TTA’s Autumn Falls #3: Theranos cost Safeway, Walgreens $520M; Walgreens buys majority of VillageMD, CareCentrix: Babylon, Devoted Health, Lark’s big raises–more!

 

 

 

Weekly Update

Editor’s Note: We’re looking for contributors–if interested, email Editor Donna

The Trial reveals Walgreens’ and Safeway’s frustrations and deceptions with Theranos that ultimately cost them a collective $520 million. Walgreens learned its lesson, bringing home the primary and post-acute care of VillageMD and CareCentrix. Babylon raises even more $, Best Buy moves into home care management with Edinburgh’s Current Health. And stepping back, is telehealth now due for a correction?

Short takes: Walgreens now majority share of VillageMD, CareCentrix; Lark Health lifts $100M, UnitedHealth Group’s profitable Q3 and Change delay
What’s next for telehealth? Is it time for a correction? (Maybe not as much as we cracked it up to be)
News and deal roundup: Babylon’s $200M raise, Best Buy buys Current Health, Virgin Pulse-Welltok, Devoted Health’s $1bn raise, Withings watch gains FDA ECG clearance
Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 3: Safeway, Walgreens execs testify to deception, frustration with Holmes, failed pilots and labs (updated) (Expensive lessons!)

The trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes moves to the Hot Grill, with the former lab director turning slowly on the spit to ‘well-done’. Babylon Health is finally SPAC-ing–and buying US practices. And in TelehealthWorld, both Teladoc and Babylon are offering similar virtual full-service primary care to payers and employers for members.

Telehealth’s primary care wars heat up: Teladoc’s Primary360, Babylon 360 (Telehealth ain’t beanbag)

Babylon Health’s SPAC closing later this month at $4.2 billion value, buys California medical practices (Now to turn that red ink to black)
Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 2: the lab director’s contradictions, competence questioned (The best defense that money can buy)
 

The trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes slugfests on, with prosecution hammering away at knowing malpractice in patient care with the Edison labs, and the defense using every Perry Mason-like trick in the book to break witnesses. And back in the real world, Walgreens continues to explore outside of Drug Store World with a rumored pass at management services company Evolent Health.

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes: ch. 1 (The defense lawyers must have been paid in advance)
Walgreens may acquire Evolent Health: report (Possible reach into tech-based management services)

Google continues shedding Health initiatives with shutdown of NHS’ Streams clinical support app. But is health care too much for Big Tech accustomed to monetizing clicks and ads? Headspace and Ginger decide to merge rather than be bought, as digimental health stays hot. Beth Israel Deaconess shows how hospital IT can get its skates on with telehealth. And Cerner’s pay package for its new CEO shows you that crime does not pay, but healthcare certainly does!

Mental health apps Headspace, Ginger to merge into $3B Headspace Health (Better to merge than to be bought? The sprint of digital mental health continues.)
Another Google termination: Google Streams clinical support app used by NHS (Another broken healthcare toy)
Amazon’s Chime telehealth solution rang Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s bells–case study (How hospital IT can innovate under pressure)
Is healthcare too much for Big Tech’s Google and Apple? Look at the track record. And David Feinberg’s $34M Cerner package. (Too much, too soon?)

Our weekend lead news is Google Health’s shutdown, with its head graduating to the Big Job at Cerner. Rockley Photonics may be revolutionizing the smartwatch with its photonic vitals sensors. Sharecare expands health ed and enters the once-sleepy home care biz. Humana also bets big on home care with Kindred, SDOH heats up, Maven’s a unicorn, and Carrots are on the healthcare plate with the trimmings.

Breaking: Google Health shutting down, most employees scattered to other divisions (And its head is now Cerner CEO)
Deal and news roundup: Humana closes $5.7B Kindred at Home buy, Unite Us SDOH buys Carrot Health for data, Carrot Fertility raises $75M, Maven Clinic at $1B value, Privia partners with Babyscripts for moms, Tyto Care and Prisma Health
Sharecare expands health education capabilities, acquires CareLinx home care for $65M (updated) (A healthcare conglomerate in the making?)
Comprehensive “clinic-on-the-wrist” digital health sensor system debuts. Apple Watch of future? (UK/US) (Rockley Photonics’ big leap)

The news isn’t taking a Summer Holiday, neither are deals. Honor just rocked the sleepy home care world with its buy of Home Instead. UnitedHealth will have to wait till end of year for Change. Morgan Health debuts with $50M in Vera Health. The Telehealth Teeter-Totter continues with Amwell’s gloomy forecast, Teladoc’s Aetna deal. And Voices Carry with stress testing and a neuroprothesis that may give communication back to those who cannot speak. 

