Short takes for Thursday: TimeDoc’s timely $48M, Glooko buys France’s DIABNEXT, Jio Health’s $20M, Pear’s Tokyo sleep-wake, Antidote’s $22M, and Centene’s new, young CEO signals big changes

TimeDoc Health, a Chicago-based virtual care management platform that enables doctors to manage their patient populations between visits, has raised $48.5 million in a Series B funding round led by Aldrich Capital Partners.  This follows on a modest $5.7 million Series A round and equally modest seed rounds (Crunchbase). (This Editor notes that funding is becoming more modest this year anyway.) TimeDoc provides remote patient monitoring (RPM), chronic care management, and behavioral health monitoring, plus about 150 care coordinators who do it. The funding will be to add 20-40 new hires to the care coordinator group monthly and undoubtedly build out within and without its present 35 state coverage. The 2025 goal stated by their CEO is to serve one million patients monthly. Axios, Mobihealthnews

Palo Alto meets Paris, with Glooko buying DIABNEXT. The French company, which had been marketing its own diabetes management app, will be rebranding as GlookoXT, use the Glooko platform and continue to market its established app and remote monitoring products. Terms were not disclosed, but the DIABNEXT team will be joining the Glooko team. Glooko’s been hitting the European capitals, since last month they acquired Berlin-based xbirdRelease, Mobihealthnews

In Asia-Pacific news, Jio Health, based in Vietnam, now has $20 million in a Series B funding led by Singapore’s Heritas Capital. The startup is an interesting blend of telemedicine and e-prescribing via app, physical “smart” clinics, 300 branded pharmacies, and on-demand home care. Mobihealthnews

Sleepless in Tokyo? In Japan, Pear Therapeutics and SoftBank are teaming up to develop a digital therapeutic treating sleep-wake disorders. Pear has an FDA-approved prescription product for chronic insomnia, Somryst, and is pursuing a strategy of marketing sleep treatments in countries outside the US. Pear went public via a SPAC at end of 2021. Mobihealthnews

Telehealth is still captivating investors, with a $22 million Series A raise by the interestingly named Antidote Health. This tops off $12 million in seed funding by iAngels, Group 11, and Flint Capital. Their virtual consults are pitched as affordable either on a one-time or subscription basis. The raise will go towards adding chronic and primary care services, plus R&D activity, which includes advanced AI screening and clinical decision support system capabilities built on a claimed 20 year database.

And for those of us who are survivors of US health plans, top payer Centene, after 25 years of one man at the top, now has a new CEO, effective immediately. To no one’s great surprise, the pick is Sarah London, formerly vice chair of the Centene board of directors, one-third of their ‘value creation office’, and part of the Office of the Chairman. London previously headed Centene’s non-plan, primarily technology-based businesses. In 2020, she joined Centene from Optum Ventures, UnitedHealth’s VC arm, and prior to that was chief product officer of Optum Analytics. She fits a picture of Centene being a technology company for value-based care that also owns health plans, once sketched out by their now former CEO, Michael Neidorff.

Neidorff was a casualty of December’s shakeup by activist investor Politan Capital Management, along with three board members over the now-mandatory age 75 limit [TTA 18 Dec 21]. Since February, Neidorff has been on medical leave of absence from the BOD chairman’s position, with James Dallas, formerly of Medtronic, now acting chair. Neidorff is now 79 so would not be able to remain on the board unless an exception is made. He remains one of Centene’s largest individual shareholders, though he has sold millions of dollars of shares in recent years. We wish him a speedy recovery and a quiet retirement.

London’s youth at 41 and fast rise is a seismic change for Centene, and this Editor predicts a lot of changes to come quickly from top to bottom, including holdings, location, organization, and culture. Centene release, Healthcare Dive  Disclosure: this Editor worked for a division of WellCare that was acquired by Centene, and remained with the company for six months after the closing.

