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Ginger and Headspace Merge: CEOs Let Us In On What’s Next for Digital Mental Health Super Company

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

The thinking behind the merger-of-equals between on-demand mental health company, Ginger, and mindfulness and meditation company, Headspace, is revealed in this in-depth chat with Headspace CEO CeCe Morken and Ginger CEO Russell Glass. The combined entity will be known as Headspace Health, with CeCe as its President and Russell as its CEO, and we’re chatting with both of them about go-to-market, strategic direction, and whether or not the next stop is an IPO.

“Low-cost, quality mental healthcare” is where these two minds seem to meet – playing on both Ginger’s reputation for being among the lowest cost providers of on-demand coaching and mental health therapy for the employer market, and Headspace’s budget-friendly, tech-first approach to mental wellness education and training for the masses. This is a critical point of differentiation, especially on the clinical side, where the cost of therapy is oftentimes a barrier for access to it.

Headspace will be rolled out to Ginger’s enterprise clients immediately (playing what sounds like a preventative medicine / early-detection role), but what might be even more exciting are plans to integrate Ginger’s therapy and coaching services into the direct-to-consumer product that has made Headspace a household name.

Is this the move before the BIG MOVE into the public markets? How will the integration work on the data side? And, for you long-time health tech followers and lovers of the digital therapeutics space, I ask about V1 of the Headspace Health brand, which, you might remember, announced bold plans to build the first-ever FDA-approved mindfulness DTx. The new combined entity is not only taking the name – it might one-day get back into the development of mental health digital therapeutics.

Lots to hear in this one as this Headspace Health positions itself to win in both DTC and Enterprise markets, starting Day 1 with 100M lives and 2700 enterprise clients around the world.

Cityblock Health & The ‘At-Risk’ Disruption of Medicaid Care

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

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.”

Trendspotting with Optum’s Direct-to-Consumer VP: Behavior Change Science in Healthcare

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

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.

Behind-the-Scenes Look at New Multidisciplinary Healthcare Conference LIFEITSELF

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

From Bill Gates to Goldie Hawn, Dr. Fauci and Rochelle Walensky to Astronaut Scott Kelly, and magician Penn Jillette to digital health’s own Dr. Daniel Kraft, new conference LIFE ITSELF (Sept 28-Oct 1) promises an eclectic mix of big thinkers from across tech, business, government, entertainment, and healthcare and a truly unique look at 10 big topics shaping the future of health and wellness.

Created, curated and co-hosted by Marc Hodosh (former owner and creator of TEDMED) and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the four-day discussion is intended to be a mind-expanding, multidisciplinary discourse on healthcare topics that range from cost of care to human longevity. We’ve got Marc here to dish about the agenda as it’s being developed, and we’re lucky he’s willing to share a little bit about some of the surprises he and his team have planned.

Quick word to the wise if you’re interested in attending this one: check it out quick and register ASAP. The event is designed to be intimate to facilitate mixing-and-mingling among speakers and attendees within the iconic Hotel del Coronado and that means space is limited. Tune in to hear more and check out all the details at www.lifeitself.health.

One Drop’s Minimally-Invasive Biosensor Is Coming (!) & It Nestles Into an Expansive Data Platform

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF 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!!

The Rise of the Health Coach: YourCoach.Health on Market Opportunity Between Healthcare & Wellness

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

According to the team at YourCoach.Health, health coaching is “the ‘glue’ that’s connecting the $4-trillion wellness economy with the $8-trillion healthcare economy.” And by learning about the growing number of nearly 2,000 health coaches who are engaged in their practice management solution – and the small and mid-sized employers who want to tap into it to provide health coaching to their workforces – its seems like they might be right.

YourCoach’s CEO Marina Borukhovich and COO Eugene Borukhovich walk through the work they are doing to build a platform that both helps health coaches do their jobs better AND find clients within the SMB health benefits market. While “coaching” might often get wrapped around everything from remote monitoring devices and digital therapeutics to care plans for chronic conditions and long-term illnesses, “health coaching” as a credentialed discipline is different.

