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Will ‘DoorDash for Lab Draws’ Startup Sprinter Health Be What Speeds Up Virtual Care’s Growth?

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Sprinter Health bills itself as “the “DoorDash for lab draws” – sending nurses and phlebotomists out to patients’ homes to collect blood samples and urine samples, check vitals, and even perform Covid tests. Their model has been received with some skepticism (most notably by my Health Tech Deals co-host and legendary health care curmudgeon Matthew Holt) so we get down to the bottom of what’s REALLY going on with CEO Max Cohen.

The long-term play is NOT to just rove the streets like some nomadic Quest Diagnostics; it’s to support the emerging market of virtual care and telehealth-based next-gen healthcare companies that will, ultimately, be limited in their abilities to diagnose-and-treat unless they can easily – and inexpensively – get patients lab tests.

Sprinter hopes to be that logistics company, extending the ‘value of virtual’ so it can live up to its promise of providing less expensive, more convenient care to patients. Max says only 15-20% of their business is made up of consumer-directed concierge calls; instead, the focus is on having a provider – think home health providers, specialty labs, virtual-first primary care clinics – dispatch Sprinter instead. Their pricing is built to attract these kinds of providers, giving Sprinter an advantage over, say the kind of medical transport services that are typically engaged to bring home health patients to the lab instead of the other way around.

Less than one-year old, Sprinter has already raised more than $37 million and counts health-tech-famous funds like Andreesen Horowitz, General Catalyst, Accel, Google Ventures – and even the real DoorDash’s co-founder and CEO Tony Xu – as investors. So, what’s ahead in the short-term to expand services out of LA, San Francisco, and Sacramento? We talk geographic expansion (hello, Texas and Georgia) and how Max is planning to continue to expand the utility and value of virtual care without increasing cost.

Mental Health Care & Medicaid State-of-Play: Circulo Health, Brave Health Execs Weigh-In

By JESS DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Two experts in mental health care for the Medicaid market stop by to help us get smart on the challenges facing patients and providers alike in this critical area of care. It’s not just the payment model that is different; stigma is different, patients are more racially and culturally diverse than those in commercial plans, support systems vary, and even the normalization of seeking mental health care manifests itself differently when it’s individually-driven as opposed to part of an “employer group.”

Anna Lindow, CEO of digital-first mental health startup Brave Health, and Vik Bakhru, Chief Health Officer of new managed Medicaid plan Circulo (the one built on Olive’s health tech platform) share what they know about this patient population, including what they are learning via the partnership they share to provide Brave Health’s services to Circulo’s members in Columbus, Ohio and Albany, New York.

The top of this conversation starts with the trend-talk and identification of the key issues facing Medicaid mental health care, then we get into some updates from Brave and Circulo, including how Circulo is examining “what it means to be a payer of care” and looking to innovate just one-year after launch.

Seqster: The Salesforce of Healthcare?

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

It’s not difficult to get Seqster’s CEO Ardy Arianpour fired up, but to get to the details about his business and what he refers to as its “f-ing incredible tech stack,” takes a little doing. Is Seqster a health data analytics company like Clarify Health or Komodo Health, or more of a longitudinal patient health record startup like bWell or Picnic Health?

According to Ardy, these companies would actually make great Seqster clients, and that his tech would serve as the ideal, white-labeled operating system upon which they could engage with patients, collect their data, and examine it alongside EMR data, pharmacy data, social determinants of health data, and even genomic data. While those aforementioned health tech startups might be able to do many of these services themselves, the life sciences companies, health systems, health plans, digital health startups, and non-profit patient registries Seqster does count as clients are using its platform for everything from running decentralized clinical trials to providing patients with a longitudinal single-source medical record.

Ardy breaks down the “operating system” approach Seqster is taking, and how he sees his platform becoming as the “Salesforce of healthcare.” Beyond the specific examples that really bring this concept to life, we talk about what’s ahead for the business, which has raised $23 million in total funding and, interestingly, counts both Takeda Digital Ventures and 23andMe’s CEO and Founder, Anne Wojcicki on its cap table.

INSIDE THE ACQUISITION: Signify Health Adds Caravan Health’s ACO-building Expertise for $220M

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Get the details behind the deal! Signify Health (NYSE: SGFY) is acquiring Caravan Health for $220 million in cash and common stock in effort to create one of the largest networks of at-risk healthcare providers in the country. For all those who love healthcare payment model innovation, this is a story about scaling both value-based care and accountable care organizations (ACOs), and we have Signify Health’s CEO Kyle Armbrester and Caravan Health’s founder and Chairwoman Lynn Barr here to explain the model and market potential this creates for Signify Health.

Signify Health is best known for its value-based, care-at-home focused approach in the Medicare Advantage space, and Caravan Health brings both tech and expertise to support the creation of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and the ongoing smart management of their patient populations. Caravan got its start with “safety net providers” in rural areas and pioneered what’s known as the “Collaborative ACO” approach that pools smaller health systems together based on practice similarities (instead of geography) to achieve the right kind of patient scale needed to mitigate risk. This is really important to scaling ACOs nationally, as you’ll hear both Lynn and Kyle explain, and, of course, we ask Kyle to zero-in on how this will extend Signify Health’s reach into new markets as well.