Thursday news roundup: Cigna deploys over $12B for investment, Cerner’s Feinberg to Humana board, Teladoc on Amazon Alexa, admitting Livongo problems, and XRHealth VR therapy scores $10M

Cigna’s opportunity piggybank just added $12 billion+. It’s a combination of selling off non-core businesses, share repurchasing authorization, and redeploying funds to areas such as capital investment and Cigna Ventures. This includes:

  • $5.4 billion after-tax from the sale of its international life, accident, and supplemental benefits businesses in seven countries
  • $450 million invested in Cigna Ventures, its innovation investment arm
  • An expected $7 billion for share repurchase this year from a $10 billion authorization. To date this year, Cigna has already repurchased $1.2 billion of shares.

The Cigna Ventures funding will go towards three announced areas: insights and analytics; digital health and experience; and care delivery and enablement. Originally formed in 2018 with $250 million, they now have seven VC partners and 15 direct investments, including Arcadia, Babyscripts, Cricket Health, Ginger, Omada, and RecoveryOne. 

Buried in the release is this: “…the company is not currently contemplating large-scale mergers or acquisitions” which would seem to put a tight lid on the long-rumored acquisition of parts or all of Centene [TTA 28 Jan]. (Too much wake turbulence?) But following on this, “The company intends to continue making strategic investments in innovation through targeted bolt-on or tuck-in acquisitions” which fits sell-offs, as well as investment in early-stage companies through Cigna Ventures. Also FierceHealthcare

Insurer Humana’s board expands to 14 with the addition of David Feinberg, MD, the current CEO of Cerner and future executive of Oracle, provided the merger is approved. He joins the current seven independent directors on the Humana board. Last week, Starboard Value LP, an activist investor hedge fund, reached an agreement with Humana to appoint two Starboard-backed board members starting next month and retire two incumbents. Humana limped through last year with a $14 million Q4 loss and Medicare Advantage losses to both traditional rivals and insurtechs. With over 25 years in healthcare management including CEO positions at Geisinger Health System and three divisions of UCLA Health, it’s a smart move. Release, FierceHealthcare

“Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor”–and that doc will be through Teladoc. Amazon customers with supported Echo devices, such as an Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show, will now be able to access Teladoc and a virtual care session 24/7. Initially it will be voice-only with audio/video to come. The release states that visits may be free through insurance or $75 direct pay. It did give a much-needed lift to Teladoc shares, which have been hammered by 76% in the past year, on the announcement and in the past few days, feeding the usual rumor mill that Amazon may be writing a check for Teladoc shares.

Teladoc has finally admitted via its annual report (SEC 10-K) that the Livongo acquisition has not been all beer and skittles. It impacted its indebtedness (page 35) and on page 52, significant insecurities on the integration of the two companies, well over a year after the acquisition.

Our failure to meet the challenges involved in successfully integrating the operations of the two companies or to otherwise realize any of the anticipated benefits of the merger, including additional cost savings and synergies, could impair our operations. In addition, the overall integration of Livongo post-merger will continue to be a time-consuming and expensive process that, without proper planning and effective and timely implementation, could significantly disrupt our business.

Healthcare IT News and HISTalk

VR physical therapy has remained a “we try harder” area of telehealth for several years, with a lot of initial promise in treating returning veterans with PTSD in de-escalating symptoms but having a hard time getting takeup. XRHealth, an early-stage company offering VR-driven physical, occupational, and speech therapies, gained a $10 million venture round backed by HTC, Bridges Israel impact investment fund, AARP, and crowdfunding on StartEngine.com and existing investors. According to Crunchbase, this is par for their course since 2016; their total of $35 million has been in pre-seed, seed, grant, crowd, and venture funding. Based in Brookline, Massachusetts with R&D in Israel, it is good to see them progress, having ‘been there and done that’ with two early-stage health tech firms.

