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Snoop Last Year’s Bayer G4A Startups, Then Apply

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By JESSICA DA MASSA, WTF HEALTH

With the application deadline for Bayer’s G4A Partnerships program coming up on Friday, I thought I’d throw out a little inspiration to would-be applicants by featuring an interview I did with one of last year’s program participants at the grand-finale Launch Event.

Not only was this a great party, but a microcosm of the G4A program experience itself: a way to meet Bayer execs en-masse, an opportunity to sell directly to key decision-makers across Bayer’s various global business units, and a chance to feed off the energy of like-minded innovators eager to see ‘big health care’ change for the better.

While the G4A program itself has changed a bit this year to be more streamlined and to allow for bespoke deal-making that may or may not involve giving up equity (my favorite new feature), startups questioning whether or not they have what it takes should take a look at some alums.

There’s a playlist with nearly two dozen interviews waiting for you here if you’re REALLY up for some procrastinating, or you can click through and just check out my chat with Joe Curcio, CEO of KinAptic. A healthtech startup taking wearables to the bleeding edge, Joe shows us a mock-up of the KinAptic ‘smart shirt’ which features their real innovation: printed ink electronics that look and feel like screenprinting ink, but work bi-directionally to both collect data from the body AND apply signals back to it. Is it AI-enabled? Did you have to ask? Listen in for a mindblowing chat about how this tech can change diagnostic analysis and treatment and completely redefine our current limitations when it comes to healthcare wearables.Once you’re inspired, don’t forget to head over to www.g4a.health and fill out your own application for this year’s partnership program.

Jessica DaMassa is the host of the WTF Health show & stars in Health in 2 Point 00 with Matthew Holt

Investment State-of-Play in Big Pharma: Bayer’s Eugene Borukhovich Weighs In

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Bayer’s G4A team launched their 2019 program today, so here’s a little help for anyone curious about the state of pharma startup investment and what it takes to land a deal there these days.

I had the chance to pick the brain of Bayer’s Global Head of Digital Health, Eugene Borukhovich, during JP Morgan Healthcare Week and pulled out these three gloriously thought-provoking soundbites from our conversation to give you some insight as to the mindset over at big Bayer.

  • “Digital therapeutics are shining light on the convoluted, complex mess of digital health”

If you’ve wondered what lies ‘beyond the pill’ for Big Pharma, wonder no more. It seems the answer is digital therapeutics. Eugene predicts that “within the next couple of years, ‘digital health’ as a term will disappear,” and calls out organizations like the Digital Therapeutics Alliance for their efforts to set standards around evidence-base and behavior modification so regulators and strategic investors alike can properly evaluate claims made by health tech startups. As time goes on, it looks like efforts to ‘pharma-lize’ the ways startups take their solutions to market will increase, pushing them into more traditional go-to-market pathways that have familiar and comforting guidelines in place. As Eugene says, “Ultimately, what we say in my team, is that it’s about health in a digital world today.” Sounds like that’s true for both the products he’s seeking AND the way pharma is looking to bring them to market… 

  • “These multi-hundred million [dollar] press releases are great to a certain extent, but what happened to the start-up style mentality?”

When asked about Big Tech getting into Big Health, in the end, it seems, Eugene shakes out to be in favor of the ‘Little Guy’ – or, at least, in their approach. Don’t miss his comments about “cockiness in our healthcare industry” and how Big Tech is working around that by partnering up, but the salient point for startups is that big companies still seem very much interested in buddying with smaller businesses. It’s for all the same reasons as before: agility, the ability to iterate quickly, and the opportunity to do so within reasonable budgets. Eugene offered this telling rhetorical musing: “Just because it’s a combination of two big giants…do you need to do $500 million? Or, do you give some…traction, milestone, [etc.]…to prove it, just like a start-up would?”

  • “In large organizations, transformation equals time, and…we don’t have time.”

“To me,” says Eugene, “the biggest challenge is actually landing these inside the organization.” He’s talking about novel health solutions – digital therapeutics or otherwise – after learning from previous G4A cycles. Culture, precedent, and years of market success loom large in big healthcare companies across the ecosystem, which is one reason why innovation inside them is so challenging. Eugene says he’s “a big believer in a small team – even in large organizations – to take something by the cojones, and get shit done, and move it forward, and push the envelope from the bureaucracy and the process.” There’s a sense of urgency to ‘innovate or die’ in the face of the growing competition in the healthcare industry. “Back to this earlier conversation around whether it’s tech giants or other companies,” he adds, “it is a race to the speed of the organization. How quickly we learn and how quickly we make the decisions. Bottom line, that’s it.”

There’s plenty more great insights and trend predictions where these came from, plus the juicy details behind how G4A itself has pivoted this year. Check out the full interview now.

Insights from a Verily Venture Investor on Health Data & Dollars

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF Health

Google’s Verily has a $1Billion dollar investment fund and a nearly limitless talent pool of data scientists and engineers at the ready. So, how are they planning to invest in a better future for health?

Luba Greenwood, Strategic Business Development & Corporate Ventures for Verily told me how the tech giant is thinking about the big data opportunity in healthcare – and, more importantly, what they see as their role in helping scale it in unprecedented ways.

