Categories

Category: Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt is the founder and publisher of The Health Care Blog and still writes regularly for the site and hosts the #THCBGang and #HealthInTwoPoint00 video shows/podcasts. He was co-founder of the Health 2.0 Conference and now also does advisory work mostly for health tech startups at his consulting firm SMACK.health.

Russ Johannesson, CEO, Glooko

Russ Johannesson has been CEO of Glooko since 2018. In that time the diabetes data platform has expanded internationally, made a couple of acquisitions, and added support for digital therapeutics and distributed clinical trials. He brought me up to date with the latest–Matthew Holt

Will Boeglin demos TimeDoc Health

Will Boeglin is CEO of TimeDoc Health. It’s one of a new breed of companies supplying the capability for physician groups and health systems (including FQHCs) to deliver CCM (chronic care management) and RPM (remote patient monitoring). Both of those services are now reimbursed by Medicare, and some private plans, but rolling them out and tracking all that activity–not to mention accounting and billing for it–is non-trivial for practices. That is where TimeDoc comes in. Will started the company as part of a med-school project and just raised $48m to really get it going. He showed me how it worked, and gave an extensive and interesting demo–Matthew Holt

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Digital Health is dead (well, not quite)

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For today’s health care tidbits, the elephant in the room has truely come home to roost, and now it’s landed on the phone wire, it’s close to breaking it. OK, I have stretched that metaphor to death but you’ll get my point. Writing on THCB earlier this month Jeff Goldsmith and Eric Larsen picked up on something I’ve been saying for a while –the fall in valuation of publicly traded digital health companies will have a knock effect on private companies

It took a while–those public companies stock prices started falling from their heights 14 months ago–but in the last month the venture capital scene has gone quiet. The days of sub $20m ARR companies getting mutli-hundred million dollar valuations are over for now. They will be back at some point in the future, as that’s how Silicon Valley has always worked, but it’ll be a while and in the meantime everyone is going to have to figure out what to do in the new world.

The “What to do?” question is getting harder as the data starts to come in, and it’s getting ugly. On the one hand the two fastest growing digital health companies ever have both had their comeuppance. Livongo was a tremendous exit for its investors and ended up trading at 20 times future revenue before it got acquired by Teladoc for $18bn mostly in stock. This quarter Teladoc wrote off much of its investment in Livongo and the whole company is now only worth $5bn. Clearly those “synergies” between telehealth and chronic care management didn’t work. The other rocket ship was Cerebral, which went from nothing in Jan 2020 to by Jan 2022 having over 100,000 patients and thousands of providers on its system as it raised over $300m from Softbank et al. Its aggressive & expensive customer acquisition costs, with its controversial controlled medication prescribing patterns, brought it way too much controversy. Its young CEO is gone, and it’ll be a slow climb back with bankruptcy and collapse the likeliest of outcomes.

But the part of digital health that’s trying to replace the incumbents is not the only place showing ugliness. The technologies and services being rolled out are often not working. Exhibit A is a randomized controlled trial conducted a Univ of Pennsylvania. One set of heart patients was set up with connected blood pressure cuffs, a pillbox that tracked their Rx adherence and lots of coaching help. The others were sent home with the proverbial leaflet and told to call if they had problems. You’d assume many more deaths and hospital readmissions in the second group. You’d be wrong. There were no differences.

So digital health needs to see if it can produce services companies that move the needle on costs and outcomes. The advantage is that they are eventually competing with hospital systems whose DNA doesn’t allow them the ability to let them cross the chasm to the new world. The bad news is that those systems have huge reserves which they can use to subsidize their old world activities.

I’m hoping digital health’s impact in the next 2 years will be as big as it was in the past 2, It’s by no means dead or over, but I am pessimistic.

Matthew’s health care tidbits: Hospital System Concentration is a Money Machine

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For today’s health care tidbits, there’s an old chestnut that I can’t seem to stay away from. I was triggered by three articles this week. Merril Goozner on GoozNews looked at the hospital building boom. Meanwhile perennial favorite Sutter Health and its price-making ability came up in a report showing that 11 of the 19 most expensive hospital markets were in N. Cal where it’s dominant. Finally the Gist newsletter pointed out that almost all the actual profits of the big health systems came from their investing activities rather than their operations.

