What if you crossed Alexa with a robotic healthcare manager?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/pillo_01-625×350.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]You might have a tabletop ‘companion robot’ that’s called, interestingly, Pillo. It doesn’t look like something on a bed, nor does it ambulate, but more like a souped-up pastel colored Alexa with Eyes. Debuting at HIMSS 2018 this week, what is non-Alexa-like about it is that is a voice-responsive Wi-Fi/Bluetooth-connected healthcare manager, interacting with the user on Alexa-type requests but in the main managing (nudging?) their care plan, reminding them of medical appointments, delivering patient education, and dispensing their pre-loaded medications in a cup . Pillo claims to use AI algorithms to manage care, proactively engage with patients, and recognize users via voice and facial recognition. Orbita is supplying the platform for the voice assistant technology.

Pillo appears to be targeted to users with chronic conditions who need assistance in care management and with a connecting mobile app to family caregivers and clinicians. There’s no mention of a tracking platform nor connectivity with medical devices such as glucose meters or blood pressure cuffs. According to Forbes, it will ship in 4th Quarter, no pricing mentioned. Pillo raised $1.5 million in a venture round last August from BioAdvance (Crunchbase) with additional funding from Stanley Ventures, Hikma Ventures (the venture arm of Hikma Pharmaceuticals) and Thompson Family Foundation for a total of $4m (Forbes). It’s hard to tell if this will appeal to or be subsidized by pharma, payers, or Medicare primary care providers such as ACOs because the release is rather opaque on specifics.

CVS sets it up for Aetna with $40 billion in the third-largest bond sale ever

Obviously, CVS is confident of an approved merger and that it will work. CVS issued $40bn of investment-grade debt today (6 March) to finance the purchase of Aetna, according to sources talking to Bloomberg. The attraction was premium interest and other incentives, up to 1.95 percentage points above Treasuries in the 30-year portion of the nine-part offering. This serves to refinance a bridge loan of $49bn from 20 investors that was taken in December to initially finance the $67.5 bn acquisition. 

By Bloomberg’s calculation, the bond sale ranked only behind $40bn +blockbusters from Verizon (2013) and AB InBev (2016). Analysts and portfolio managers cheered at the terms. It’s expected to close by second half 2018. No word yet from DOJ, however, which asked for additional information on 1 Feb which further extends their waiting period. Mutual shareholder meetings are still scheduled for 20 March [TTA 2 Feb].

Another positive investor take is over at Seeking Alpha, citing excellent fundamentals, a diverse revenue stream, and innovation in “management’s commitment to evolve the company for the future” as well as “trying to revolutionize the doctor-patient-pharmacy relationship, and using its convenience store appeal to support it.” But we knew that already! The article goes on to extrapolate on the Amazon Effect and where CVS, with a bit of tweaking (healthier food choices with pre-made options in stores, much as many Duane Reade/Walgreens have in NYC), could steal a march. (Our prior coverage and mentions are here.)