So, where should other health tech investors place their bets, then? Luba’s previous successes investing in digital health and health technology while at Roche (FlatIron, MySugr, etc.) give her a unique perspective on the ‘state-of-play’ in healthcare investment…but has the game changed now that she’s in another league at Verily? Listen in to find out.

Filmed at the Together.Health Spring Summit at HIMSS 2019 in Orlando, Florida, February 2019.

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

Build-Your-Own ‘Squad’ – YourCoach Redefines Health Coaching

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Health coaches are playing an ever-more important role in healthcare, but there’s no one single authority when it comes to finding one — or vetting them for that matter — until now.

Marina Borukhovich, CEO of startup YourCoach, talks about how she hopes to disrupt health coaching after she learned the value of having a ‘squad’ of experts help her through her breast cancer journey.

In fact, ‘Squads’ are the value-add that YourCoach is hoping will set them apart. The app’s signature feature is that it lets you build-your-own team of experts who can work together to tackle any aspect of health and wellness.

“We’re connecting coaches from around the world who are going to lead the client holistically,” explains Marina. “So, it could be diabetes support, it could be pull[ing] somebody in who does meditation, they could bring in a business coach. It just really depends on the person…and what you need as a person.”

“We’re building ‘Team YOU.”

Joining in on the fun in this interview is Eugene Borukhovich, who some of you will recognize as the face of Bayer’s G4A program.

Eugene serves as an advisor to YourCoach and is also Marina’s husband — possibly making them the “Beyonce & Jay-Z” power couple of digital health. Is this a blessing or a curse? Apparently, there are 3am pitch practices that sound like the solid foundation of any marriage.

Listen in to meet them both.

Filmed at JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, January 2019.

Come Together.Health, Right Now…Over Me

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

At HIMSS19, the year-old ‘Digital Health Collaborative’ announced its relaunch as ‘Together.Health.’ More than just a feel-good name, the new moniker is indicative of how the organization is literally trying to help the health innovation world ‘get its #%&! together.’

“We’re building a hub-and-spoke model,” says Stephen Konya of the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

He and Nick Dougherty of MassChallenge Health Tech are founding co-chairs for Together.Health and the pair have managed to build a roster of more than 40 different partners – including almost every digital health accelerator and incubator in the country. Add into the mix  some of the biggest health innovation investors in the biz, the usual healthcare incumbents, and a number of different government organizations and economic development groups with local, regional, and federal reach and one begins to clearly see how Together.Health is filling a void for ‘spokes’ that were definitely missing the connecting power of a ‘hub.’

But, what’s the real value of all this together-ness? According to Konya and Dougherty, faster uptake for innovation in healthcare.

For example, the organization’s first project is the development of a standard Business Associates Agreement (BAA) for startups and health systems to use to streamline the onerous paperwork process required before piloting or deploying new solutions. This is a process that currently takes 9-12 months and varies by health system. Together.Health thinks they can shorten that timeframe to 2-3 months just by getting the right people into the room and agreeing to keep 80% of the questions in the assessment in a standard format. The idea is meant to help prevent startups from ‘running out of runway’ (and their health system champions from simply ‘running away’ in frustration), while everyone waits for the necessary paperwork to make its way through Legal.

The pragmatism doesn’t stop there. Listen in to my interview with Stephen Konya to hear about the two other challenges Together.Health is taking on this year: putting together a common curriculum for health accelerator programs and mapping the US Health Innovation Ecosystem.

Want to get a jump on learning what’s happening in some of those health innovation pockets in the US? I had the opportunity to interview 10 ecosystem leaders at the Together.Health Spring Summit at HIMSS and the variety of conversations (and concerns) they share is pretty remarkable.

You can check out the whole Together.Health playlist here, or wait for a few of my favs (and their dishy gossip!) to make an appearance here on THCB over the next week.

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

The Business Case for Social Determinants of Health

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

How can understanding the underlying social risks impacting patient populations improve health outcomes AND save health plans some serious per-member-per-month costs? You’re probably familiar with the concept of ‘Social Determinants of Health’ (SDOH) but Dr. Trenor Williams and his team at health startup Socially Determined are building a business around it.

By looking at data around what Trenor calls ‘the Significant 7’ social determinants (social isolation, food insecurity, housing, transportation, health literacy, and crime & violence) he and his team are working to help health plans intervene with their most vulnerable populations and bring down costs.

What kind of data is Socially Determined looking at? Everything from publicly available data on housing prices and air quality, to commercial datasets on buying preferences and more. Plus, with help from their health plan partners, they’re using clinical and claims data to create a complete picture of health care spend, utilization, and outcomes.

Trenor walks through some very specific examples in this interview to help illustrate his point. In one, Socially Determined was able to identify how Medicaid could better help asthmatics manage their asthma AND save a thousand dollars per affected member each month. Another project in Ohio identified that a mother with a history of housing eviction was 40% more likely to give birth to a baby requiring NICU care – opening up myriad opportunities for early intervention and the potential to positively impact the lifetime health of both mother and child.