None of this is any great surprise. Over the past three decades, the big hospital systems have become more concentrated in their markets. They’ve acquired smaller community hospitals and, more importantly, feeder systems of primary care doctors. Meanwhile they’ve cut deals with and acquired specialty practices. For more than two decades now, owned-physicians have been the loss leader and hospitals have made money on their high cost inpatient services, and increasingly on what used to be inpatient services which are now delivered in outpatient settings at essentially inpatient rates. Prices, though, have not fallen – as the HCCI report shows.

Source: HCCI

The overall cost of care, now more and more delivered in these increasingly oligopolistic health systems, continues to increase. Consequently so do overall insurance premiums, costs for self insured employers and employees, and out of pocket costs. And as a by-product, the reserves of those health systems, invested like and by hedge funds, are increasing–enabling them to buy more feeder systems.

Wendell Potter, former Cigna PR guy and now overall heath insurer critic, wrote a piece this week on how much bigger and more concentrated the health plans have become in the last decade. But the bigger story is the growth of hospital systems, and their cost and clout. Dave Chase likes to say that America has gone to war for less than what hospitals have done to the American economy. That may be a tad hyperbolic, but no one would rationally design a health care environment where non-profit hospitals are getting bigger and richer, and don’t seem to be able to restrain any aspect of their growth.

Matthew’s health care tidbits: #Does Medicare Advantage Save the Taxpayer Money?

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, the controversy about Medicare Advantage is getting louder and louder. There’s no question that it results in lower out of pocket payments for its members than traditional FFS Medicare. Medicare Advantage members use fewer services, and their care appears to be better “managed” –then again FFS Medicare’s “members” are barely managed at all. 

But the big question is, Does Medicare Advantage save the government money? Critics (notably ex CMS veterans Berwick & Gilfillan) claim that risk adjustment games played by the private plans who run Medicare Advantage have cost up to $200bn over 10 years. Medpac (the independent body that advises Congress) estimates that “Medicare spends 4 percent more for MA enrollees than it would have spent if those enrollees remained in FFS Medicare” and go on to say “In aggregate, for the entire duration of their Medicare participation, private plans have never produced savings for Medicare”. However data from the Medicare Trustees and other research from ACHP & the trade group Better Medicare Alliance suggests that Medpac’s analysis is incorrect and that Medicare Advantage saves the government about 9% per enrollee.

THCB ran a long piece (pt 1pt 2) about Medicare Advantage from former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson earlier this year, and a related one from current Permanente Federation CEO Richard Isaacs. But it’s much more nuanced than that. J Michael McWilliams has long piece on Health Affairs Forefront trying to capture the various strands of the argument. His conclusion? “The substantial subsidies MA receives are largely responsible for the extra benefits and have more than offset savings from any efficiencies, posing a net cost to Medicare and complicating assessments of MA’s added value.”

Meanwhile CMS has just changed the most controversial aspect of risk adjustment (which is the most controversial part of Medicare Advantage) by banning the plans from doing it, and only allowing providers to be involved.

Whether any of this is going to change CMS regulations or wider government policy regarding MA payments is less certain. CMS is currently dealing with its replacement for the even more controversial Direct Contracting (now called ACO REACH). But Medicare Advantage is the most profitable part of private health insurance and has many knock on effects for care services and technology. So I’ll be watching this space and you should too!

Quickbite Interviews: Force Therapeutics/Xealth & Avia Health

I was at the VIVE conference in Miami last week and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quickbite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am going to dribble them out this week.