Home care rocked: Honor Technology acquires home care provider Home Instead (It’s all about the caregivers and hospital-at-home)
News roundup: update on UnitedHealth/Change Healthcare DOJ check, Tunstall adds new CTO, Amwell’s gloomy second half, Teladoc’s Aetna deal, Fitbit and LifeScan diabetes
Hearing voices: Cigna-Ellipsis AI-powered voice stress test; UCSF/Weill neuroprosthesis decodes attempted speech (Giving speech to the speechless in the future)
News and funding roundup: patient outreachers Relatient, Radix merge; health apps top 350,000; Morgan’s $50M in Vera Health; Communicare247, Doro, TeleAlarm join Scottish Digital Telecare’s list

Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


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We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Legrand/Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, DHACA, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

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What’s next for telehealth? Is it time for a correction?

crystal-ballThe boom may be over, between shrinking visit volume and a pileup of providers. Is a correction in the cards? The flood of funding that started in 2020 and has not abated was kicked off by the pandemic and a massive shift to telehealth visits in March/April 2020 from a barely-above-plant-life number in January/February.

Post-pandemic, the shift corrected.

  • The peak of 69% of visits tracked by Epic in April had tailed off to 21% as early as May 2020 [TTA 2 Sept 20].
  • National commercial claims data via FAIR Health was lower. They tracked its peak also in April 2020 at 13%, falling continuously monthly: May to 8.69%, 6.85% in June, 6% in August, and 5.61% in October [TTA 9 Jan].
  • By mid-year 2021, the claims numbers continued to lose altitude: June 4.5%, July 4.2% (FAIR Health monthly report).

Despite the numbers, telehealth companies raised $4.2 billion of a total $15 billion in digital health funding in the first half of 2021, according to Mercom Capital Group, a global communications and research firm. So…what’s the problem with les bon temps rouler?

CB Insights notes the increased specialization of new entrants and, as this Editor has noted previously, the blending and crossing of business lines.

  • Companies like Heal, Dispatch Health, and Amazon Care will send a clinician to your house for a checkup–no running to your urgent care.
  • Kidney disease? Monogram Health. Musculoskeletal pain? Hinge Health. Child with an earache or fever? Tyto Care. Check symptoms first? Babylon Health.
  • Telemental health has gone from cocktail party repellent to the belle of the ball, concentrating on cognitive remote therapies. For the past year, it moved to more than half of all telehealth claims, with currently over 60% of procedure codes–and it’s consolidating. AbleTo was bought by Optum, Ginger bought by Headspace, SilverCloud by Amwell.

So for the Major League–Teladoc, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, Grand Rounds, and MDLive–what does this mean? If this interview with Teladoc’s CIO is an example, they plan to segue to a ‘hybrid’ model of virtual quick response plus integrating providers into a continuing care model with patients, creating a relationship with history and familiarity. A model that’s very much dependent on IT, analytics, and connecting with willing providers. But in this free-floating sea of verbiage, it didn’t come into misty focus till the very end, when he mentions Primary360 [TTA 7 Oct] and a virtual primary care team. (And let’s not forget Babylon360 along similar lines.) He finally sketches a view of all the connections to conditions coming together on a very far horizon. 

One can say it’s a cloudy crystal ball, indeed. FierceHealthcare, HealthcareITNews (Teladoc CIO interview)

News and deal roundup: Babylon’s $200M raise, Best Buy buys Current Health, Virgin Pulse-Welltok, Devoted Health’s $1bn raise, Withings watch gains FDA ECG clearance

Babylon Health adds $200 million to the accounts–in advance of its SPAC. Babylon’s raise of $200 million (€173M) in a ‘sustainability-linked investment’ came from the strategic capital investment firm, Albacore Capital Group. With the SPAC and PIPE, Babylon will now have access to over $800 million in capital [TTA 7 Oct]. Whew! Mobilhealthnews, Babylon release 

A score for Edinburgh. Current Health, a biosensor-based monitoring and home care management/remote patient monitoring system based in Edinburgh and Boston, sold itself to US retailer Best Buy. The company recently raised $43 million in an April Series B, which makes its quick sale somewhat unusual. Terms were not disclosed other than it was a cash deal and that Current’s CEO Christopher McCann will be remaining with the company. Best Buy extends its reach into digital home health, following on their 2019 buys of GreatCall, Critical Signal Technologies for RPM, and partnership with Tyto Care.

Current had achieved FDA Class II clearance in early 2019 [TTA 7 Feb 2019], had piloted with Mount Sinai Brooklyn and in the UK, Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for a post-discharge monitoring program, and recently had created a “Community” initiative to build diverse longitudinal datasets for decentralized clinical trials [TTA 18 Feb]. Current Health announcement, Best Buy release, Mobihealthnews, Healthcare Dive

The wellness app-employee/health plan engagement program area continues to consolidate with Virgin Pulse’s acquisition of Welltok. In recent years, Welltok has concentrated more on data analytics and predictive capabilities in its member experience and patient acquisition/retention platforms for health plans and systems, after a start in employee wellness programs. Virgin Pulse, which exited the Richard Branson universe (despite the logo) when sold to Morgan Equity Partners in 2018, is now backed by Marlin Equity Partners. Terms and leadership were not disclosed. Virgin Pulse release, HISTalk