However, their release does them a great disservice. It is, frankly, 90% nonsense in trying to position them out of the gate as “the gateway to the healthcare metaverse” and “growing the open ecosystem and providing greater access to care while reducing costs. Interoperability is key…”. This Editor had to go to their website to find out what they do. As a marketer and reporter, the First Rule of Press Releases is say what the news is, what the company does, and why it’s important in the first two paragraphs. The rest is reinforcement and expansion, with the spokesperson quote part of that and never in paragraph #2. Additional advice: don’t pick up a word now branded by Facebook (Meta). Hat tip to HISTalk

Thursday news roundup: Teladoc’s cheery 2021, uncertain 2022; DOJ deadline UnitedHealth-Change Sunday, Cerner’s earnings swan song, Humana feels the activist lash; funding/M&A for WellSky, Health Catalyst, Minded, Automata, MediBuddy

Teladoc closed 2021 on Tuesday with record revenue of $2,032.7 billion, 86% over 2020. Visits were up 38% to 15.4 million with 53.4 million paid members. Q4 revenue was $554.2 million, 45% over Q4 2020, all of which exceeded investors’ expectations. Despite moving to a positive cash flow of $194 million, Teladoc is still not profitable, with full-year losses of almost $429 million and net loss per share of $2.73, somewhat lower than 2020.

The outlook for 2022 is less certain. For the full year, they anticipate a nice rise in revenues to $2.55 to $2.65 billion but a net loss of $1.40-1.60 per share, a little more than half 2021. Paid membership they project will grow to 54 to 56 million. The stock did take a bit of a bath due to market uncertainty with Ukraine-Russia and also a lowered forecast for first quarter. Teladoc earnings release, Healthcare Dive

DOJ has till Sunday 27 February to sue to stop the UnitedHealth acquisition of Change Healthcare. The acquirer and acquiree popped their 10-day notice on 17 February through their 8-K filing with the SEC. They had previously agreed to hold their closing until after 22 February. So if the DOJ is going to block the deal, as has been reported [TTA 17 Feb], they have from today to Sunday to do it–and courts aren’t open Saturday and Sunday. Healthcare Dive, Becker’s Health IT

Cerner’s 2021 swan song kind of… honked. Their net loss for the year was $8.8 million in 2021, compared with a net income of $76.9 million in 2020. Total net earnings topped $555 million in net earnings in 2021, down 29% from $780.1 million in 2020. Cerner release, Becker’s. Meanwhile, Oracle’s acquisition high hurdles continue [TTA 11 Feb] with the Feds, passing the first mark of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act waiting period as of 11.59pm on 22 February. Still to go is the SEC review of Oracle’s tender offer for Cerner shares.  Becker’s Health IT

Humana joins Centene in insurers forced to change by activist shareholders. Starboard Value, a hedge fund, reached an agreement with Humana that Humana would add two independent board directors backed by Starboard. The first will be named on 21 April with the second to follow. They replace incumbents who will not stand for re-election. Starboard owns 1 million Humana or 0.79% of shares, but is well known for wielding them effectively to leverage change when the business hits a pothole–Humana’s $14 million Q4 loss and Medicare Advantage losses to both traditional rivals and insurtechs.

Humana is standing by its 2022 projection of 11-15%  growth but slowing performance in large areas such as Medicare Advantage. The company has stated that they will funnel funds back into Medicare Advantage through its “value creation plan”, which sounds very much like Centene’s “value creation office”. You’d think they’d come up with cleverer names and less anodyne ‘strategies’ for extracting savings from these lemons wherever possible, including selling off assets and “optimizing its workforce”. Reuters, Healthcare Dive

And quick takes from the US, UK, and India…

WellSky is acquiring TapCloud for an undisclosed amount. WellSky is a data analytics and care coordination automation company in the acute care and home care markets, with TapCloud a patient-facing engagement and communication platform. Release

Another data analytics company, Health Catalyst, is bolstering capabilities with its agreement to buy KPI Ninja, a provider of interoperability solutions and population health analytics. Purchase price and management transitions undisclosed, though from the release it appears that all KPI Ninjas will be onboarded.

Minded, a NYC-based mental health med management company, scored $25 million in seed funding from Streamlined Ventures, Link Ventures, The Tiger Fund, Unicorn Ventures, and private individuals. They provide direct-to-patient behavioral health medications through virtual evaluations with treatment plans without in-person visits, which are still unusual in psychiatry. At the present time, it is available only in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and California.