Up here are Mikayla McGrath, Head of Partnerships at Force Therapeutics & Cynthia Church, Chief Strategy Officer at Xealth–they’re on together discussing their partnership. The other bite is with Cynthia Perazzo, EVP Insights, AVIA Health, who is telling us about the transformation she is seeing among American’s hospital systems. — Matthew Holt

#HealthTechDeals Episode 16: Doctolib, House Rx, SmithRx, Synapse Medicine, and Kintsugi

May the luck of the Irish be with the health tech sector and may everybody’s valuation go back to where it was for the St. Patrick’s Day episode of Health Tech Deals! In today’s episode, Jess asks me about Doctolib’s €500 million raise with a massive €5.8 billion valuation – this is a doctor booking service and more in Europe. We also cover specialty pharma company House Rx’s $25 million raise, bringing their total up to $30 million, SmithRx’s $27 million raise for its flat-fee PBM, Synapse Medicine’s $28 million raise doing medication management, and Kintsugi’s $20 million raise for its voice biomarker mental health tech. —Matthew Holt

TRANSCRIPT

Jessica DaMassa:

What’s that over there? Is that a little leprechaun sitting next to a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow? No, it’s just Matthew Holt. May the luck of the Irish be with the health tech sector and everybody’s valuation goes back to where it was in the summer of 2021. It can only be the March 17th ,St. Patty’s day, episode of Health Tech Deals.

Matthew Holt:

So, Jessica you’re from Chicago, right?

Jessica DaMassa:

I am.

Matthew Holt:

And they have the big St. Patrick’s Day Parade there and they dye the river green?

Jessica DaMassa:

They dye the river green. Nobody believes it but it’s true.

Matthew Holt:

So why don’t they dye it blue the rest of the year?

Continue reading…

Quickbite Interviews: 1UpHealth& Cecelia Health

I was at the VIVE conference in Miami last week and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quickbite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am going to dribble them out this week.

Up here are are Joe Gagnon, CEO, 1upHealth, a data integrator that works primarily with health plans, and Mark Clermont, CEO, Cecelia Health, a chronic care management company that also runs pharma patient adherence programs. — Matthew Holt

Quickbite Interviews: Lark & Luma Health

I was at the VIVE conference in Miami last week and caught up with a number of CEOs & execs for some quickbite interviews — around 5 mins getting (I hope) to the gist of what they & their companies are up to. I am going to dribble them out this week.

First two up are Julia Hu, CEO of Lark, a conversational AI program for chronic & behavioral health that works primarily with health plans, and Adnan Iqbal, CEO of Luma Health, a patient messaging system mostly used by providers. — Matthew Holt

Matthew’s health care tidbits: The Stupidity Vaccine

Each week I’ve been adding a brief tidbits section to the THCB Reader, our weekly newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB that week (Sign up here!). Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt

For my health care tidbits this week, I think we need a new vaccine. We need one that prevents stupidity.

Look I get that some people don’t think the flu vaccine is effective and don’t think the effects are too bad, so they don’t get one every year. Many people don’t get a vaccine for shingles. But as someone who had shingles long before the recommended age for the vaccine, let me tell you, you’ll wish you had the vaccine should you get it. And even sensible liberal Maggie Mahar a long while back was pretty suspicious of Merck’s Gardasil vaccine for cervical cancer–although since then it’s been replaced both by a more effective updated version and by Cervarix and the long term results are really good.

But since COVID-19 appeared the cultural and ideological identification among most Republicans has been that only wussy liberals take the COVID vaccine. This is stupid and indefensible. Even Donald Trump thinks so! But when he told his cult members that, they booed him! And so the US is stuck on not enough people vaccinated to repel variants or stop ICUs filling up. There are now hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths among the unvaccinated with no end in sight.

But this isn’t stupid enough. Now we are seeing senior political leaders attacking vaccines for diseases we’ve had under control for ages. We’ve already seen outbreaks of measles in recent years, including one at Disneyland. Last month 17 Georgia state senators proposed banning school mandates for all vaccines including MMR, chickenpox, DtAP, Hep B, Polio and more. It’s amazing that these people don’t believe in science, yet they are probably happy to use a smartphone or get in an airplane.

Sadly there appears to be no vaccine for stupidity on the horizon

Registration

Forgotten Password?