‘Insurtech’ Devoted Health raised a hefty $1.15 billion Series D led by Uprising and Softbank Vision Fund 2, along with a long list of returning and new investors. Icing on the cake is that they are closing in on an additional $80 million in funding to accommodate an investor. Devoted is led by former athenahealth and government IT leaders Ed and Todd Park. It’s one of the smaller in footprint tech-based Medicare Advantage providers but combines their plans with health coverage via Devoted Medical, a telehealth and in-home care provider, and partner providers. FierceHealthcare

The ECG monitoring space is now a little more crowded. Withings finally received FDA clearance for their ScanWatch’s ECG and SpO2 monitoring, nearly two years after its introduction in January 2020. It received clearance in Europe a year ago. The cleared features are atrial fibrillation detection alerts, which advises users to take a 30-second ECG readings, and SpO2 blood oxygen monitoring for detection of respiratory issues. Withings joins the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Samsung, and the grandaddy of them all, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile, for ECG monitoring–but packs this monitoring into a good-looking watch. Mobihealthnews

TTA’s Autumn Falls #2: Theranos trial–the lab director grilled, well done; Babylon Health’s SPAC coming up shortly; Babylon and Teladoc move into virtual full service primary care

 

 

Weekly Update

 

Editor’s Note: We’re looking for contributors–if interested, email Editor Donna

The trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes moves to the Hot Grill, with the former lab director turning slowly on the spit to ‘well-done’. Babylon Health is finally SPAC-ing–and buying US practices. And in TelehealthWorld, both Teladoc and Babylon are offering similar virtual full-service primary care to payers and employers for members.

Telehealth’s primary care wars heat up: Teladoc’s Primary360, Babylon 360 (Telehealth ain’t beanbag)

Babylon Health’s SPAC closing later this month at $4.2 billion value, buys California medical practices (Now to turn that red ink to black)
Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes, ch. 2: the lab director’s contradictions, competence questioned (The best defense that money can buy)
 

The trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes slugfests on, with prosecution hammering away at knowing malpractice in patient care with the Edison labs, and the defense using every Perry Mason-like trick in the book to break witnesses. And back in the real world, Walgreens continues to explore outside of Drug Store World with a rumored pass at management services company Evolent Health.

Theranos, The Trial of Elizabeth Holmes: ch. 1 (The defense lawyers must have been paid in advance)
Walgreens may acquire Evolent Health: report (Possible reach into tech-based management services)

Google continues shedding Health initiatives with shutdown of NHS’ Streams clinical support app. But is health care too much for Big Tech accustomed to monetizing clicks and ads? Headspace and Ginger decide to merge rather than be bought, as digimental health stays hot. Beth Israel Deaconess shows how hospital IT can get its skates on with telehealth. And Cerner’s pay package for its new CEO shows you that crime does not pay, but healthcare certainly does!

Mental health apps Headspace, Ginger to merge into $3B Headspace Health (Better to merge than to be bought? The sprint of digital mental health continues.)
Another Google termination: Google Streams clinical support app used by NHS (Another broken healthcare toy)
Amazon’s Chime telehealth solution rang Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s bells–case study (How hospital IT can innovate under pressure)
Is healthcare too much for Big Tech’s Google and Apple? Look at the track record. And David Feinberg’s $34M Cerner package. (Too much, too soon?)

Our weekend lead news is Google Health’s shutdown, with its head graduating to the Big Job at Cerner. Rockley Photonics may be revolutionizing the smartwatch with its photonic vitals sensors. Sharecare expands health ed and enters the once-sleepy home care biz. Humana also bets big on home care with Kindred, SDOH heats up, Maven’s a unicorn, and Carrots are on the healthcare plate with the trimmings.

Breaking: Google Health shutting down, most employees scattered to other divisions (And its head is now Cerner CEO)
Deal and news roundup: Humana closes $5.7B Kindred at Home buy, Unite Us SDOH buys Carrot Health for data, Carrot Fertility raises $75M, Maven Clinic at $1B value, Privia partners with Babyscripts for moms, Tyto Care and Prisma Health
Sharecare expands health education capabilities, acquires CareLinx home care for $65M (updated) (A healthcare conglomerate in the making?)
Comprehensive “clinic-on-the-wrist” digital health sensor system debuts. Apple Watch of future? (UK/US) (Rockley Photonics’ big leap)

The news isn’t taking a Summer Holiday, neither are deals. Honor just rocked the sleepy home care world with its buy of Home Instead. UnitedHealth will have to wait till end of year for Change. Morgan Health debuts with $50M in Vera Health. The Telehealth Teeter-Totter continues with Amwell’s gloomy forecast, Teladoc’s Aetna deal. And Voices Carry with stress testing and a neuroprothesis that may give communication back to those who cannot speak. 