The founders are an interesting mix: David Ronick, who previously co-founded fintech unicorn Stash, Gaspard de Dreuzy, the co-founder of telehealth company Pager, and Dr. Chris Dennis, a multi-state licensed psychiatrist. Their rationale for founding the company does resonate with this Editor, whose brother is a board-certified MD psychiatrist, and who knows well 1) the challenges of remote therapy and 2) the scarcity of psychiatrists in most of the US beyond urban and academic areas. Release, TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews

In the UK, London-based Automata, which automates lab technology to shorten turnaround time and scale up lab capacity, along with deploying automation with contract research organizations, research labs, and blue-chip healthcare institutions, announced a $50 million (£36.8M) Series B raise. The round was led by Octopus Ventures with participation from returning investors Hummingbird, Latitude Ventures, ABB Technology Ventures, Isomer Capital as well as strategic investors including In-Q-Tel. Mobihealthnews

From Bangalore, India, virtual health company MediBuddy $125 million Series C funding was led by Quadria Capital and Lightrock India, bringing their total funding to over $191.1 million, a hallmark of a largely bootstrapped company. MediBuddy uses a smartphone app for 24/7 real-time video doctor consults and at-home lab testing covering the family and in more than eight languages, important in India which has hundreds of languages and local dialects. Great smiles on the founders too! Mobihealthnews

News, deals, rumors roundup: Cerner’s DOD and VA go-lives, Akili’s ADHD therapy SPACs, Talkiatry’s $37M raise, Alto sings a $200M supper–and the Cigna-Centene rumors don’t stop

While Cerner’s acquisition by Oracle is winding its way through regulatory approvals, their EHR implementations are moving forward through both the Military Health System (Department of Defense) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

  • Within the MHS, Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, both in the San Antonio (Texas) Market, went live with MHS GENESIS on 22 January. The change most visible to patients is the transition from TRICARE Online to the MHS GENESIS Patient Portal which enables 24/7 access for visit notes, secure messaging, test results, appointment scheduling, and online prescription renewal. MHS covers military retirees, active military, and family beneficiaries. According to the MHS’s website, the goal this year is to get to halfway–to implement MHS GENESIS in more than half of all military hospitals and clinics. It’s been taking place since 2017 and, in true military fashion, it’s planned in waves. Coming up are Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune in South Carolina on 19 March and William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso in summer.
  • VA is moving far more slowly, just getting to its second hospital. The Columbus VA go-live has been pushed back from 5 March to 30 April, citing training slowdowns due to a spike in staff COVID cases. Walla Walla, Washington is set for after Columbus, but the date is to be confirmed. The first, failed implementation at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in late 2020 was the subject of Federal hearings and a complete redo in VA’s plans and procedures in cutting over from VistA to Cerner Millenium. TTA 28 July and previous. Federal News Network

Akili Interactive, which has developed tech-driven, game-based cognitive therapies for ADHD and other psychiatric and neurological conditions, has gone public through a SPAC via a merger with Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp. I, The transaction is expected to close in mid-2022. Akili will be listed on the Nasdaq stock market under the new ticker symbol AKLI.

The SPAC is expected to provide up to $412 million in gross cash proceeds and value the company at over $1 billion. Investors in the $162 million PIPE are Suvretta Capital Management’s Averill strategy, Apeiron Investment Group, Temasek, co-founder PureTech Health, Polaris Partners, Evidity Health Capital, JAZZ Venture Partners, and Omidyar Technology Ventures. The funds raised will support the commercial debut of EndeavorRx, a FDA-cleared and CE-marked prescription digital therapeutic for pediatric ADHD. The technology is termed the Selective Stimulus Management Engine (SSME) and will be rolled out for ADHD, ASD, MS, and MDD treatment.

TTA noted Akili last year in a trial of AKL-T01 at several hospitals for treatment of long-COVID-related cognition problems. Unfortunately, the writing in their SPAC release made this Editor feel like she needed a few treatments.

