Healthcare startups serving the Medicaid population are FINALLY catching the attention of investors and, this time, it’s for improving access to mental health services. Brave Health’s CEO Anna Lindow and I catch up in-person at HLTH 2021 – under super-secret embargo – to talk about Brave’s $10M Series B funding which was just announced today.
We get into Brave Health’s virtual-first approach to therapy, psychiatry, and outpatient addiction services, its tech underpinnings (which Anna hopes makes her services feel like “magic” to patients and providers alike), and the best-and-most-challenging parts about working with Medicaid plans.
This funding round, which takes Brave Health’s total funding to over $20M, should help with surmounting one of Anna’s biggest challenges: the extra effort required to expand to new states and the new set of Medicaid requirements and regulations that meet her every time she crosses state lines. Still, Brave Health has already expanded into 10 states in two years and, when utilized by Medicaid case managers, providers, and plans, is making a real impact on outcomes and cost of care. We dive into the details about meeting the mental health needs of a population that has typically been misunderstood and marginalized, and talk more about the nuances of supporting innovation and investment in solutions for people with Medicaid.
Signify Health (NYSE: SGFY) has called their approach “Value-Based Care 2.0” and, today, they’ve received an important designation from CMS that could set an exciting precedent for scaling up episodes-of-care, value-based models for the under 65 commercial health insurance market. The plan to receive this important approval as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (AAPM) is the State of Connecticut’s health plan – a massive plan that covers the State’s 220,000 employees and retirees. To talk about what this first-of-its-kind approval signals for the future of value-based payment models are the State of Connecticut’s Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Signify Health’s CEO Kyle Armbrester.
What’s so important here is the combination of episodes-of-care (which is like value-based care-lite) and the under-65 market (which is not as rich with value-based care case studies as the over-65 Medicare market). That a State government with a massive population of covered lives AND a vested interest in helping keep local hospitals and health systems vibrant economic engines in the community is leading the way on this novel payment model design is significant. And, Comptroller Lembo gives us the details about how he’s viewing it as a win-win – after quite a few battles along the way. To win in health innovation, you’ve got to follow the dollar! Tune into this chat to see where it’s headed as episodes-of-care models get a huge boost from CMS.
Not all who wander are lost: Nomad Health lands a $63M Series D round after a year of 5X revenue growth for their tech-driven healthcare staffing marketplace that helps hospitals hire nurses on-demand. This round, led by Adams Street Partners with participation from all existing investors, brings the company’s total fundraising up to $113M. Co-founder & CEO Alexi Nazem stops by to tell us how the startup is not only planning to expand its focus from nurses to other types of healthcare providers but how the process of doing so will transform Nomad from an on-demand staffing agency to “‘THE’ workforce management platform for healthcare.”
Alexi puts it this way: “In healthcare, the product is CARE. And, who is the product team? It’s the doctors, the nurses, the allied health professionals…and the fact that there’s no intentional management of this group of people who steward $1.5 trillion dollars of cost in the US every year is beyond unbelievable.”
The problem is twofold. First, there’s the way temporary staffing is currently being handled: by 2,500 different staffing agencies that take a fragmented, predominantly people-powered approach to sourcing, vetting, and hiring candidates. The cost is high to a health system looking to shore up their nursing staff, and the experience for job-seeking nurses is very opaque, with information being revealed about a job only after a significant investment of time within the application process. If the match falls apart, all the people involved in the process are left to try again.
This leads to the second issue – that, big picture, the status-quo way of temporary staffing is leaving behind a LOT of valuable data. Data about the clinician that is useful to the management of their career, and data about the workforce that would prove valuable to a hospital looking to better manage its care delivery resources.
We journey into the details behind Nomad’s business model, which is cutting costs for hospitals while also increasing pay for the 150,000+ clinicians on its platform. AND, while we’re there, we also find out how they expect their on-demand staffing approach to playing out in the booming virtual care space.
People with Diabetes can get ready to celebrate: “The ‘Era of Lancets’ is over.” Precision nutrition startup, DayTwo, is scaling up its microbiome-based program, which takes the guesswork (and finger pricks) out of Diabetes management by offering its members food predictions that identify how their bodies will respond to any food BEFORE they eat it. The startup just closed a fresh $37M in Series B funding (led by aMoon and Cathay Ventures) and is expanding the rollout of their fee-for-outcomes Diabetes program to health plans and large self-insured employers.
