The CVS-Aetna hearing is on the move–finally

The train that is the CVS-Aetna hearing, in the courtroom presided over by Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, is at long last chugging down the tracks. And Pauline is still tied up. Tuesday 4 June was Day 1 of this hearing. Early reports are just being filed. The issue is whether Judge Leon will authorize the Department of Justice’s approval of the merger or dissolve a closed merger, based on his authority under the Tunney Act and his own repeated intent to search for harm that the merger might do to the public. 

Today’s hearing focused on Aetna’s divestiture of its Medicare Part D business as a prelude to the merger, and whether it was quite enough. Much of the discussion was on the relative strength of the buyer, WellCare (itself in the early stages of being acquired), and whether it could be truly competitive in the Part D market. The other factor is that CVS as a dominant pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) could undermine WellCare in several ways. PBMs operate opaquely and are highly concentrated, with CVS, Optum (UnitedHealthcare), and Cigna-Express Scripts accounting for 70 percent of the market. Modern Healthcare

Other issues for Days 2 and 3 will cover the effects on competition in health insurance, retail pharmacy and specialty pharmacy.

Healthcare Dive discusses how these hearings are already setting precedent on how Tunney Act hearings are conducted, their scope (Judge Leon has ruled against every attempt by CVS-Aetna to limit it), and the unprecedented live testimony.  There is the good possibility that Judge Leon will decide to dissolve the merger for competitive reasons, which DOJ likely would appeal. Add to this the cost of the delayed integration and the precedent set by the District Court on scrutiny of any healthcare merger, and this tedious hearing along with Judge Leon’s actions leading to it hold major consequences.

Contact lenses as a drug delivery system take home MIT Sloan Healthcare prize

This Editor has been covering contact lenses in health tech since at least 2013–contact lenses that detect glucose for diabetics (Google/Novartis/Alcon), eye pressure (Sensimed), and even detect multiple diseases (Oregon State University). None to date have made it into commercial release.

Here’s another try, this time from this year’s winner of the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovation Prize competition. Theraoptix won the $25,000 grand prize, sponsored by Optum. The lenses are designed to deliver eye medication on a time release basis using a thin polymer film formed into a tiny circular strip sandwiched into the lens material. They can be worn for up to two weeks to slowly but constantly deliver drugs in the treatment of diseases like glaucoma or after surgery. It can also deliver drugs effectively for back of the eye treatment of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and similar diseases that today require in-office injections.

Theraoptix was developed by Lokendra Bengani Ph.D. of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. It was based on core technology by ophthalmologist Joseph B. Ciolino MD, who is Dr. Bengani’s mentor. We wrote about Dr. Ciolino’s research previously [TTA 7 Sept 16] including a look back at contact lens research. There were seven other finalists, of which the most interesting to this Editor was Kinematics shoe insole sensors for gait detection analysis (and fall prevention).  MIT News

Optum/UnitedHealth clinches $1.3 bn deal for Advisory Board’s healthcare practice

The Advisory Board consultancy group confirmed its splitup and sale, as originally reported by TTA in mid-July. The Optum data analytics/information/consultancy unit of UnitedHealth Group is acquiring the healthcare practice for $1.3 bn and the education consultancy will be purchased by Vista Equity Partners for $1.55 bn. 

According to Bloomberg, The Advisory Board has 3,800 employees and roughly $807 million in annual revenue. Reports indicate that it has served over 4,400 healthcare clients. According to the Washington Business Journal, regulatory filings show it will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Optum headed by Advisory Board Chairman and CEO Robert Musslewhite. As to relocation, Advisory Board spokespersons confirmed that they will still be moving into a new headquarters on New York Avenue NW, indicating that a move to Minnetonka is not imminent and that at least some of the management will stay. There is no word on relocation out of Washington for the education practice. At closing, outstanding shares of Advisory Board will convert at $52.65 per share, plus an additional amount per share based on the after-tax value of Advisory Board’s 7.6 percent stake in publicly traded Evolent Health. The deal is expected to close by early 2018.

