Just FIVE MONTHS after launch, rural health startup Homeward is proving its potential for growth with MORE funding – today announcing its $50 million Series B (that’s $70 million total for the folks keeping score at home) – AND a huge 30,000-patient partnership with Priority Health. Co-founder & CEO Dr. Jennifer Schneider is here to breakdown both bits of news and give us some context about what they indicate about the rural healthcare market.
There are a couple surprising facts in this one that add up to why investors like ARCH Venture Partners and Human Capital (co-leads), General Catalyst (which led the Series A), and Lee Shapiro and Glen Tullman (old buddies and former Livongo colleagues who went in on this with personal funds outside of their fund 7wireVentures) were excited to jump into a quick Series B.
Surprising Fact 1: 90% of all rural Medicare beneficiaries are covered by just 7 payers, which makes the Priority Health deal a bigger deal than even that massive 30K patient population might indicate.
Surprising Fact 2: Homeward’s market of rural Americans is actually TWICE as large as the diabetes market that spurred the investment and growth of Livongo.
For all the math, the details on how the business actually works five months in, and how Homeward is actually going to market as a ‘healthcare infrastructure’ provider rather than just a next-gen medical group, you’re going to have to give this one a watch!
Mental health digital therapeutics startup Happify Health has spent the past 5 years quietly ‘self-actualizing’ into a brand-new, tech platform company that just launched this week: Twill. This is a big pivot – not just a brand change – and we’ve got co-founder & President Ofer Leidner and newly-hired Chief Operating Officer Megan Callahan (who formerly ran Lyft Health) here to tell us how it all went down AND what will happen to the old Happify app.
Wellness-app-no-more, Twill has emerged as a health tech infrastructure company. Its core product (called Sequences) is the open architecture, digital back-end that ties together a health plan, employer, or pharma co’s various digital point solutions – wellness apps, digital therapeutics, virtual coaching, peer support groups, telehealth platforms, etc. etc. – to create one neat-and-tidy, hyper-personalized, automagically-navigated patient care journey based on condition or patient population.
Big brands like Elevance Health (Anthem), Biogen, and Almirall have already bought-in, with products already in market for conditions as diverse as maternal health, multiple scleroses, and psoriasis. Not forgetting its mental health roots, Twill is bringing in its own vast resources from the ole Happify days to run digital mental health support under each of these disease-specific point solutions. Ofer and Megan say that Sequences can be developed for ANY condition or to target specific populations of patients and they plan to launch 2-3 new Sequences each year.
What else is ahead for Twill now that it’s revealed from its stealthy start? Happify Health had raised $73 million in March 2021 in a big round lead by Deerfield Management Company – what should we expect next? Tune in for all the details on the transformation, the new products, and how other digital health companies can expect to work with Twill in the future.
In the ‘point solution versus platform’ debate, mark another score for integration as Vida Health jumps into the musculoskeletal (MSK) care space. This is a move we’ve seen before among the digital health chronic condition management set (remember when Omada acquired Physera, Dario Health acquired Upright, and everyone was waiting to see if Livongo would make a play for Sword or Hinge?) so why is Vida just jumping in now?
Dr. Patrick Carroll, Vida Health’s Chief Medical Officer, lets us in on the strategy behind the startup’s move into the MSK space and what it signals about how employers (and their employees) are starting to view digital health and virtual care within the larger scope of available care options out there.
As for Vida’s MSK program, it’s different than what you might expect. According to Pat, the program is strictly focused on lower back pain and helping members quickly find the physical therapy and, if needed, mental health care that can make a real difference to their overall health in a manner of weeks. If something more complex is discovered, Pat says Vida is working with partners – including those digital-first MSK clinics – to refer out. Is this the long-term play or will Vida eventually build out or buy its way further into MSK? We find out what’s ahead for the cardiometabolic care company as it launches yet another new offering to improve access to care.
In this episode of #healthTechDeals Jess DaMassa is hoping Matthew Holt disappears, possibly on Elon Musk’s rocket to Mars. Matthew just wants him to buy Chelsea FC. And then there’s actual funding deals for Osmind ($40m), Turquoise Health ($20), Mahmee ($9) & Simplifed which got $6m despite having Matthew help!
In this episode of #HealthTechDeals, Jess is enjoying Cinqo de Mayo in an Addams Family-themed hotel where she is playing “the mummy” introducing health tech companies coming back from the dead. There’s gossip about Amazon’s pharmacy operation over supplying insulin, and there’s deals for Levels ($38m) in CGM analysis, Waltz Health ($35m) in pharmacy search, Safety Wing ($25m) for health insurance for nomads & Implicity ($23m) doing cardiac implantable monitoring in France.