The science behind this has yielded DayTwo the largest gut microbiome dataset in the world, and years of empirical studies on exactly what happens in our bodies as our digestive systems process different foods. Josh Stevens, DayTwo’s President & Chief Commercial Officer, walks us through the research behind the offering, which uses a gut microbiome analysis to rank foods and food combinations based on how eating them will impact a person’s blood sugar – essentially revealing what foods will (or won’t) cause a member’s blood sugar to spike before they even take a bite.
Its 70,000+ members report lower A1C levels (1 point on average), sustained weight loss, and, probably most exciting, an ability to stick with the program because the app (and wrap-around telehealth support from registered dieticians) creates a completely bespoke diet that lets people learn how to eat their favorite foods and keep their blood glucose levels within range. Will this predictive approach really bring about the end of lancet-based blood glucose testing for Diabetes management? Josh says Diabetes remission is a goal made easier by this predictive approach, but how does it stack up to other food-as-medicine approaches out there? I have a gut-feeling that you’ll want to tune in and find out!
Just ONE-year in market, and Calibrate has already closed a $100M Series B co-led by Founders Fund and Tiger Global, with participation from Optum Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Threshold Ventures, and Redesign Health. Why is this virtual care startup getting so much attention (and funding) from so many notable health tech investors? Founder & CEO Isabelle Kenyon is here to introduce us to the telehealth-plus-prescription-drugs business she’s building to help people lose weight.
This is NOT a Noom. Calibrate’s business model is built around a class of $700-$1,300-per month, prescription weight loss drugs called GLP-1s, which it helps its members sort through for both fit AND health insurance coverage (Isabelle says 90% of Calibrate members get the drugs covered by their health plan.) Once the drug is prescribed, the Calibrate member is wrapped in a telehealth-driven, lifestyle intervention program that addresses sleep, eating, exercise, and emotional health to help support the reset of their metabolism. As a result, Calibrate members are losing an average of 14% of their body weight, a significantly better, more sustainable outcome than achieved in clinical research when the drugs were prescribed without support.
There are lots of compelling aspects to the Calibrate story here, and we get through all of them: the 175M-person total addressable market of Americans diagnosed with obesity… the recent FDA-approval of Novo Nordisk’s new GLP-1 drug called Wegovy… and how Calibrate will use its fresh funding to build-out an Enterprise program aimed at meeting the shifting thinking employers, Medicare Advantage plans, and other health insurers have about obesity treatment as “preventative care” against more costly chronic diseases.
What else could this “behavior change + drug” framework – and its unique de-coupled payment model – be applied to? Diabetes, cholesterol, and hypertension sound like they’re all on the table, but how defensible is this? What stops a pharma company from doing this themselves? Isn’t this digital therapeutics?? A VERY interesting discussion about the often-taboo subject of weight loss, pharma, and the disruption of the healthcare delivery system behind both.
Innovation in Medicaid is HAPPENING – and not only is it capable of creating better, less expensive healthcare for Medicaid members, but Cityblock Health is proving that it can also be the underpinning of a business worth over $1B dollars.
Dr. Toyin Ajayi, Cityblock’s co-founder & President, walks through the company’s novel business model, which goes AT-RISK to take care of some of the highest risk patients in all of healthcare. Here’s how it works: the startup contracts with health plans that provide Managed Medicaid services, helps them identify groups of patients that are of highest risk or rising risk, then takes over the financial and clinical accountability for that group. Cityblock then envelopes those members in a suite of highly personalized services that address both their healthcare needs and the social care challenges that are connected to them. In short…Cityblock is a medical practice built at the bustling intersection of value-based care and social determinants of health.
Toyin talks through some examples of the unique challenges facing the 75,000+ members Cityblock works with, particularly what they are learning about what it takes to “earn the right” to provide this population with care. But, is the high-touch, tech-infused core of their model defensible? What stops a huge national Managed Medicaid health plan like Centene or Molina from simply replicating this within their own multi-billion-dollar enterprises? Competition, expansion, funding, and outcomes – we get into it all, and hear Toyin’s near-term vision for Cityblock as it puts the nearly $500M its received in venture funding to work on “transforming the healthcare ecosystem for those who need it most.”
It’s interesting enough that Optum’s Vice President for Direct-to-Consumer is not only a serial digital health entrepreneur, but she’s also a behavior change scientist. Dr. Kate Wolin stops by to share some background on behavior change science, and how healthcare companies large and small are looking to drive health and wellness outcomes by integrating its principles and techniques into product design strategy.
