CVS works their plan in Oak Street Health buy talks, Carbon Health $100M investment + clinic pilot; VillageMD-Summit finalizes (updated)

CVS, Walgreens, Amazon, Walmart all chasing the same type of companies to expand their service continuum. During their Q2 2022 earnings call, CVS Health announced that they were determined to enhance their services in three categories: primary care, provider enablement, and home health. And CVS’ CEO Karen Lynch was pretty blunt about it: “We can’t be in the primary care without M&A” (sic). So CVS’ latest moves should come as no surprise.

Oak Street Health: CVS is in talks with this value-based care primary care provider for primarily older adults in Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. With 100 offices nationally, it’s not too small, not too large to combine with other operations. As a public company traded on the NYSE but puttering along in the $13-$22 per share range since the fall from a high of $30 in August, the news of CVS’ interest has boosted them above $28 and a market cap of just under $7 billion. Although Oak Street has previously maintained that they have no interest in a sale, it has never been profitable and is on track to lose $200 million this year. That is not a good look for CVS but they are working a strategy. Previously, CVS walked away from primary care group Cano Health [TTA 21 Oct 22]. Bloomberg News (paywalled) reported that CVS could pay $10 billion which would be over $40 a share. Healthcare Dive, Reuters

Carbon Health: CVS leads their Series D with a $100 million investment plus piloting Carbon Health operations in primary and urgent care clinics in their retail stores. However, the deal came at a price. Last week, prior to the investment announcement, Carbon announced that it would wind down lines of business in public health, remote patient monitoring, hardware, and chronic care programs, cutting 200 jobs in addition to a June cut of 250, at the time about 8% of their workforce. Carbon will now concentrate on their clinic core business. 100 are presently located across Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Florida, Massachusetts, and California (San Francisco, Bay Area, and San Jose).

In the last two years, Carbon raised $350 million and grew by acquiring four clinic chains. It diversified by buying Steady Health (chronic care management in diabetes) and Alertive Health (remote patient management)–both businesses they are departing. Reportedly last month they bought Inofab Health, an Istanbul-based digital health platform for patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, and cystic fibrosis. Crunchbase, FierceHealthcare, Mobihealthnews, SF BizJournal,

CVS is still working its Signify Health acquisition past the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It went into a Second Request for information in late October under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 (HSR), which adds 30 days to the review timetable after the Second Request has been complied with. There is some competitive overlap between CVS and Signify in home health management and accountable care organization (ACO) operations, and some divestitures may be necessary. A closing in Q1 as planned seems optimistic. Acquiring Oak Street may complicate matters since their clinics operate as a Direct Contracting Entity (DCE, now ACO REACH). This present administration is not friendly towards healthcare consolidation of any type, especially with entities participating in Federal programs. (See UHG’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, with court approval being appealed by DOJ.) Reaching (so to speak) deep into CMS programs could be a red flag.

Walgreens’ VillageMD finalized their Summit Health acquisition for $8.9 billion yesterday (9 Jan) (updated). Now with 680 provider locations in 26 markets and 20,000 employees, the group adds to VillageMD’s primary care practices specialty practices in neurology, chiropractic, cardiology, orthopedics, and dermatology plus 150 City MD urgent care locations. 200 VillageMD locations are already adjacent to Walgreens locations. Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Evernorth, the health services business of Cigna, were the two investors. WBA raised full-year sales guidance from $133.5 billion to $137.5 billion. The current chair and former chief executive officer of Summit Health, Jeffrey Le Benger, MD, will be the interim president until VillageMD finds a permanent president reporting to VillageMD CEO Tim Barry. Release, RevCycleIntelligence, Forbes  At this point, Walgreens hasn’t moved forward with the rumored acquisition of ACO management services organization Evolent Health [TTA 1 Oct 22], which would be far more complex. 