Mentalhealthtech (psychtech?) continues to attract funding. Psychiatric care startup Talkiatry topped off its July $20 million raise with an additional $17 million from Left Lane Capital for a $37 million Series A financing round. CityMD founder Dr. Richard Park, Sikwoo Capital Partners, and Relevance Ventures also participated. Talkiatry uses an online assessment for a preliminary diagnosis and then matches you with a participating psychiatrist.  It is in-network with payers such as Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealthcare (Oxford Health Plan), Oscar, and Humana. Funding will be used to expand beyond NYC. Mobihealthnews

Digital pharmacy is also hot. Alto, which promises same-day filling and courier delivery, raised a $200 million Series E led by Softbank Vision Fund. Their total to date is over $550 million. Alto serves selected areas mainly in California, Nevada, Texas, and NYC (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn). Competitors Capsule had another raise of $300 million in April for a total of $570 million and Medly raised a $100 million Series B in 2020. Mobihealthnews

In the wake turbulence of Centene’s dramatic management shakeup last month [TTA 18 Dec], rumors continue to surface that insurer Cigna is interested in acquiring all, or possibly part, of Centene. Bloomberg News in publishing its article earlier this week cited ‘people familiar with the matter’ said that talks took place last year, but that they are not ongoing. Seeking Alpha picked this up, adding market activity boosting Centene. Perhaps the disclosure and the ‘denials’ align with what this Editor has heard–that it’s very much ongoing but under wraps.

A Centene buy makes sense, but only with Cigna. While Cigna is almost double the market value of Centene, it does not have the sprawling business model the latter has, nor do their businesses overlap much. However, some divestiture would be needed to do a deal, given the constrained regulatory environment in the US on the Federal and state levels. Any insurer merger is seen as anti-competitive, unless it is an acquisition of a smaller, struggling plan. 

It certainly would vault Cigna into the top rank of insurers with non-Centene branded exchange, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans, a provider network, an established MSO, and other lines of business including Magellan behavioral health management. Cigna might also value Centene’s international holdings, such as private hospitals Circle Health in the UK and Ribera in Spain. A sale would also create a quick and profitable ROI for Politan Capital Management, the activist investor company that initiated the retirement of 25 year CEO Michael Neidorff last month, rather than managing and reorganizing the sprawl of Centene’s businesses to make it more profitable.

Short takes: 2022’s big kickoff with Babylon-Higi, Vera-Castlight buys; will funding slow down in ’22, eye-tracking telehealth for MS, vital signs tracking lightbulbs at CES 2022, and three catchups!

Babylon Health closed out 2021 by acquiring health kiosk Higi for an undisclosed amount. Babylon had earlier invested in Higi’s Series B [TTA 30 May 20] and was reported in October to be exercising its $30 million option to buy Higi after closing their SPAC. Release

Vera Whole Health, an advanced primary care provider and clinic group based in Seattle, is acquiring Castlight Health, a data and care navigation platform. Vera will acquire Castlight in a $370 million all-cash deal. Strategic partners and investors include Anthem, Morgan Health (the JP Morgan Chase & Co business for the transformation of employee healthcare), Central Ohio Primary Care, and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice funds. Former Aetna chairman and CEO Ron Williams will become chairman. Release.

Which leads to the usual question…will funding in 2022 continue the hot streak of 2021? It’s one opinion, but Lee Shapiro of 7wireVentures, formerly with Livongo, is sensing a slowdown, citing increased interest rates (money), the US midterm elections (which don’t affect the rest of the world), less new money, and investors wising up on the length of time any healthcare or health tech investment takes to pay off. 2021 with 79 digital health M&As plus an abundance of SPACs that tailed off by end of year will be hard to match. Mobihealthnews

XRHealth, a telehealth clinic that provides treatments in patients’ homes based on virtual reality treatment, has integrated Tobii‘s eye-tracking technology into the XR platform and the Pico Neo 3 Pro Eye VR headset. XR Health provides rehabilitative and pain management therapies via VR. The Tobii system will enable treatment using the headset for multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, and other neurological conditions. According to the release published in Multiple Sclerosis News Today, “detecting subtle changes in eye movement can help diagnose these diseases at an early stage, as well as assess disease progression and response to treatment. Tobii‘s eye-tracking technology is able to detect those changes in real time, providing data and insights to clinicians during therapy sessions.” Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve Hards

