Forget being pigeon-holed as a “femtech” company! VERY early-stage women’s health startup, Pollie, is taking an integrated care approach to complex chronic conditions that either just affect women, OR impact women differently or disproportionally than men. Think not only about conditions caused by hormone imbalances like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) or endometriosis, but also auto-immune disorders and digestive disorders that present differently or more frequently in women.
Co-Founder and CEO, Jane Sagui, drops by to talk us through the platform Pollie is building (and I mean, building-as-we-speak) which will ultimately teach women how to manage their chronic conditions via a highly-personalized program that includes all possible treatment management solutions, from pharmaceuticals to lifestyle-based treatments like diet and exercise. The company is currently piloting a version of their solution with a cohort of PCOS patients, but, has grand plans to expand their multi-modality pill-plus approach into other categories of women’s health that are NOT reproductive system related. Their biz has already caught the eye – and some investment dollars – from Bayer, as the company is one of four that’s been selected for this year’s Growth Track within G4A’s Digital Health Partnerships Program.
Jane gives us the details behind Pollie: their business, the pilot, the round they’re currently raising, and the types of partners they’re seeking as they evolve their offering. What’s also exciting? An early-stage bet from a big pharma co like Bayer that signals a future for women’s health care that may (finally) be about MORE than just reproductive health.
Even before Covid19, virtual care for chronic conditions was a hot and competitive area, with the heat turned up by Livongo Health’s IPO last year and big funding rounds for companies like Omada Health, Virta Health, and One Drop. Another contender in the space, Vida Health, has been best known for taking a “platform” approach to chronic condition management before “platforming out” became the-move-to-make for scaling health tech companies. Their digital health biz actually started out with a “whole health approach” to helping patients manage all their conditions at once, integrating care for diabetes, hypertension, COPD, high cholesterol, mental health conditions, and more from the get-go. Contrast that to some of their biggest competitors, who have adapted to that approach by adding on treatments for co-morbidities as their core businesses evolved.
Is there a benefit to starting out with a holistic care model that those who build it along the way can’t capture? We caught up with Vida Health’s founder & CEO, Stephanie Tilenius, to find out what advantage starting out as a platform play has brought to her business, which just closed a $25M funding round in April and is now available to more than 1.5 million people through employers and health plans.
How will the company scale from here? How will they remain competitive in such a crowded space? Stephanie talks through some of Vida Health’s post-pandemic plans AND how lessons learned from her “previous life” as an exec in Big Tech during that industry’s growth era of the 2000s & 2010s has shaped her thinking about the uptake of technology in healthcare. Not only did Stephanie work at eBay, PayPal, and Google during the birth of the online payment era, BUT she also helped take an online pharmacy company (Planet Rx) public during the dotcom boom.
As the adage goes, “health is wealth,” and Wellthy Therapeutics is a startup looking to improve the health of patients with chronic conditions in India by making treatment more accessible. Only 5% of Indians are insured and much of the population is not health literate, so CEO Abhishek Shah hopes the Wellthy app will fill a critical gap in care for those with type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular conditions, and respiratory illnesses. With 15K users, the startup is focused on scaling up to truly capitalize on the potential of India’s enormous population. Learn more about their big plans, including those for a Series-A, to support that expansion.
Filmed at Bayer G4A Signing Day in Berlin, Germany, October 2019.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess and I are at Livongo’s SIGNUM 2019 conference in San Francisco—in bobblehead form. In this episode, Jess asks me about my key takeaways from the conference, which focused on chronic condition solutions. It was really exciting to hear how the experience of patients with chronic conditions has been changed. We heard some fun stuff from Seth Stephens-Davidowitz about his book Everybody Lies and Daniel H. Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, and from Stephen Klasko of Jefferson University and Mark Ganz of Cambia Health about the importance of proper partnerships and innovation from traditional healthcare companies. At the end of the day, at a relatively small scale we’ve made a difference in the lives of people with chronic illness—but can we deliver this at a huge scale? —Matthew Holt
A friend called me the other day: he is moving his 93 year old father from New England to the Bay Area.
This is, of course, a relatively common scenario: aging adult moves — or is moved by family — to a new place to live.
Seamless transition to new medical providers ensues. As does optimal management of chronic health issues. Not.
Naturally, my friend is anxious to ensure that his father gets properly set up with medical care here. His dad doesn’t have dementia, but does have significant heart problems.
My friend also knows that the older a person gets, the more likely that he or she will benefit from the geriatrics approach and knowledge base. So he’s asked me to do a consultation on his father. For instance, he wants to make sure the medications are all ok for a man of his father’s age and condition.
Last but not least, my friend knows that healthcare is often flawed and imperfect. So he sees this transition as an opportunity to have his father’s health — and medical management plan — reviewed and refreshed.
This last request is not strictly speaking a geriatrics issue. This is just a smart proactive patient technique: to periodically reassess an overall medical care plan, and consider getting the input of new doctors while you do this. (Your usual doctors may or may not be able to rethink what they’ve been doing.) But of course, if you are a 93 year old patient — or the proxy for an older adult — it’s sensible to see if a geriatrician can offer you this review.
Times have changed. And it’s time they change again.
In the past, medical care was more episodic than it is now. People went to see the doctor when they felt unwell. Diabetes affected mostly older patients, who didn’t live long enough with the disease to develop complications.
There were no blockbuster drugs for high cholesterol, Hepatitis C, fibromyalgia or chronic heartburn; we didn’t manage nearly as many patients on multiple medications as we do now.