Home care rocked: Honor Technology acquires home care provider Home Instead (It’s all about the caregivers and hospital-at-home)
News roundup: update on UnitedHealth/Change Healthcare DOJ check, Tunstall adds new CTO, Amwell’s gloomy second half, Teladoc’s Aetna deal, Fitbit and LifeScan diabetes
Hearing voices: Cigna-Ellipsis AI-powered voice stress test; UCSF/Weill neuroprosthesis decodes attempted speech (Giving speech to the speechless in the future)
News and funding roundup: patient outreachers Relatient, Radix merge; health apps top 350,000; Morgan’s $50M in Vera Health; Communicare247, Doro, TeleAlarm join Scottish Digital Telecare’s list

A short one this week in the rollup to HIMSS. Funding and deals aren’t taking the summer off despite it being August, and this year’s first half just beat full year 2020.

News and funding roundup: BioIntelliSense ‘stickers’ $45M, Exo ultrasound scans $220M, Enovation gets Scotland OK, WellSky snaps up Healthify, Cerner’s good quarter despite VA (And summer is supposed to be quiet?)
2021’s bubbly $14.7 billion in digital health funding–six months that beat all of 2020 (Rock Health’s rock’n’rolling 1st half)

Telehealth Wars teeter-totter with now Amwell and national expansion on the upside. NHS England’s changing of the guard–Roy Lilley’s insightful interview with Sir Simon. Telemental health prospers. Alcuris gets the cyber-OK from Scotland. And Cerner needs to get it right with the VA, right quick.

The Roy Lilley-Sir Simon Stevens ‘Health Chat’ interview (As the order changes at NHS England)
News and deal roundup: another big mental health app funding, Happify Health’s prescription therapy app debuts, Alcuris approved by Scottish Digital Telecare for cybersecurity (Mental health continues to be the It of Digital Health)
Telehealth Wars: Amwell’s raises game with buys of SilverCloud and Conversa Health; Teladoc’s slow member, hospital growth lead to $133M Q2 loss (The seesaw goes up for one, down for the other)
Cerner execs to VA Congressional committee: “We are committed to getting this right” (After $16 billion, One. Would. Hope. So.)
Over 400 telehealth groups urge Congress to retain CARES Acts gains on remote care (Obsolete law change long overdue)

Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: https://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Legrand/Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, DHACA, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

Telehealth’s primary care wars heat up: Teladoc’s Primary360, Babylon 360

The new fronts in the Telehealth Wars continue to expand, with this week Teladoc announcing that their virtual primary care offering, Primary360, is now available for health plans, employers, and other payers. Babylon Health, in its push into the US market and their upcoming SPAC, also announced that their similar program, Babylon 360, is also being offered to health plans.

Both these services connect the patient users with an assigned doctor and primary care team for ongoing care. They emphasize building a relationship with a doctor and team, not just a random selection previously typical of telehealth. Both Teladoc and Babylon are fully virtual in exams and checkups, sending equipment where needed, ordering lab tests and prescriptions, and accepting your prior health records, plus have 24/7 coverage for urgent situations. Babylon’s service also offers a symptom checker and connection to social determinants of health (SDOH) community services.

It’s obvious that the payer-provider walls are coming down in all directions–telehealth is one more. Babylon, as we noted earlier, acquired two California-based practice groups. Payers like lower-cost, more convenient visits, and after a fractious start, have for some time. Many of the insurtechs either have close relationships with providers or have bought practices (Bright Health’s NeueHealth)–copying the Optums which have affiliations with or ownership of practices all over the US. It’s also another pressure on primary care practices around reimbursement. Often the answer is to either sell out or enter into value-based care arrangements.

For the patient/member, there’s the benefit of convenient care, and a relationship with a team, albeit not with an in-person option right now–if these services are consistent in their promise and steady in their physician/clinician groups. Mobihealthnews (Teladoc)

Babylon Health’s SPAC closing later this month at $4.2 billion value, buys California medical practices

Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon Health, confirmed to FierceHealthcare yesterday that Babylon Health will be going public later this month via a SPAC. This is proceeding as closed in June with blank-check Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp., led by former Groupon CEO Rich Williams [TTA 1 June].

The pro-forma equity valuation is estimated as $4.2 billion, with Alkuri providing $575 million in gross proceeds to Babylon, including $230 million in a private placement from investors such as AMF Pensionsförsäkring and Palantir Technologies. The new Babylon Holdings Limited will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BBLN.

After developing its GP in Hand triage service with the NHS starting in 2017, now claiming 102, 000 users, it has weathered controversies from clinical commissioning group (CCG) reservations to gender bias in its chatbot (‘Heart Sister’ Carolyn Thomas) to a litany from @DrMurphy11 to the BBC Two’s Newsnight treatment [TTA 9 Jan 20, 27 Feb 20]. However, Mr. Parsa believes that their value proposition (technically, a written document) is sound and that they are now poised for growth.

Newly developed products include Babylon 360, a digital-first value-based care service that includes the option for telehealth visits, and Babylon Cloud Services, a suite of digital self-care tools for patients and doctors, including an AI-enabled symptom checker. Expansion has been as far flung as Rwanda and the US, although in the crowded US telehealth market, Babylon has found it difficult to make a strong  impression versus Teladoc and Amwell, though they cover three million lives and has licensed providers in all 50 states.  They recently bought two California-based medical practices, Meritage Medical Network and First Choice Medical Group, opening an office in Palo Alto. Babylon also optioned to buy Higi health kiosks after a $30 million investment [TTA 30 May 20], which may close after the SPAC. Still, Mr. Parsa is staking the future on the US, where over 40% of global healthcare money is spent. 