This confirms an earlier trend of healthcare consultancies merging and cross-acquiring. In July, Dublin’s UDG Healthcare acquired Philadelphia-based healthcare consultancy Vynamic last week, gaining a US foothold, then added marketing/communications company Cambridge BioMarketing in Boston. Rumors still have publicly-traded Evolent Health as a likely acquirer or acquiree of a healthcare consultancy. WTOP, Reuters

 

Optum’s Utopia of proactive patient care–without telehealth

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/question_mark.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]And we wonder why telehealth patient monitoring is floundering and telemedicine is only starting to take off? In this Editor’s reading today, up came this rather glossy, beautifully designed advertorial web page in The Atlantic sponsored by healthcare services provider/holding company Optum. It describes a proactive, highly supportive care process that starts with the diagnosis of a chronic condition (in this case developing CHF) through a ‘health scare’ handled at an urgent care versus a hospital ED, then to care at home (from a highly engaged nurse-practitioner no less) and a patient who, suitably engaged, is “responsibly managing her condition through a wellness approach” and has an improved lifestyle.

Other than an EMR (integrated between provider and urgent care–but EHR is the more current term), no other technology other than telephonic is mentioned in this rosy picture. Where’s the telehealth app that touches our patient, letting her chart her weight, breathing and general wellness, sending it to her EHR and alerting that nurse so she can truly be proactive in seeing changes in her patient’s health? Where’s the telemedicine virtual visit capability, especially if our patient’s out of breath outside of normal office hours, or there’s a blizzard and that nurse can’t visit? Here’s all the infrastructure built up for integrated care, but where’s the technology assistance and savings on home health visits and transportation for the patient?

It can’t be that Optum doesn’t know about what telehealth/telemedicine can do and the role it already plays in care? It can’t be that it doesn’t fit in the integrated care infrastructure? Or does it have to do with reimbursement? (Optum is the parent of giant insurer United HealthcareReaders’ thoughts?

Breaking news confirmed: Bosch exiting healthcare and telehealth in US–UPDATED

Breaking News–UPDATED with Bosch response

Bosch has confirmed they are closing their telehealth business in the US. Please see their statement at the end of this article.

A home care industry newsletter, along with our own reliable industry sources, have confirmed the recent industry discussion that Bosch Healthcare, since January a solely US operation, is winding down its business without a definite turnover to a buyer. This Editor, in calling various departments in their Palo Alto, California offices for confirmation on Thursday, was (when she reached a human being) forwarded to HR where she could leave only voice mail. An email to marketing also received no response. All sources indicate that staff layoffs took place last Monday.

Editor’s Note: Bosch’s official press response follows this article. We have also made certain corrections to this article (see in red).

  1. The Home Care Technology Report, published by industry consultant Tim Rowan, on Wednesday posted two articles stating that Bosch laid off nearly all of its staff on Monday (15 June) save for customer service and some key operating areas. His information indicated that Health Buddy sales–new and existing orders–have been terminated. This includes orders placed through its McKesson partnership. Non-VA service will be terminated in 60 to 90 days.
  2. Home Care Technology also reported that Bosch’s business with the Veterans Health Administration (VA) will be maintained through April 2016, which is near to the contract end in May, but no new units will be delivered. The original contract was with Health Buddy hub developer Health Hero Network, sold to Bosch in 2008With the later acquisition of ViTel Net, Bosch developed into one of the two leading VA Home Telehealth remote monitoring hub suppliers–the other being Cardiocom. VA Home Telehealth is the largest telehealth program in the US with over 156,000 patients (Federal Year 2014) (Ed. Note: VA has a third authorized and active VA supplier, Viterion).

As Mr Rowan did, this Editor will speculate on the reasons why there is this reported exit without a sale or spinoff, despite the substantial VA and other healthcare placements of Health Buddy. Our take is somewhat different than his: (more…)

Do startups truly threaten the ‘healthcare establishment’?