In those times, a payment scale based on the length and complexity of the visit made sense, and there wasn’t much doctor-patient interaction between visits.
Today, we manage more chronic conditions, use more medications, do more laboratory monitoring, more patient education, and more administrative work on behalf of our patients than before.
Payment scales based only on what we do in the face-to-face visit have become hopelessly antiquated and stand in the way of the new demands of society – physicians providing longitudinal care for chronic conditions in patient-centered medical homes.
The landmark 2001 document from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM), Crossing the Quality Chasm,should have guided us out of the healthcare cost-quality crisis. It argued that the root cause of our difficulties has been a failure to meet the needs of patients with chronic disease. We have not solved this crisis because we have almost entirely ignored the recommendations for reform found in that document.
The claim that we have the best healthcare in the world is correct only if you have an acute condition. If you are having an event, such as a heart attack, our system can provide an emergency stent — for as much as $50,000 — that will open the blocked artery, immediately relieving the pain and saving your life. We are really good at rescue medicine-crisis medicine.
But acute conditions generate enormous costs only because we have not addressed the chronic condition earlier, interrupting the disease progression that produces the acute events. Since most healthcare cost growth over the past 2 decades has been related to patients with 4 or more chronic conditions, this should be recognized as the foremost issue in healthcare reform.
In fact, the IOM charged that, despite the central role of chronic disease in most pain, disability, death, and cost, care continues to be designed around the needs of providers and institutions, and most patients with chronic conditions do not receive the care they need. A 17-year lag in implementing new scientific findings results in highly variable care.
That cardiologists favor coronary stenting over optimal medical therapy — that is, managing vascular disease using $4 drugs and recommended lifestyle changes — provides a powerful case in point.
Walmart — the nation’s largest retailer and biggest private employer — now wants to dominate a growing part of the health care market, offering a range of medical services from basic prevention to management of chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to a confidential company document.
In the same week in late October that Walmart announced it would stop offering health insurance benefits to new part-time employees, the retailer sent out a request for information seeking partners to help it “dramatically … lower the cost of healthcare … by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.”
On Tuesday, Walmart spokeswoman Tara Raddohl confirmed the proposal but declined to elaborate on specifics, calling it simply an effort to determine “strategic next steps.”
The 14-page request asks firms to spell out their expertise in a wide variety of areas, including managing and monitoring patients with chronic, costly health conditions. Partners are to be selected in January.
Analysts said Walmart is likely positioning itself to boost store traffic – possibly by expanding the number of, and services offered by, its in-store medical clinics. The move would also capitalize on growing demand for primary care in 2014, when the federal health law fully kicks in and millions more Americans are expected to have government or private health insurance.
“We have a massive primary care problem that will be made worse by health reform,” says Ian Morrison, a Menlo Park, Calif-based health-care consultant. “Anyone who has a plausible idea on how to solve this should be allowed to play.”
Unless you spend a lot of time around health policy wonks, you’ve probably never heard of the term “value-based health insurance benefits.” In fact, you may not even know that it’s the hottest new fad in the field.
Here is my layman’s summary: If you are like most people, you are not a very good consumer of health care. Odds are, you will fall for the latest fad advertised on TV or follow the advice you get at the bridge club instead of buying the care that has been scientifically shown to be better for you.
So as a corrective, a lot of employers are finding ways to “nudge” you into better decisions through financial incentives. Say you have a chronic condition and need to take certain medications. Your employer might drop your deductible down to zero (or may even pay your to take them) to encourage your compliance. But for services where there appears to be wasteful overuse (such as MRI scans), the employer might impose a hefty $500 deductible.
This idea intrigued me, so I turned to a rather lengthy article in the Washington Post, which informed that value-based insurance benefits are incorporated into the new health reform law, “including the requirement that new insurance provide free recommended preventive services such as mammograms and colon cancer screenings.”
In the world of big business, this idea is all the rage. One in every five employers employing at least 500 people is already doing it. Four in five employers who employ at least 10,000 workers say they are interested.
So if big business is for it; the government is mandating it; and health policy wonks like it; how could anyone possibly obj-……..Continue reading…
They are coming in fast under the radar, out of peripheral vision, in the magician’s other hand—and they will change everything. New ideas, surprising networks, stealth business models that may change health care profoundly, are bubbling up in pilot programs, experiments and full-on corporate transformations. There is something here that does not yet have a name, that no one is yet calling a movement, that no one is yet seeing as revolutionary.
While we have been mesmerized by federal health care reform, government intervention on behalf of the uninsured and government attempts to “bend the cost curve” to shave a few percentage points off medical inflation, things have been happening in the private sector for people who are already insured that result in outright medical deflation, drops in costs of 20 percent or more, all while giving people more care, not less.
Help me out here. This picture is just forming, the Ouija board is still in motion, but I think what we may have here is some truly big news about the future.
The Difference Is Integration
First, consider the huge regional differences in health care costs. Think about what it means that it costs twice as much for patients in the last six months of life to be involved with Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, UCLA Medical Center or New York University Medical Center than it does for them to be involved with Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or the Cleveland Clinic; or that Medicare spends half as much per patient per year in Temple, Texas, as in McAllen or Harlingen or Brownsville, Texas; or why Medicare spending per patient per year in the top and bottom quintiles of hospital catchment areas differ by 60 percent.
These are vast differences—and the more expensive areas show no better outcomes than the less expensive ones; in fact, for some conditions they show worse outcomes.Continue reading…
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