Babylon has been growing 400% year to year for a few years with $79 million in 2020 unaudited revenue, a 394% year-over-year increase, and a projected $321 million in 2021, $710 million by 2022, and $1.4 billion by 2023. Hampering this sunny picture are Babylon’s continued losses: $76 million first half of 2021, less than their PY net loss of $91 million. 

News and deal roundup: OneMedical’s $2.1 bn for Iora, CareDx buys Transplant Hero, Mount Sinai’s Elementa Labs; UK news–NHSX/Babylon, Doro-Everon, Tunstall

West Coast-based concierge medical provider One Medical goes ‘mass’ with Iora. One Medical, best known for serving the affluent well through a membership fee, direct pay, commercial insurance, and sponsored contracts with large employers like Google for primary care, announced plans to acquire Boston-based Iora Health. Iora’s primary care providers serve a different market, with primarily Medicare patients moved into full-risk value-based models such as Medicare Advantage plans and practices in shared savings arrangements such as Direct Contracting. The investor presentation here discloses the all-stock purchase with 26 percent of ownership going to current Iora shareholders. Iora for now will be run separately, which makes sense given the disparity in patient base. The major element in common? Primary care practices and ‘white-glove’ services. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare

Consolidation in digital transplant care assistance. CareDx, which provides a wide variety of management services for organ transplant providers and recipients, is acquiring New York-based Transplant Hero. Transplant Hero is an app that reminds recipients to take their vital medications, and was founded by a transplant physician. Financial terms and integration going forward were not disclosed. Release, Mobihealthnews.

Mount Sinai Innovation Partners (MSIP) creates a new health tech incubator. Elementa Labs launched this week, specifically seeking pre-seed or seed-stage healthcare and biotech startups. Companies must also have a clear objective for working with Mount Sinai to develop a comprehensive development plan.The first startup on board is avoMD, a mobile-friendly point of care clinical decision support platform. Applications for the 12-week program close 30 September. FierceHealthcare

UK activity heats up with the late spring…

NHSX and NHS England are assessing Babylon Health’s triage app. According to an exclusive in Pulse (may require registration), a senior delegation from both visited University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) last month to look at its use of the Babylon technology. However, NHSX has disclaimed any work towards a national program with Babylon as practices reopen throughout the UK.

DoroCare UK and Everon announced a partnership on products and services for social care, such as Everon’s Lyra, a cloud-based emergency call system, and Doro’s Eliza, a smartcare hub. Release

Tunstall announced the release of the Tunstall Service Platform (TSP) in the UK. It’s described as a connected care software platform supporting the Tunstall Alarm Receiving Centres coordinated by local authorities and social housing providers. It has four unique functions: PNC (call handling), service manager, fieldforce manager, and proactive services. It also will transition these systems from analogue to digital and will be operable in both. Release

Babylon Health going the SPAC route with Alkuri Global for $4.2 billion value (updated for 3 June announcement)

Another big SPAC on the boards. Telemedicine/symptom checking app Babylon Health has closed a deal to go public via a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) via Nashville-based Alkuri Global Acquisition Corp.  The deal with Alkuri, run by two former Groupon Inc. execs, was reported of 28 May and was imminent, according to the usual “people familiar with the matter” speaking with Bloomberg News (may be paywalled). 

If the Babylon-Alkuri SPAC comes to pass (it did–see below), the company valuation was reported to top $3.5 billion. Alkuri also is lining up investors for $270 million of private investment in public equity (PIPE) funding, the sources said. Alkuri is led by Groupon’s ex-CEO Rich Williams and former COO Steve Krenzer, The money connection is likely Sultan Almaadeed, a former executive at the Qatar Investment Authority, who is Alkuri’s chairman.

This isn’t the first time Babylon has talked SPAC. Back in April, Babylon almost went into a SPAC backed by financier Alec Gore. Other SPACs in prior talks with Babylon were Freedom Acquisition I Corp., backed by former Credit Suisse Group AG CEO Tidjane Thiam, as well as a vehicle from Klaus Kleinfeld, the former head of Arconic. Yahoo!Finance

Babylon’s last big raise was a $550 million Series C in 2019, led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund with prior investors Kinnevik AB and Munich Re AB. Their total funding since 2015 is $631.1 million. Crunchbase.