Behavior change science appears to be having a “moment” here in healthcare, peppering conversations about everything from business models and consumer engagement strategies to product design, particularly in the chronic care and mental health spaces. Optum obviously has an interest in the discipline, with Kate in such a critical leadership role. And, our friends at life sciences giant, Bayer, also seem keen on exploring the approach, as it’s both the focus of one of the sessions of Bayer G4A’s free digital health forum, Health for All, on September 9, AND the reason Kate’s here to provide a deep-dive into the subject as a special prequel to the event.
So, what are the key takeaways? Well, it turns out there are a lot of misconceptions about behavior change science. Kate sets us straight, explains why she’s NOT a fan of the term “nudges,” and talks about what digital health companies usually get wrong (and right) about incorporating behavior change techniques into their products and services. Does behavior change require human intervention in order to make it sticky? Or, can technology be just as effective in achieving the right levels of personalization needed to make an ongoing impact on a person’s behavior? We get smart on this trending approach, and Kate gives us her prediction for how healthcare will be looking to increasingly incorporate this science into its future.
Special Note: To hear more from Kate and a host of other healthcare experts during Bayer G4A’s special global event “Health for All – A Digital Health Forum” on September 9, 2021, register at www.g4a.health.
There’s been a steady drip of announcements coming out of One Drop in recent months about their data capabilities (28 billion biometric data points to be exact), the predictive power of their platform (remember blood glucose predictions and blood pressure insights) and NOW a partnership deal with top-of-the-line smart device manufacturer, Withings. What is this all adding up to? How about some HUGE NEWS?! Rachel Yap Martens, One Drop’s SVP of Commercial Strategy, stops by with a big reveal about the cohesive strategy behind these moves, and how they are all leading to One Drop’s launch of a first-of-its-kind, minimally invasive BIOSENSOR that will bring “continuous health sensing” to the market in the next year or so.
Health tech die-hards will remember One Drop’s acquisition of Sano Intelligence’s sensor technology in April 2020, but that was only the beginning. That sensor tech has been evolved, adapted, and refined, and works by detecting analytes in the body’s interstitial fluid, which – if you look it up – holds important things like glucose, salt, fatty acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium and more. Jump ahead to the 15-minute mark in this interview if all you want to hear about is this, BUT word to the wise: the really compelling part of the sensor is how it will plug right into all the other biometric data collection points in the One Drop ecosystem. Says Rachel, the goal is to help One Drop members “to know what is happening with their bodies right now, to know what is going to happen to their bodies next, and to know how to take action.” Exciting interview!!
Digital health continues to gain a lot of attention from investors, so we’ve checked in with one to get some perspective on what’s hot (and what’s not) midway through the sector’s largest funding year yet. Larry Leisure, of Chicago Pacific Founders (whose enterprise health benefits company, Jiff, was acquired by Castlight Health) weighs in on the exuberance investors are showing for the health innovation space and whether or not it will last.
Are valuations and funding rounds a little overblown? Are investors concerned about some of the recent complaints of ‘digital health fatigue’ that employers and health plans are starting to vocalize as they wade through an expanding portfolio of point solutions? Larry brings us in on some of the closed-door conversations he’s had with payers and employers about the health tech startup scene, and how their thinking is starting to shift his own ideas about where to place his bets next. Healthcare navigators…care-plus-behavior-change platforms…underserved markets…the digital front door…the end of the per-member-per-month business model and SO MUCH MORE. Love getting a high-level look at the field of play!
Stealthy telehealth startup Wheel just closed a $50M series B and CEO Michelle Davey is here to reveal the mystery behind the company’s very behind-the-scenes approach to selling white-label virtual care. The business model is built on a network of clinicians that Wheel has curated and credentialed specifically for virtual care delivery – for a rotating cast of clients, under any brand, at any time. Unlike the market-leading incumbent telehealth co’s that also sell virtual care infrastructure, Wheel does NOT have a patient front door, isn’t angling for one, and is so protective of its clients’ brands that Michelle won’t even name names about who her company is working with. She simply describes her clientele as those in the biz of “next gen” virtual care: retail players, care-plus-pharmacy-delivery startups, asynchronous care providers, labs, remote patient monitoring companies, and so on.
Wheel experienced 300% year-over-year growth — and 1200% growth from Q4-2020 to Q1-2021 — but is it sustainable as the pandemic wans and other plug-and-play telehealth infrastructure services also gain market traction and funding? And, what about the common criticism that telehealth is too transactional and that both patients AND physicians prefer the opportunity to build deeper relationships? Do providers really want to practice for multiple companies at the same time? We get a look inside Wheel’s 90% clinician retention rate to see what else might be satisfying the clinician’s need to connect, and talk about areas for growth now that the company’s received fresh funds.