Or are successful startups fitting into their game? Chris Seper in MedCityNews paints the picture of one side of a quandary. The ‘healthcare establishment’ fundamentally and to its detriment does not understand and is threatened by the startup and innovation process. A startup may begin with an idea which is, in his words, ‘almost always flawed, sometimes deeply’. If the founders are smart, they will test their ideas, validate them and change them appropriately. If not, they will fail. But it is easier for the Establishment to point at the most egregious of the bad ideas and use them to rationalize the status quo.

But being congenital contrarians, we paint the house on the other side of the street. Has the Establishment caught up with–or in some cases, co-opted startups, making them and their funders ‘do their diligence’ and be more cautious before emerging? This Editor would argue yes, and largely for the better.

**The ‘Wild West’ days are over. A few years ago, a truly bad or deeply flawed health tech idea or could easily find funding, because it was all blank slate, new and ‘transformative’.The sexiest hooks were Quantified Self, sleep, employer health incentives, interactive coaching, genomics, app prescribing and (last) wearables. A lot of founders imagined themselves as the Steve Jobs of Healthcare, down to the black turtleneck. Now there is a history of success and failure. The railroads reached the dusty frontier towns.

**There’s now a ‘Startup Establishment’. National accelerators (more…)

Looking back over Telehealth & Telecare Aware’s predictions for 2014, part II

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/magic-8-ball.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Editor Charles has treated you to a look back on his 2014 predictions, daring Editor Donna to look back on hers. Were they ‘Decidedly so’, ‘Yes’, ‘Reply hazy, try again’ or ‘My sources say no’? Read on…

On New Year’s Day 2014, it looked like “the year of reckoning for the ‘better mousetraps’”? But the reckoning wasn’t quite as dramatic as this Editor thought.

We are whipping past the 2012-13 Peak of Inflated Expectations in health tech, diving into the Trough of Disillusionment in 2014.

There surely were companies which turned up ‘Insolvent with a great idea’ in Joe Hage’s (LinkedIn’s huge Medical Devices Group) terms, but it was more a year of Big Ideas Going Sideways than Crash and Burns.

Some formerly Great Ideas may have a future, just not the one originally envisioned. (more…)

Tunstall’s challenging year: results reported

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Big-T-thumb-480×294-55535.gif” thumb_width=”150″ /]Breaking News. The topline of Tunstall Healthcare Group’s 2014 results (through 30 Sept 14) is now (partly) public thanks to the Yorkshire Post, Tunstall’s ‘hometown paper’. (We do note that it was published on 23 Dec, in the ‘dead of night’ rolling up to the Christmas holiday.) Notably, there is no report on the Tunstall website and it is too early to show on standard corporate reporting sites such as DueDil and CompanyCheck. The YP article appears to be written partly in press release-speak, which we do not fault them for on limited news available. In summary:

  • In the 2014 FY ended 30 September, revenues were £215 million. FY2013 was £221 million, a decrease of £6 million (2.7 percent).
  • A corresponding but greater EBITDA (earnings before interest taxation depreciation and amortization) drop to £43.0 million. FY 2013 was £52.7 million, a decrease of £9.7 million (18.4 percent).
  • The good news: revenues up 6.8 percent in the Nordics, Southern Europe, Central Europe, and Australasia; Spain’s Televida as a market leader also a bright spot [TTA 19 Dec].
  • No such good news in UK and the US  (more…)

Short Tuesday takes

Alere, Optum, Wyss, Proteus, Soreon Research, Baywater Healthcare

Alere Health to be acquired by Optum. Alere is selling its condition, wellness and case management group for $600 million to the health services subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. The surprise is that Alere Health, which presently serves 22 million patients in 29 states, includes two service lines considered hot: analytics and connected health. Alere Connect, the former MedApps, is included in this sale. Alere (the parent company) will be concentrating on rapid diagnostics. Alere Health release, fact sheet….Vibrating insoles may help to guide the balance-impaired, eventually. Research on stochastic resonance as an aid to balance and gait has been researched for nearly ten years–our earliest article on it was written by former EIC Steve in 2006. The current study tested ‘white noise’ to help lower the level of buzzing needed to generate stimulus in the feet. Conducted by the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) at Hebrew SeniorLife, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, and Merck Sharpe and Dohme (MSD) Consumer Care. (more…)