Updated. And so it came to pass that on Thursday 3 June, two days after our article published (and while this Editor was on assignment), it was formally announced. Reuters reported that Babylon’s pro-forma equity valuation is up to $4.2 billion. Babylon will enjoy $575 million in gross proceeds. This includes a PIPE of $230 million, a little lower than earlier reports, from investors such as AMF Pensionsförsäkring and Palantir Technologies Inc. Existing Babylon shareholders will roll 100% of their equity into the combined company and will own approximately 84% of the pro forma company at closing sometime in the second half of the year. It will trade on NASDAQ under BBLN. Ali Parsa, Babylon’s founder, CEO, and face of the business, will remain chairman and CEO. Babylon’s release has the financial details, including the investor presentation. FierceHealthcare 

Comings and goings: Babylon Health, Seniorlink, Hinge Health

At Babylon Health, the US-based C-suite is now larger with the additions of Paul-Henri Ferrand, briefly of financial platform Brex and previously Google Cloud, as Chief Business Officer, Stacy Saal of Amazon as Chief Operating Officer, and Steve Davis from Expedia Group as Chief Technology Officer. Mr. Ferrand will lead business development, sales, marketing, and customer success efforts; Ms. Saal operational initiatives and goals; and Mr. Davis technology and data. They will concentrate on US growth plans plus refining and leveraging Babylon 360.  Babylon release

Seniorlink, a Boston-based provider of professional coaching, emotional and financial support services for caregivers through Medicare Advantage and Medicaid in nine states, and the developer of the Vela care coordination app, appointed Matt Marek as President and Chief Operating Officer. He comes from Further, a service company for healthcare spending accounts. He will be concentrating on strategy and increasing US growth and partnerships.  Release

Having raised $300 million in a January Series D [TTA 14 Jan] as a prelude to a rumored IPO, San Francisco-based Hinge Health has made some major management changes. Jim Pursley, longtime Chief Commercial Officer at Livongo Health who departed after the Teladoc Health acquisition, is now President. Lex Annison, formerly of Google, is now Chief Operating Officer. And their new CFO, Ron Will, comes from the financial world, most recently from Ripple, and apparently has experience with mergers. On their management roster, Hinge now has two presidents–Gabriel Mecklenberg, a co-founder, and Mr. Pursley. Hinge provides digital solutions that treat chronic musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions to the provider market. Hat tip to an industry insider.   

NHS digital triaging app eConsult closes £7 million funding round

Closing out last week was eConsult’s announcement of a new £7 million round of financing. The triage app is currently used by about 40 percent of NHS practices–3,200 NHS GP practices across the UK. The funding, on top of a £5 million Series A raise last October (Crunchbase, AngelNews) was via Gresham House Ventures (this raise and the Series A lead) and Calculus Capital, plus existing investors.

The fresh funding will boost eConsult capabilities for primary and secondary care, plus expansion into urgent care with an Urgent and Emergency Care tool, eTriage, and outpatient triage tool, eSpecialist. They are also developing a triaging service for Emergency Departments (EDs). 

eConsult was formed in 2013 by four NHS GPs. It uses a bank of over 10,000 questions from a number of clinical sources to direct patients to the most appropriate care, assign priority, and direct to a GP surgery. Their research indicates that 70 percent of GP enquiries can be closed without a F2F consult. 

Last August, eConsult, Q doctor, and Cognitant Group jointly created a toolbar that combined eConsult with Q doctor’s video consult technology and Cognitant Group’s ‘Healthinote’ verified patient information service. They later added HCI’s medical video library service. In June, eConsult added the Ministry of Defence; 183,500 service members and dependents in 124 international locations are able to access online consultations with Defence Primary Healthcare (release).

eConsult’s service volume exploded during the early pandemic and has held its leading share versus competitive services such as Babylon Health, Push Doctor, Infermedica, and Livi (Kry). Babylon has had its challenges in the UK market but is aggressively moving into enterprise accounts in the US and Canada, quietly raising just before Christmas $100 million (£74.5m) in a convertible loan led by VNV Global. Mobihealthnews. UKTechNews

Babylon Health leads a $30 million Series B for Higi health kiosks, continuing US push

Here’s an interesting investment by Babylon Health. Earlier this week, diagnostic/symptom checking app Babylon Health was reported to lead a $30 million Series B investment in Higi. Higi has about 10,000 health monitoring kiosks (Smart Health Stations) placed in various US retail locations like supermarkets (Stop & Shop, Shop Rite), pharmacies (Walgreens), workplace and community locations. A user can check their blood pressure, pulse, weight, and BMI for free, along with uploading data from one of 80 connected devices and apps. What then happens is that Higi stores that data on their platform for the user, who can log in and access it from the Higi app on their computer or smartphone.

Higi claims 62 million people have used a Higi device for a total of 372 million tests. This Editor has seen them in some local stores, usually in a corner, sitting forlornly or with an out-of-service sign. (Sanitization, of course, is a real concern.) 

So what is Babylon’s interest in Higi? The US health data, of course, which Babylon can put into their database and improve their modeling. Babylon also is gaining a foothold in the US with high-profile partners such as Mount Sinai in NYC and with health plans in Missouri, New York, and California. For Higi, the tie with Babylon increases their clinical data information base and adds access to a symptom checking app. 