As healthcare continues to realize its ‘data play’ – and look beyond the typical data sets available to healthcare companies – the opportunities for real and meaningful impact are tremendous. Listen in to hear more about what Trenor sees as the new opportunity for Social Determinants of Health.

Filmed at AHIP’s Consumer Experience & Digital Health Forum in December 2018.

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

How to Become an Empowered Patient | ePatient Dave de Bronkart

“When doctors today say patients should stay off the Internet, I know they’re wrong.” — ePatient Dave de Bronkart

Dave de Bronkart (aka ePatient Dave) credits online communities of other patients – and access to clinical research he found on his stage 4 cancer diagnosis – to saving his life more than a decade ago. Fast forward, and this patient advocate has taken his mantra, “Let Patients Help,” to the TedTalk stage and beyond.

As health care continues to shift its focus from ‘patients’ to ‘consumers,’ how can we all be better, more empowered participants in this system that, despite its best efforts, remains closed, difficult to understand, and challenging to navigate?

I caught up with Dave to talk about his definition of what it means to be a ‘consumerist patient advocate’ and get his suggestions for how we can all better partner with our doctors and nurses when it comes to improving our health. The magic ingredient is data – namely, access to it in a frictionless and open way – so that we can be fully involved in learning about our health and able to set priorities when it comes to preserving it.

How did access to health data prevent serious health consequences in Dave’s life? He’s got more than one story to prove this point – oh, and a great little rap (yes, that kind of rap) at the end.

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

Health Plan Innovation Gets a ‘New Look’ | AHIP’s CEO Matt Eyles

“I don’t know that what they’re doing is going to be as transformative as maybe the potential of it is – and it’s going to take time. I don’t know that they’re going to ‘all-of-a-sudden’ leap frog over all the things that health plans have been doing for decades. I think they’re going to learn that this is really complicated stuff…” 

Health plan innovation got a makeover this year. What used to look like value-based care models and telehealth visits has transformed. Health plan innovation is sexier – with big-dollar M&A deals like CVS-Aetna and Cigna-ExpressScripts looking to flatten the industry. Meanwhile, brand name collaborations like Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JP Morgan may prove that payment model innovation is unexpectedly ‘label-conscious.’

So, how are health plans dealing with this startling new look? And what should health tech startups who want their innovation investment dollars do now??

Continue reading…

The Case for Open Innovation in Health | Sara Holoubek of Luminary Labs

“Most large healthcare companies will have numerous teams – innovation teams, maybe a venture fund, business units – all doing different things,” says Sara Holoubek, CEO of Luminary Labs, a consultancy known in healthcare for its expertise staging open innovation challenges. “How much more powerful would it be if everyone agreed on a common investment thesis? ‘We know our business model is changing and, therefore, where is our big bet?’”

The ‘big bet’ is not always easy for stakeholders in healthcare companies to agree on. Hence, Sara’s advocacy for open innovation, a methodology built for collaboration both internal and external to the organization. She’s been masterminding challenges, hackathons, participatory design sessions, and the like in healthcare for years, helping pharma companies, health plans, health systems and government organizations gain access to new ideas from external problem solvers and startups.

Open innovation not only brings much-needed agility to the way these big companies develop products, build partnerships, or pivot into new markets, but it also helps clarify which business problems the organization is actually trying to solve.

Large organization or small, how do you know when it’s time to take your innovation efforts outside? How do you make sure that your open innovation attempt is truly a ‘challenge’ and not just a splashy brainstorming session or hackathon to nothing?

A few weeks back, Luminary Labs published ‘The State of Open Innovation Report’ in effort to help benchmark the practice and build its business case as a worthwhile methodology for business innovation. Seeds of the report can be found in this interview. Listen in as Sara defines the practice and shares her tips and best practices.

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

AMA to Health Tech: Call a Doctor

“That’s why we’re investing so heavily in the innovation space…we look at physicians and how they’re spending their days. The amount of time they’re spending clicking away on their EHRs, wasting time – we think we can help fix it. It’s been a lot of years of other people not fixing it. We think it’s time for physicians to actually be in the rooms helping to make those solutions.” — Dr. Jack Resneck, Chairman of the Board, AMA

Sounds to me like physicians are a little disappointed in health tech. Don’t get me wrong. This is not another ‘digital health snake oil’ controversy. (Although we do go there…)

Instead, my main takeaway from this conversation with Dr. Jack Resneck, Chairman of the Board for the AMA, is that physicians don’t exactly feel included or engaged in the tech revolution happening in healthcare.

In short, while docs are excited about innovation, it seems they don’t feel heard. So much so that the AMA has created its own Silicon Valley-based ‘business formation and commercialization enterprise’ called Health2047 to prioritize solution development for what physicians have deemed the biggest systemic issues in healthcare. What’s out there is just missing the mark and, in more instances than not, says Dr. Resneck, the practicing physician’s perspective on what problems need to be solved in the first place.

I open this interview by asking what digital health entrepreneurs and health tech startups can do to work more effectively with physicians. The answer, it seems, might be as simple as ‘just ask your doctor.’

Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health

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