other benefits,” says Stephanie. “It’s all about healthcare.”

How Unhappy are Patients with Info Coming from Providers, Payers? Pega’s Survey Shows It’s Not Good

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

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.

Click to see the data and report on Pega’s site.

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