In the Series B, Babylon Health was joined by Higi’s Series A investors, 7Wire Ventures, Flare Capital Partners, Jumpstart Capital, Rush University System for Health, and William Wrigley Jr. Confusingly, on Crunchbase, these investors are listed as a Series C,  not a Series A. They list a B funding round with lead partner Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners, without a funding amount, with the previous round as venture, so possibly the Series B failed. Higi’s funding to date is over $61 million not including the new round. TechCrunch, Higi blog

Mount Sinai Health Partners (NY) launches Babylon Health telehealth app

Mount Sinai Health Partners, through New York Telemedicine Associates, has premiered Babylon Health’s telehealth app as part of its services with five large New York health plans: Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield Commercial and Medicare Advantage; Humana Medicare Advantage; Oscar Commercial, and Cigna Commercial. The coverage of these five plans is claimed to be in the millions. Mount Sinai’s network covers Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and most of Long Island.

The app includes the Babylon chatbot and the opportunity to set video consults with a doctor. The app also has COVID-19 information and a chatbot app which leads you through a self-diagnosis menu, interactive advice, and will set up an appointment to speak to a healthcare professional. Release, Babylon Health US’ page on the Mount Sinai program   This Editor will add that Mount Sinai is rather late to the party, as rival NYU Langone has been promoting their telehealth Virtual Urgent Care program for months.

The Forbes article starts off like a glossy Babylon press release, but continues on to some of Babylon’s recent and controversial press, such as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) participating in the last $550 million investment round and the tart feedback of many UK doctors on how much ‘care’ can be pushed off onto apps like ‘GP At Hand’. Not mentioned is the controversy around the accuracy of the chatbots when it comes to giving advice, which was the subject of Newsnight and @DrMurphy11 (Dr. David Watkins), who has been raising performance issues for some time. [TTA 27 Feb]

Babylon Health fires back at critic @DrMurphy11; Dr. Watkins–and Newsnight–return fire (UK)

Last month, this Editor took note of the Twitterstorm around Babylon Health on the issues raised surrounding diagnosis of women’s cardiac symptoms. @DrMurphy11, who has been raising performance issues with the Babylon chatbot for the past three years, ran a test on the app. First using a male patient, then a woman, with identical cardiac symptoms, the app returned two different diagnoses: the man was advised to go to an ED on an emergency basis and given information on a heart attack, the woman to her GP in six hours and given information on a panic attack.

@DrMurphy11 came out earlier this week to BBC Two’s Newsnight’s Emma Barnett on a profile of ‘healthcare juggernaut’ Babylon as Dr. David Watkins, a consultant oncologist. You can see him on YouTube here (at the 1 minute and 3 min. 30 mark). He demonstrates the response of the chatbot, using as the patient an older male smoker with chest pains. The chatbot advises him that he might have either gastritis or ‘sickle cell crisis in chest’–and to go to his GP in 6 hours. What is far more likely than sickle cell with this history is, of course, a heart attack, as a consultant cardiologist, Dr. Amitava Banerjee confirmed on the program. Dr. Banerjee has also been critical of Babylon’s chatbot on cardiac diagnosis and Health Secretary Matt Hancock in his visible advocacy of Babylon in the NHS alone (at 6 min.) According to Dr. Watkins, he has been documenting chatbot problems to the MHRA and the CQC since 2017, and the problems haven’t been fixed.

Timed with the Newsnight piece, Babylon fired back with a press release labeling Dr. Watkins a “troll” and stating that only 100 of his 2,400 tests demonstrated any concerns with the chatbot. According to the release, Babylon’s staff “have attempted to start a positive conversation with this anonymous person. We have invited him in to start a dialogue, to test our AI, and to meet with the senior doctors who build our products” without response. Babylon has also cited that all of Dr. Watkins’ trials were theoretical tests and cites millions of real uses without a single report of harm, that it meets regulatory standards in five countries including use in the NHS, and that its real life users are highly satisfied (85 percent at 5 stars).

At 6:48 to 12:40 in the video, Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis grills both Babylon’s Dr. Keith Grimes and Dr. Watkins. She brings up that Babylon’s former head of regulatory affairs, Hugh Harvey, had stated that no one has assessed how well the app works. Dr. Watkins also counters Babylon’s non-contact claim that he contacted one of the Babylon leadership members back in 2018 on chatbot problems. Dr. Grimes responded to Ms. Maitlis’ remark that founder Ali Parsa is not a doctor that over 600 doctors work for Babylon. This Editor will leave it to Readers to decide what side won, or if it was a draw. Also Mobihealthnews global edition. (For US Readers, Newsnight and Ms. Maitlis conducted the exclusive, disastrous–for Prince Andrew–interview on his relationship with the late Jeffrey Epstein.)

Babylon Health criticized by Manchester CCG, cardiac activists in UK, Canada

News you may have missed. Over the holidays, Babylon Health took some hard knocks on two fronts, right after the announcement of their expansion into North America. 

The Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) rapped the developer of GP at Hand fairly hard on their expansion plans to this Northern city. “We are not convinced that Babylon GP at Hand’s model of care is sufficiently integrated with other local and national services to ensure safe and effective care for local people. Areas of concern include screening programmes and safeguarding. We therefore asked Hammersmith and Fulham CCG, the formal commissioner of BGPaH, to object to the Babylon proposal to begin operating in Manchester from early 2020.” There is a 1,001-person cap on registrations which may be lifted this month if Babylon can address and mitigate these patient concerns.

