Mid-week news roundup: Elevance-BCBSLA, SCAN-CareOregon mergers scuttled; Amwell’s $679M loss, layoffs; Invitae genetics files Ch. 11; innovations released from DeepScribe, Essence SmartCare (DE), fall detection at Atrium Health (SC)

The unforgiving environment for mergers continues. Two payer mergers that seemed fairly reasonable have stalled or been scuttled due to regulatory and policyholder concerns. 

  • Elevance Health (the former Anthem) a multi-state Blue/non-Blue payer, was willing to buy a struggling Blue, BCBS Louisiana (BCBSLA), for $2.5 billion. BCBSLA has again ‘paused’ the process and offer that started last year, with a second withdrawal (the first in September 2023) of its amended filing in December with the Louisiana department of insurance. They also canceled a policyholder meeting and vote scheduled for next week. The reasons why in the BCBSLA statement hint at significant and well-timed opposition to their transition from a Blue non-profit to a for-profit insurer. They reaffirm that they need a partner, but “now is not the right time to make this bold step.” This sounds very final and The End.  FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive  
  • Across the country in Oregon, two smaller payers, SCAN Group and CareOregon, called off a long-planned merger (December 2022). HealthRight Group would have brought together two non-profits with SCAN in Medicare Advantage in five states and CareOregon heavily covering Medicaid members. It faced opposition from Oregon regulatory bodies scheduled to rule on it in the next few weeks, with the state’s Medicaid Advisory Committee nixing it based on SCAN’s California-based ownership. FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive

Amwell not having a good start to its year either. The other large integrated telehealth pioneer provider announced earlier this week a 2023 loss of $679 million, up from $272 million in 2022, and a 10% cut in staff as of the end of the year. What’s eyewatering is that $436 million of the losses were impairment charges caused by a sustained decline in its share price during the first three quarters. The staff cuts will create $15 million in compensation-related savings, which after the amount of the impairment charges seem like pocket change. Revenue declined 6% versus 2022. Some of this is related to Amwell’s transition from its original system to the new Converge platform.

But as typically in the bad news/good news paradigm, there is a ‘path to profitability’ charted by 2025 boosted by a major contract with the US Defense Health Agency in partnership with Leidos. This is part of the Digital First initiative for the Military Health System (MHS) and will replace the MHS Video Connect system with Amwell Converge, a contract that is worth up to $180 million [TTA 2 Nov 23]. In 2024, Amwell will concentrate on expanding its tech partnerships with current customers and winning new clients, according to management on the earnings call. Amwell’s shares are a cheap buy at just over $1.30, but this Editor’s experience is that Federal contracts especially with DOD or related are unpredictable in cash flow. Just ask Oracle. FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive

Invitae, a genetics testing data company, filed Chapter 11. It’s another sign that this former darling sector of health tech/biotech has fallen on hard times (see 23andMe, TTA 2 Feb). This week’s filing in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, an unusual venue for this San Francisco-based company, requests the court to permit the use of cash on hand to fund continued operations as it seeks to sell. The company listed assets of $500 million to $1 billion, but liabilities of $1 billion to $10 billion. Invitae went public back in 2015 as a provider-patient driven genetics company previously spun off from Genomic Health. Their shares reached a high of over $56 in the crazy days of December 2020. Shares on OTC are now $0.019. Mobihealthnews, Reuters, Invitae release

Enough with the bad news–let’s look at some innovations.

DeepScribe, a generative AI platform for medical documentation, yesterday announced their new Trust and Safety Suite with three new features:

  1. Clinical Moments: This allows users to trace AI-generated medical notes back to their origins in the clinical conversation
  2. Note Insights: an audit dashboard that provides administrators with a snapshot of DeepScribe’s performance across an organization
  3. Expert Human Audits: DeepScribe’s expert human audits team will review notes and grade the outputs against DeepScribe’s clinical accuracy framework for users and administrators, and then provide customized suggestions to improve output accuracy.

Release, also HIT Consultant

Essence SmartCare was selected as the sole technology provider for Germany’s INES project. INES (intelligent emergency detection system) is an older adult support initiative led by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), one of the largest health insurance funds in Germany, with the participation of nine other partners, and sponsored by the Innovation Fund. The INES project objective is to determine how intelligent alert and emergency systems can improve the care of seniors living independently. The test in three regions in Germany is with 2,000 seniors 75+ living alone. It started in June 2023 and will be in place for 21 months. It will use the MDsense radar-based home monitoring and alert system plus Voice Extender that calls emergency services and permits 2-way calls from any room in the home. Israel-based Essence technologies cover emergency response for the care of older adults at home, on the go, and vital signs monitoring at home and in hospital. This Editor last covered Essence back in September 2020 and am glad to see them still around. However, will the system continue to be used in support of these seniors after the 21 months are up?  Release

Hospital fall detection with the aim of fall prevention is being implemented at South Carolina’s Atrium Health. This was spearheaded by nursing staff to replace an inadequate system for fall detection and prevention. The new system, the Hester Davis Falls Program, permits additional analysis of patient dynamics of falls, identifies trends, and implements targeted interventions to improve outcomes. More in Healthcare IT News

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