Marina and Eugene de-mystify the terminology for us, along with the certifications required to be a health coach, the current reimbursement climate for the health service, and where they think the discipline is headed as demand for “human-led, compassion-driven” healthcare booms among both healthcare consumers AND practitioners. A couple little scoops in this one too as we learn about some soon-to-be-released tech features on their platform AND the seed-funded startup’s plans to raise a Series A.

Digital Health Investor Larry Leisure’s Picks for the Next Hot Areas for Healthcare VC Investment

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

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!

Mental Health Startup SonderMind Lands $150M to Tackle ‘THE’ Health Issue of Our Generation

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

SonderMind closes a $150M Series C funding round co-led by Drive Capital and Premji Invest, and we get CEO Mark Frank’s take on what sets THIS digital mental health startup apart from a pack of very well-funded competitors. SonderMind has its own behavioral health therapists, built its own tech stack, delivers care virtually AND in-person, is covered by some of the biggest health plans in the country — Aetna, Anthem, Bright Health, Cigna, Kaiser, Optum, and United Healthcare. (They can also namedrop health-tech-infamous Board member, Jonathan Bush, in an interview, but that’s beside the point!)

What’s most remarkable – and what Mark says most impressed investors this time around – is not only the health of SonderMind’s business model, but also its balance sheet. This raise marks the bulk of the total $183M the startup has raised to-date, and Mark reveals that they’ve only deployed about half of the $27M Series B funding they received in April 2020 in a round led by General Catalyst. How will such a “capital efficient” business begin to deploy these new funds? We hear Mark’s plans for nationwide expansion and improvements to that tech stack, particularly when it comes to better matching therapists and patients based on expertise and need, and more appropriately measuring process and outcomes. Two areas ripe for more tech integration as the mental health provider tackles what Mark calls THE defining health issue of our generation.

Nasdaq’s Dario Health ($DRIO) Does Double Acquisition to Build-out Chronic Condition Care Platform

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

The “platform-ization” of chronic condition care continues among digital health companies and Nasdaq-traded Dario Health ($DRIO) has acquired TWO different startups in 2021 alone to augment their core diabetes management offering and keep up. Both wayForward and Upright are now under the Dario Health banner and CEO Erez Raphael reveals the strategy behind the two buy-outs — which cost the company just about $30M each and will add digital behavioral health and musculoskeletal care for chronic pain to the Dario experience.

Erez believes that the promise of digital health and digital therapeutics is hyper-personalization, and that addressing multiple conditions at the same time, in a seamless integration, is the way to deliver on that value prop. But, he’s not alone. Teladoc’s Livongo, Vida Health, One Drop, and Omada Health are well-funded competitors pitching the same promise of integrated virtual care. So, how will Dario Health stand-out? Erez points to the company’s direct-to-consumer beginnings and tech expertise as differentiators – will that be enough in the crowded US employer and health plan market OR is the total addressable market large enough for Dario to grab a significant share? We chat chronic condition care market penetration strategy with one of its few publicly traded digital health companies.

Ginger for Teens Puts “Full-family Approach” to Mental Health Care in Hands of Employers

By JESSICA DaMASSA, WTF HEALTH

Digital mental health unicorn Ginger has just launched ‘Ginger for Teens’ in an effort to help the 1-in-5 teens currently suffering from mental health disorders, amid what’s being called a “teen mental health crisis.” No doubt parents are at their wit’s end searching for care, and Ginger is hoping that its teen-friendly bundle of self-guided content, behavioral health coaching, and video therapy will support a “full-family” approach to mental health care that will help everyone feel a bit better.

Ginger’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Dana Udall, and Adolescent Services Coordinator, Dr. Dena Scott, share their insights on the teen mental health crisis, including the myriad factors they had to consider as they re-tooled Ginger’s offering to meet the needs of this new client base. Ginger for Teens will roll out to all of Ginger’s nearly 650 employer clients by the end of the year, helping teens gain access via their parents’ health plans at work. And beyond Ginger’s employer-sponsored health plan base? Will Ginger for Teens roll out to its health plan clients too? Don’t think we forgot about that first-of-its-kind national contract with Cigna and the potential that partnership could hold to help millions of families nationwide. So, what are the big plans for bringing up the supply-side of teen mental health care? Find out more by tuning in…

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