Short takes: Virtual Therapeutics, Akili in $34M merger; why health clinics are struggling; Dollar General, DocGo call it quits; Clover Assistant AI debuts; fundings for Wanda Health (UK), Updoc (AU); Telstra buys out Fred IT (AU)

Two mental health companies with complementary digital therapeutics plan to merge. Virtual Therapeutics, which approaches mental health through VR-enabled games, and Akili Interactive, with online prescription games designed for ADHD and other cognitive impairments, yesterday announced plans to merge. The new company will retain the Virtual Therapeutics name and go private, with Akili operating as a subsidiary. The cash buyout to Akili shareholders will be based on $0.4340 per share of common stock (Nasdaq) or $34 million, a premium around 4%. Akili had announced on 29 April that it was seeking “strategic alternatives”. Shares were trading then at $0.235 so the offering is over an 80% premium to that time. In May, Akili announced a reduced Q1 2024 net loss compared to Q4 2023. The transaction is expected to close in Q3, subject to Akili retaining a specified cash position and a tender conversion. Management transitions have not been disclosed. Release, MedTechDive

Why are all the health tech clinics struggling–at once? CNBC polls a group of experts and deduces that what it calls the “2.0 version of primary care” in Walmart Health, CVS Minute Clinics (closing dozens of Minute Clinics in Southern California and New England), and  Walgreens’ VillageMD, is foundering under:

  • Thin to non-existent margins–reimbursements are low, but the expenses of running them are high
  • Lack of ‘volume selling’
  • Lack of workforce–doctors don’t want to go to rural areas, which was Walmart’s bet. Nurse-practitioners can’t care for patients (and bill) if they also are detailed to do cleanup 
  • Cross-selling a flop–if you’re in for a pint of milk, Advil, or shampoo, you’re not going into the clinic, and vice versa

A 3.0 model may have a lot of variants, such as One Medical’s subscription model ($9/month for Amazon Prime members). Walgreens is opening a few in-store health clinics in the Hartford, Connecticut area to be run by Hartford HealthCare. In Arizona, a local Be Well Health Clinic near Arizona State University operates in a Walgreens and treats only sexual health issues. Kroger’s Atlanta-area Little Clinics will focus only on senior care.

One 3.0 experiment, DocGo’s vans in Dollar General parking lots, is over. Last year’s headscratching move to place DocGo’s urgent, preventative, and chronic care vans at specified hours in rural Dollar General parking lots [TTA 24 Jan 2023] was canceled some weeks ago. It never expanded beyond the three Tennessee locations, two in Clarksville and one in Cumberland Furnace that started last year. Endpoints

Health plan Clover to separately market their Assistant AI tool for clinical decision-making. Counterpart Assistant will be offered to other payers outside Clover Medicare Advantage along with providers in ACOs and value-based care enablers (sic) as an AI-assisted service, in a hybrid SaaS and per member per month (PMPM) shared-savings model. The pitch is to lower per-life customer acquisition cost and allow physicians to use one tool for all MA patients. FierceHealthcare

Fundings in UK and Australia:

UK’s Wanda Health adding a 30% investment from VC investment group NetScientific plc. Wanda Connected Health Systems Ltd. has operations in Bristol and Seattle.  It’s a second-time-around for NetScientfic, as it was an early Wanda investor but sold its 90% interest in Wanda US to Deeptech Disruptive Growth Investments Ltd in 2019. Wanda Health provides remote patient monitoring feeding into a virtual care platform. Insider Media

Australia’s Updoc telehealth raised A$20 million ($13.2 million) in investment from ASX-listed capital investor Bailador. It offers virtual consultations, online prescriptions, specialist referrals, pathology referrals, and medical letters for a single payment or on subscription. The funding will be used for international expansion and technology development. To date, it has served 200,000 Australians.  Mobihealthnews

In more news from Down Under, Telstra Health buys out the remainder of Fred IT Group. Telstra already owned 50% of the pharmacy IT solutions provider and is buying out the Victoria branch of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and Paul Naismith, Fred IT co-founder and CEO. The CEO, management, and employees will remain in place. Fred IT, through eRx, is the only national electronic prescription delivery service in Australia since last year. Right Said Fred? Mobihealthnews

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