It should be said that Birmingham had similar concerns to Manchester, but a similar cap was lifted last month. Babylon’s stated strategy is to work with the CCGs on their concerns to successfully roll out the service to offer in-person appointments and 24-hour digital appointments by early 2020. Digital Health

There’s also been charges of gender bias in diagnosis of cardiac symptoms by Babylon’s chatbot. When presented with

identical cardiac symptoms, the chatbot reportedly will tell a man to seek immediate care, but a woman is advised that it may be a panic attack or even depression. Here’s the Twitter discussion between @DrMurphy11 and past TTA contributor Carolyn Thomas, the “Heart Sister”, on this bias. When asked, Dr. Keith Grimes, Babylon’s Clinical Innovation Director, replied: 

Ms. Thomas is a long-time Canadian writer and activist on women living with cardiac conditions, how they are often misdiagnosed (The Grinch’s Guide to Women’s Heart Attacks), and how women’s symptoms of cardiac disease differ.  Her blog is personal, interesting, and informative. (Do read her 22 December post on the Christmas truce of December 1914)

Babylon Health to enter US market with two large strategic partners: report

An apparently exclusive report in Mobihealthnews confirms the recent speculation that Babylon Health is entering the US market starting next month with its smartphone-based chat and triage service. Kurt Blasena, Babylon’s senior managing director of commercial strategy and revenue growth, said at the October Digital Health Innovation Summit in Boston that there are two current partners and a projected additional one to three more in 2020. The hints were that they were two “very large” strategic partners and one implementation will be for the state Medicaid market. The partners were not named, which leads this Editor to guess that the Medicaid implementation hasn’t been cleared with its state yet.

Babylon is experienced at international rollouts but not the US market. According to Mr. Blasena, they been busy localizing the service for the US by adapting the chatbot’s natural language processing system and hiring US-based staff. Part of the US difference is negotiating through how local healthcare is delivered, plus the thicket (this Editor is being kind) of Federal, state, and local regulations.

Right now their US operations are in a Prospect Heights, Brooklyn NYC apartment and in a WeWork in Austin, Texas. Mr. Blasena, according to his LinkedIn profile, is resident in San Diego.

Babylon Health has abundant cash on hand from a $550 million August Series C led by the Saudi Arabia Investment fund along with previous investors Kinnevik AB and Vostok plus new investor Munich Re. The stated intent was to expand into the US and other international markets in addition to presently being in Rwanda and Canada. Release  Stay tuned….

News, moves and M&A roundup: Appello acquires RedAssure, Shaw departs NHS Digital, NHS App goes biometric, GP at Hand in Manchester, Verita Singapore’s three startup buys, Novant Health and Tyto Care partner

Appello telecare acquires RedAssure Independent Living from Worthing Homes. A 20-year provider of telecare services to about 700 homes in the Worthing area in West Sussex, the acquisition by Appello closed on 1 October. Previously, Appello provided monitoring services for RedAssure since 2010. Terms were not disclosed. Release.

Another NHS Digital departure is Rob Shaw, deputy CEO. He will be leaving to pursue a consulting career advising foreign governments on national health and care infrastructure. He is credited with moving the NHS Spine in-house and establishing NHS Digital’s cybersecurity function. The Digital Health article times it for around Christmas. Mr. Shaw’s departure follows other high-profile executives this year such as former chief digital officer Juliet Bauer who controversially moved to Kry/LIVI after penning a glowing article about them [TTA 24 Jan], Will Smart, Matthew Swindells, and Richard Corbridge.

One initiative that NHS Digital has lately implemented is passwordless, biometric facial or fingerprint-based log in for the NHS App, based on the FIDO (Fast-Identity Online) UAF (Universal Authentication Framework) protocol (whew!). NHS Digital’s most recent related announcement is the release of two pieces of code under open-source that will allow developers to include biometric verification for log in into their products.

Babylon Health’s GP at Hand plans Manchester expansion. The formal notification will likely be this month to commissioners of plans to open a Manchester clinic as a center for GP at Hand’s primarily virtual consults. This follows on their recent expansion into Birmingham via Hammersmith and Fulham CCG which will be notified. How it will work is that patients registering in Manchester would be added initially to a single patient list for GP at Hand located at Hammersmith and Fulham CCG. Babylon is now totalling 60,000 patients through GP at Hand.  GP Online

Singapore’s Verita Healthcare Group has acquired three digital health startups. The two from Singapore are nBuddy and CelliHealth, in addition to Germany’s Hanako. Verita has operations in Singapore, the US, Asia-Pacific and Europe, with 35 alliance partnerships with medical clinics and hospitals across Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe. Mobihealthnews APAC

Novant Health, a 640-location health system in North Carolina, is introducing Tyto Care’s TytoHome integrated telehealth diagnostic and consult device as part of its network service. Webpage, release