Beyond the acquisition, we also celebrate Signify Health’s one-year IPO-iversary. The company rang the bell on the New York Stock Exchange (then stopped by WTF Health to talk about it!) on Feb 11, 2021. Looking past the Caravan Health acquisition and to what it will lead to next, Kyle and Lynn (who will now be activating even more payment model innovation as Signify Health’s VP of Innovation) get fired up about what’s ahead.

BREAKING: Thirty Madison and Nurx Merge, CEO Steve Gutentag Takes Us Inside

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Thirty Madison and Nurx are merging and here’s what Steve Gutentag, CEO of Thirty Madison and the soon-to-be-combined entity, is saying about the deal!

This is a merger of two well-funded, direct-to-consumer, virtual-care-plus-pharmacy startups that deliver specialty and expert care and prescription drugs to a combined 750,000 active patients, with or without insurance. To-date, Nurx has raised a total $110 million, and Thirty Madison closed a Series C in June 2021 that brought their total funding to $210 million with a then-valuation of over $1 billion.

Thirty Madison currently deals with migraines, allergies, GI issues, and men’s hair loss, while Nurx (once referred to as “the Uber of birth control”) brings a predominantly women’s health-focused portfolio of chronic condition care focusing on sexual health, contraception, STIs, and dermatology.

So, what makes sense about this combination? And, what’s the big-picture plan for differentiation against rivals like Hims&Hers or Ro’s Rory or Roman brands – OR, the myriad virtual-first primary care clinics that have popped up in-person and online and offer more traditional routes to care for these same such conditions?

Steve talks extensively about the chronic care focus of both businesses, how each is providing access to specialists and experts patients wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, and how both companies’ tech platforms are built to scale along with the addition of new conditions. Still…why bring together care for this assortment of conditions instead of, say, either Thirty Madison or Nurx looking to find a merger partner who could expand their platform into high-demand chronic care areas like diabetes management, heart health, or mental health care? Is that what’s next, after the paperwork on this merger is signed? Tune in for more on Steve’s plans for the future of the NEW Thirty Madison and how “longitudinal care models” factor into its strategy to win over more patients AND their employers and payers.

New Cancer Care Navigator Thyme Care Starts Out with $22M Series A & Big Name Backing

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Thyme Care is a cancer navigation platform that is looking to use technology to make the kind of high-touch care coordination usually only found at Centers of Excellence available to oncology practices across the country. The navigation we’re talking about is typically quarterbacked by experienced oncology nurse navigators, and is known to have a direct impact on a patient’s experience and their health outcomes. Thyme Care’s platform not only scale-ups this expertise, but also augments it with analysis of claims data and EMR data to help those navigators quickly detect which patients might be at higher risk for poor outcomes and which interventions might help mitigate those risks – whether that be addressing social determinants of health issues like transportation to appointments, or just more quickly spotting gaps in care.

Thyme Care’s President & Chief Medical Officer Bobby Green (an oncologist himself) introduces us to the tech platform and explains how, among a competitive field of tech-enabled care navigators, it’s managed to stand apart enough to win Medicare Advantage plan Clover Health as an early client and to gain a $22 million dollar Series A investment from platform-savvy investors like Andreessen Horowitz and AlleyCorp. (Frist Cressey Ventures, Casdin Capital and Bessemer also participated in the round, which was announced in October 2021.)

As the business looks to scale, what’s to make of all its connections to Flatiron Health, arguably health tech’s best-known cancer care platform? Lots of alumni on the cap table and in the biz, including Bobby himself! Find out more about expansion plans and points of differentiation in this quick get-to-know-you chat.

Big Health’s Softbank Money, FDA Board Member Send Strong Signals About Digital Therapeutics Market

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

With a $75 million investment from Softbank last week, and the addition of former FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Anand Shah to its Board of Directors this week, Big Health has sure kicked 2022 off with some noise! But, this is more than just big news for Big Health as CEO Peter Hames is here to tell us. This is a story about the market potential for an all-tech approach to mental health care, AND an important endorsement for digital therapeutics – specifically, those that do NOT require a prescription.

Big Health sits at the intersection of two of the hottest health-tech markets: digital mental health care and digital therapeutics. Its approach, via apps Daylight (for anxiety) and Sleepio (for insomnia), has been flagged as unique because 1) unlike other leading digital mental health companies like Headspace Health or Lyra Health, Big Health’s approach to care is tech-driven and does not depend on coach or clinician intervention, and 2) unlike its digital therapeutics rivals, Pear Therapeutics or Click Therapeutics, Big Health’s business model isn’t relying on prescriptions to get paid.

