News roundup: CVS-Aetna still on hold, blockchainers Change acquires PokitDoc, Teladoc’s COO resigns under insider cloud, Clapp joins Cricket

Federal Judge Richard Leon of the Washington, DC District Court is taking a consideration break on the integration of CVS and Aetna, after holding it up on 3 December. The Department of Justice (DOJ) originally recommended that the merger was legal under anti-trust law after Aetna divested its prescription drug plan to WellCare and both companies’ settlements with several states. Judge Leon, reviewing under the Tunney Act requirement that the merger meet the public interest, is waiting for the DOJ to respond to further steps that CVS has taken to keep the companies separate. According to Seeking Alpha, CVS will take “constructive measures on pricing and sensitive information” and that an outside monitor would be brought in to monitor the companies commitments. Hartford Courant

Health IT software company Change Healthcare acquired assets of San Mateo-based PokitDoc, a healthcare API and blockchain developer. PokitDoc has developed blockchain transaction networks for EHR and identity verification, automatic adjudication and smart contracts. Its APIs are used by Doctor on Demand, Zipnosis, PillPack, and available on Salesforce Health Cloud. Change’s own blockchain platform was developed in 2017. McKesson owns 70 percent of Change. PokitDoc had funding up to $55 million prior to purchase, the value of which was not disclosed. Mobihealthnews, Health Data Management

Teladoc cut loose its COO/CFO after insider trading and sexual misconduct allegations. Mark Hirschhorn resigned on 17 December from the telemedicine company after being instrumental in the company’s recent revenue and visit growth (albeit with a downward spiral on the share value). Mr. Hirschhorn was alleged to have not only have had a sexual relationship with a (much younger) subordinate while married, but also engaged in mutual insider trading…of Teladoc stock. The steamy details of the affair(s) and an equally seamy tale of a whistleblower’s fate are in the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation’s ‘The Investigator’. For those more concerned about Teladoc’s financial future, a bullish analysis of their stock value and trends is over at Seeking Alpha. Adding to the fire: a class action lawsuit was also filed against Teladoc on behalf of the company’s shareholders, accusing the company of misleading or false statements. Also Mobihealthnews.

And it’s cheering to announce that a respected long-time telehealth executive has found a new perch. Geoff Clapp has joined Cricket Health, a provider of integrated technology around kidney health, as Chief Product Officer. Geoff is an authentic Grizzled Pioneer, having joined early telehealth RPM company HealthHero back in 1998, then their acquirer Bosch Healthcare. He was also founder of Better, which partnered with the Mayo Clinic on providing virtual care coordinators at popular prices for both consumers and health systems. Since then he has consulted for companies as diverse as Telcare (diabetes), Oration (sold to just-acquired PokitDoc), and in venture capital. Congratulations–and happy new year in the new job! Release

Better’s fast fail, ending health assistance service 30 Oct

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Better.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Better is sadly not. This two-year old service that provided personal health assistance, including a real, live health assistant, to guide members through health questions, the thickets of insurance claims, finding doctors and specialists, apps and more, announced earlier this week that it was ending operations as of 30 October. While it was announced via their Twitter feed on Tuesday, most of the industry learned of it through Stephanie Baum’s article in MedCityNews today. Better formally debuted only 16 months ago [TTA 23 Apr 14] and at the time this Editor felt that it was a service in the right direction, a kind of ‘concierge medicine for the masses’ needed when individuals have to direct more and more of their own care.

A solid start, as our Readers have seen, does not guarantee success, but this fast fail is still fairly shocking. A concern at the time was the pricing for the full service model at $49/month, which later became the family price (individuals were $19.99/month). CEO/co-founder Geoff Clapp was among the most Grizzled of Health Tech Pioneers; he had been a co-founder of Health Hero/Health Buddy from 1998 to its sale to Bosch Healthcare, a very long pull in telehealth, and he had spent much of his post-Health Hero time generously advising other startups. Yet despite the involvement of blue chip Mayo Clinic as a service provider, its financial backing from their investment arm and socially-oriented VC Social+Capital Partnership, it managed to raise only its initial seed funding of $5 million (CrunchBase).

So what happened? (more…)

Getting ‘Better’ with a personal health assistant

Is Better going to where better healthcare should be?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/pha.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Making its formal debut last week was Better, an iPhone app (Android to come) developed in conjunction with and backed by the Mayo Clinic. The aim of Better is to deliver information and care no matter where people are located. The analogy co-founder/CEO Geoff Clapp uses is ‘AAA (RAC or AA=UK) for healthcare’ but it seems to be a bit more developed than emergency tows and TripTiks. In its free version, it provides complete access to Mayo Clinic educational content tailored to the user’s interests and provides access to a personal health record (PHR) for the family. In the $49/month premium version, Mayo provides 24/7 national access to a personal health assistant available by phone and video. The PHAs can coordinate your and your family’s providers, help navigate your insurance and billing and coordinate follow up care. If needed, the PHA can connect the user with a Mayo Clinic nurse who can explain symptoms, potential causes and recommend next steps. The paid version also provides a symptom checker, built with algorithms and using the Mayo database.

According to Mr Clapp (interviewed in Mobihealthnews), Better is ‘early’ and trying to define a market. He is encouraged by remarks such as “I’m not sure I totally get it and not sure the world is ready for this” which is similar to what he heard when co-founding Health Hero (now Bosch Health Buddy) in 1998 (among the most Grizzled of Grizzled Pioneers). Also in this interview, he cites a focus on underserved disease groups such as Crohn’s Disease and cystic fibrosis where help is not generally available; eventually they will also move toward telemedicine. Since the sale. he has been mentoring companies at Rock Health. Better has raised $5 million to date between Mayo and Social+Capital Partnership and is located in Palo Alto, California. It’s an interesting spin on concierge medicine–can it be considered ‘concierge healthcare for the masses?’ Given the pedigree and the partners, we expect to hear bigger, better things from Better in the next few months. Also MedCityNews,  the PSFK Labs blog and FastCompany. Video (YouTube)  Hat tips to Bob Pyke, Editor Toni Bunting