With 61% of American adults reporting a negative behavior change – troubled sleep, changes in diet, increased alcohol consumption, more time on screens, etc. – as a result of the pandemic, AND healthcare payers looking at 2022 cost increases in the range of 8-10%, one has to wonder just how bad our collective health has become thanks to the past two years.
Jeff Ruby, CEO of tech-enabled habit change provider, Newtopia, shares some startling stats about our population’s health, particularly when it comes to those lifestyle-related metabolic disorders that his company is trying to prevent. And, thus, we get into a fiery conversation about condition prevention versus condition management… at-risk payment models versus per-member-per-month models… behavior change versus prescription drugs… and whether or not a biz like Newtopia (running at-risk on goals related to prevention) is better placed or worse off as a result of this population that, though sicker and riskier than before, is showing up in greater numbers to try their program.
It’s clear where Jeff stands with his genetics-plus-behavioral-psychology-based platform, but questions about how to best handle our population’s health as the pandemic wans are still very much up for debate. Even on the public markets – Newtopia was one of the first digital health companies to go public during the pandemic, hitting the Canadian TSX as $NEWUF in March 2020 – investors’ sentiment for virtual care just isn’t what it used to be. Maybe we can apply some behavior change psychology there too? (wink, wink) Though Jeff talks about “uncertainty about how US healthcare works” in the context of the market, it seems like that “uncertainty” is also pervasive in our approach to spending for chronic care – especially now. Are dollars toward prevention dollars that are better spent? A compelling case is made…
It’s the May the 4th be with you day! In Episode 26 of #HealthTechDeals, Jessica is huddling in Boston after the American Telehealth Association conference, and has Star Wars-related trivia. There’s gossip there, there’s more gossip about Cerebral & its ADHD med strategy. Meanwhile a lot of copy cats in deals today with Hello Heart ($70m) for hypertension, Concert Health ($40m) for mental health, Vivian Health ($60m) for nurse staffing, Curebase ($40m) for DCTs, Mendel.ai ($40m) for NLP & Blue Spark ($40m) for RPM — all joining very crowded markets.
Micky Tripathi the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS says this year will be a “transformative” year for Health IT as the decade-long, $40 billion dollar effort to lay an electronic foundation for healthcare delivery heads to the next level. Why is this year THE YEAR when it comes to the digital exchange of health information? Where is federal health IT strategy headed in order to provide the standards and policies health tech co’s need to be able to kick up the pace of innovation?
We get into a SWEEPING chat about the technology and business implications of all the work coming out of ONC, including implementation of those new information blocking regulations, goals for API standardization, and TEFCA (Trusted Exchange Framework & Common Agreement). Micky not only gives the background on the regulations and policies, but also provides some analysis on what they actually mean for those health technology companies trying to do business in-and-around a more digital healthcare ecosystem.
More traction in Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM) innovation, this time coming out of care-navigation-plus-PBM startup Rightway. CEO Jordan Feldman and Chief Pharmacy Officer Scott Musial (who Jordan calls the “Godfather of PBMs”) drop in to talk about their 1500 employer client base and how the business is now even winning over health plans who are tired of working with the ‘Big Three PBMs.’
The NextGen PBM story is the headliner here, with Rightway customers saving an average 18% in their first year with the “new-to-the-world PBM” the company has built.
What’s different? Two big things. First, the PBM’s payment structure for the employer. Jordan shares how these are usually rebates-driven or based on spread pricing; Rightway is actually innovative in offering the PBM benefit on a per-member-per-month basis instead.
That leads to the second twist, which is based on gaining cost savings for the employer by pairing the PBM with navigation. According to Scott, this changes the conversation from one that’s solely focused on managing the price of the drugs to managing how employees are utilizing the formulary instead – creating opportunities for lower-priced generics or alternatives that Rightway is happy to point to because it’s not dealing with rebates or dispensing.
So, who is Rightway competing with? Navigators like Accolade, Inc. or Included Health? PBMs like CVS/Caremark, Optum or Express Scripts? Or other emerging ‘combo’ businesses like Transcarent?
We get into the competitive landscape, more about PBMs than you might have ever wanted to know, and what Jordan and Scott are hearing from hard-hit employers looking to recruit and retain employees in the face of the Great Resignation.
Well Health is flying under-the-radar as a white-label patient communications platform that lets more than 400 healthcare providers text message their patients via their hospital’s EMR. In the “is it a feature or is it a company?” debate that often surrounds digital front door startups, I ask CEO Guillaume de Zwirek why Well Health has decided to go out as an infrastructure play rather than own the patient relationship itself. How does he see this strategy lending itself to long-term growth?
One of the best-funded startups that I’ve never heard of (they’ve quietly raised $97 million from the likes of Dragoneer, Lead Edge Capital, Twilio Ventures and others) we get into the details behind the business model, the tech that’s supporting their patient comms platform, and why I haven’t heard about these big fundraises.
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