Big Health is, in other words, proving the market potential for a different “breed” of tech-first, PBM-backed digital therapeutics, and I ask Peter about it head-on as we discuss Softbank’s investment. The mega-fund has placed bets on all sides now, having invested in Cerebral, which delivers clinician-first mental health care and prescription medication, and prescription DTx company Pear, which went public in December 2021. So, what should the market make of the fact that Softbank sees room for Big Health alongside Cerebral and Pear? How have high-profile deals with CVS Health and the NHS in Scotland proven out the model? And, what does the addition of Anand Shah (and his insider perspective on the FDA’s sentiment toward digital therapeutics) indicate about what’s ahead when it comes to the regulatory environment for DTx in the future? So many market dynamics at play, so much to talk about!

Writing the Book on Digital Health: Roberto Ascione on “The Future of Health”

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

In Milan, just outside the Frontiers Health conference, I caught up with Roberto Ascione, conference Chairman and CEO of Healthware Group, about his newly released book, “The Future of Health: How Digital Technology Will Make Care Accessible, Sustainable, and Human.”

A primer on digital health and its role in shaping care and well-being, the book is intended to provide an overview of the digital health market and what it means for the way healthcare will be delivered and consumed in the future.

Loaded with real-world examples and guest perspectives from a number of Roberto’s fabulous friends from across the healthcare and life sciences industries, the book aims to tell the story of health-and-tech in a way that is fun and fast – and doesn’t require healthcare expertise to understand!

Roberto and I quickly cover the main themes of the book, and why it’s so important RIGHT NOW for patients, clinicians, and healthcare entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators to read about where health tech came from, where it’s at, and where it’s headed. You know your market category is coming-of-age when it hits the bookshelves!

Vida Health Hires New Chief Medical Officer from Hims & Hers: A Sign ‘Scripts’ Are Coming Soon?

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF Health

Vida Health’s new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Carroll is bringing a very unique expertise to the chronic condition management startup’s C-suite: pharmacy. Pat just left virtual pharmacy co, Hims & Hers, where he helped take the company public as CMO after building-out their virtual primary care practice. Before that, he was CMO at Walgreens…

We get to know Pat – brand-new in his role as Vida Health’s first-ever CMO – and catch glimpses of how his years of experience as a primary care doc and executive leader at leading consumer-focused pharmacy businesses will likely be shaping Vida’s future delivering care to poly-chronic patients.

Vida Health’s current approach to diabetes management and mental health care has stood apart for being fully-integrated from the get-go, tackling the mind-body connection through digitally-based coaching and counseling. While Pat acknowledges that this approach has thus far yielded “remarkable outcomes,” he definitely seems interested in finding out if those outcomes could be even better if a virtual prescriber group were involved as well.

Will this be a partnership with a medical group? Or something Pat sees Vida Health building out itself to fully support its 100% at-risk-on-outcomes model? A compelling set of questions, particularly when you consider Vida Health’s investor-and-client relationship with the largest managed Medicaid plan in the U.S. (Centene participated in their $110 million Series D round in May 2021), the prevalence of complex diabetes cases (30% are multi-chronic), and the interesting data point Pat shares about Vida’s ability to get more people to see their primary care docs, increasing PCP visit rates by 10%. Interesting opportunity for Vida Health to further compete with Teladoc-Livongo and other virtual-first primary care providers aiming to deliver on the chronic condition care spectrum.

Headspace Health Merger Update: First Look at How Ginger-Headspace Combo is Really Going to Market

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Headspace Health CEO Russell Glass says the merger-of-equals between on-demand mental health care provider, Ginger, and consumer meditation app, Headspace, is starting its upward trajectory on the “merger J-curve” and this monster 30-minute chat gets into the how-and-why.

We start out talking about the company’s recent acquisition of chatbot-based self-care app Sayana, but quickly turn to the integration of Headspace and Ginger and where things stand in terms of bringing those offerings together after three months of operationalizing. A combined vision and set of values have been launched with all 900 employees, and Russ says its enterprise clients (there are now 3,500 of those) are just weeks away from getting a fully-integrated platform that proves reporting for both Headspace and Ginger, allows launch from a single eligibility file, and offers communication that spans both service lines.

What’s “extra” in all this – and gives us a real glimpse of where Headspace Health is headed in terms of positioning itself to health plans and employers as standout from the Lyra Health / Quartet Health / Modern Health pack – comes out when Russ is describing the company’s partnership with Blue Shield of California at the 15:25-minute mark. The plan’s members can now access Headspace Health’s full-spectrum of services (meditation to therapy) via Blue Shield of California’s Wellvolution platform, which provides intelligent intake, smart patient routing, ongoing measurement and adjustment of services, and the ultimate ability to help prove-out mental health care’s connection to the reduction of downstream healthcare costs over time. As Russ says, “All of this is part of a long-term vision for what this could mean to a broader population, not just those who may need acute care, but to think about the entire population and how you pull the cost out of healthcare by managing behavioral health in a smart way.”

The big finish to this BIG conversation is Russ’s take on what’s ahead for both Headspace Health AND the digital mental health care market in 2022. Tune-in around the 20-minute mark to start this segment off with the IPO question that I never get answered, then lots of detail on where Headspace Health is looking to acquire and expand, what he thinks the headline story will be when it comes to the business of mental healthcare this year, and which patient population will rise to the top in terms of mental healthcare need.

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