Amazon is still awaiting Federal approval for One Medical as well as in multiple states (Oregon only the first; expect scrutiny). It is also closing Amazon Care and opening asynchronous non-face-to-face telehealth service Amazon ClinicWalmart continues on an internal strategy of opening Walmart Health clinics in underserved areas. Earlier in 2022, they announced the opening of more health ‘superstores’ in Florida, having established 20 in Arkansas, Illinois, and Georgia starting in 2019. Walmart’s approach to retailing health services and products, since getting serious about it in 2018, has wavered with multiple changes of strategy and executive departures [TTA 22 Nov 22]

Yes, Virginia, there is an Amazon Clinic, after all; stripped down, non-face-to-face consults for common conditions

On the move while Care is shutting down and OneMedical is not yet onboard as awaiting Federal approvals, Amazon Clinic’s premature leak generated press for the service’s formal debut on Tuesday. The leak was remarkably accurate [TTA 11 Nov] in describing it for the New York Minute it was up. According to their introductory blog, Amazon Clinic will operate in 32 US states (not specified, but a quick check indicates it’s not available in Alaska and New Hampshire). It provides message-based virtual care for more than 20 common health conditions, such as allergies, acne, eczema, UTIs, and hair loss. (The website lists conditions covered and prescription renewals for previously diagnosed conditions such as asthma, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, and migraine.)

What it is: a stripped-down, questionnaire-driven provider referral platform, enabling a non-face-to-face telehealth consult or prescription renewal. It’s not clear from available information whether the messaging is synchronous, asynchronous (delayed), or a combination of both. This certainly sounds less ambitious than the home-based delivery/enterprise membership model of Amazon Care. How Clinic works:

  • Select your condition
  • Pick your preferred provider from a list of licensed and qualified telehealth providers. Costs and if available in your state are disclosed in the selection process.
  • Complete intake questionnaire
  • Connect with clinician through a secure message-based portal
  • After the message-based consultation, the clinician sends a personalized treatment plan via the portal, including any necessary prescriptions to the customer’s preferred pharmacy including Amazon Pharmacy. Here, costs may be covered by insurance.

As Care was, payment is upfront as Amazon doesn’t accept insurance. The cost of consultations will vary by provider and condition but tend to be in the $40 – 50 range. This includes ongoing follow-up messages with the clinician for up to two weeks after the initial consultation. Some conditions, such as rosacea, require a prior diagnosis.

In addition, the services provided are available only to those aged 18-64, which strikes this Editor as discriminatory for those 65 and over who can well pay cash and might prefer a ‘visit lite’.

No mention of whether those laid off at Amazon Care or through the rest of Amazon (10,000 announced) can apply for jobs with this new service; it sounds largely referral, highly automated, manageable, and not requiring heavy oversight. The last can be a problem all its own. TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews, CNBC

Short takes: Will there be an Amazon Clinic?, Transcarent and Teladoc, perfect together?, Get Well partners with Palomar Health, expands with Veterans Health Administration

Did Amazon prematurely leak an initiative? Or was it an error? The Verge reports that a video was uploaded to Amazon’s YouTube page on Tuesday–then taken down–describing a new service that would offer assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of common conditions such as allergies. The Amazon Clinic video depicts a user taking an online questionnaire about their symptoms, After paying a fee, a clinician reviews it, diagnoses, and prescribes as needed, sending to the patient’s pharmacy. The disclaimer: “Telehealth services are offered by third-party healthcare provider groups.” The video directs to amazon.com/clinic which is not live. Another Amazon Mystery. Amazon Care is shuttering and the company is jumping through Federal hoops to get approval to close their buy on OneMedical. Hat tip to HISTalk today.

HISTalk also pointed to a Forbes article on health navigator companies such as Castlight and Firefly Health, with a bit of a ‘sting’ at the end. Transcarent, a health navigator that takes on risk integrating its services into employee benefits, is the latest enterprise founded by Glen Tullman, a serial entrepreneur who founded Livongo, investor group 7Wire Ventures, and built up Allscripts as CEO. The writer speculates that Tullman should buy Teladoc to give Transcarent a distribution system–a built-in network of physicians and health system relationships. Yes, this is the same Teladoc that Tullman sold Livongo to for a tidy $18.5 billion, then earlier this year wrote off $6.6 billion as an impairment. This one drips with irony. With its stock down nearly 90% from its January 2021 high, it’s never been cheaper!

Get Well, an RPM, patient care management, and workflow automation company, announced new and expanding partnerships. The new one is with Palomar Health, a health system in Escondido, California. This will implement Get Well services in four phases in five areas to improve patient experience: digital care management (GetWellLoop), inpatient experience (Get Well Navigator and a workflow automation for hospital staff), emergency department experience, care gap closure, and health equity through additional features. Becker’s  The second is an expansion with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) into 70 Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMC) and a fifth Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) with nine facilities. They also now have a FedRAMP “In Process” designation for cloud services which is enabling expansion of GetWellLoop care plans with a VAMC. Release (Business Wire)