CES 2022 is on this week, far less splashy than before as an in-person/virtual hybrid event. Debuting at CES is the Sengled Smart Health Monitoring Light. Looking like a standard LED lamp bulb, it contains sensors that network and can take passive vital signs measurements of sleep quality, breathing, heart rate, and motion of occupants in the home. The more bulbs the better, of course. Whether or not they can detect falls, as the article touts, is likely an inference on motion. They feed into either Alexa or Google Assistant, plus Sengled’s app, using Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar operating in the 2.4 GHz range. Expect it to be coming out towards the end of the year and probably twice the price of conventional LED smart bulbs. TechRadar Hat tip to Adrian Scaife via LinkedIn

Catching up…

Walgreens and VillageMD continue on the ‘go big or go home’ highway with nine more Village Medicals at Walgreens in San Antonio, Texas. Plans are to build 600 Village Medicals at Walgreens in more than 30 markets by 2025, growing to 1,000 by 2027. HealthcareFinance

Centene, the health payer conglomerate, finalized its $2.2 billion acquisition of Magellan Health, a major behavioral health management company. It will likely be CEO Michael Neidorff’s swan song, as an activist investor forced his retirement (at age 78 after over 25 years at the helm) this year and significant board changes. Magellan’s former COO and president Jim Murray will become Centene’s chief transformation officer, a new position, lead what they term the Value Creation Office as well as the Centene Advanced Behavioral Health division. Forbes, Centene release

And suitors with a spare billion or so may be lining up to buy IBM Watson Health. The first offers came in on 4 January with the winner to be announced possibly by end of the month. IBM spent over $4 billion over time to build up Watson Health, but now wants out, badly. Axios

News roundup: UnitedHealth Group pushes off Change closing again, Amazon’s new healthcare head, Centene’s shakeup of CEO, board, holdings

Change won’t come easy, as this Editor predicted. Now the closing of the Change Healthcare acquisition by UnitedHealth Group has been pushed off to April 2022. Announced in January, it was delayed in August and October/November with the Department of Justice review of the merger under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Act (HSR). This SEC filing by UnitedHealth is the first time a definite date target has been set. Change’s diversified health IT/data analytics/imaging/payments systems would be combined with OptumInsight. HealthcareFinanceNews

Amazon finally named a head of healthcare to oversee Amazon Care, Amazon Pharmacy, Halo and Alexa’s healthcare uses. Neil Lindsay, former head of Amazon Prime, was named senior vice president of health and brand within Amazon’s global consumer business, reporting to CEO Andy Jassy. Mr. Lindsay sits on the so-called ‘S-team’, Amazon’s most influential executive group. Take this as an indicator of the importance of healthcare to their business. The terseness of the information has been typical of Amazon. Becker’s Hospital Review, CNBC

Centene, one of the top 10 health plan companies in the US, had a major shakeup this week. Long-time CEO Michael Neidorff will retire and exit sometime in 2022. The board, now set at 14 members, retired three directors via a new age limit of 75. Five new directors will come on board, including Ken Burdick, former CEO of WellCare Health Plans, acquired by Centene in 2020, and Wayne DeVeydt, former Anthem CFO.

The shake-n-bake has been shaking since November, when activist investor Politan Capital Management started to press for changes. Other changes include a projected sale of non-core assets, including private hospitals Circle Health in the UK and Ribera in Spain, with combined revenue of $2 billion. The rather ‘shaggy’ list of Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage, and exchange plans–none of which carry the Centene brand–and a potpourri of other units and management services are being examined bottom up by a three-person “value creation office”, as are Centene’s extensive real estate holdings and leases, to extract savings wherever possible. One area mentioned was hybrid and at-home work, a major change to the Centene “cubie” culture.

Neidorff joined a tiny Centene as CEO in 1996 and is now 78. There is no update on the delayed Magellan behavioral health management acquisition. Healthcare Dive 14 Dec, 13 Dec. Centene releases on Neidorff’s retirement as “leadership succession plan” and governance/board changes.

Comings, goings, and more: YouTube goes healthy, COVID vax distribution and EMA hack, IPO/M&A roundup, Japan’s health tech startups highlighted at CES

Short takes on news snippets from just about everywhere. It’s been that kind of a week. (Picture: the famous Raymond Loewy-designed ’49 Studebaker Commander, of which it was joked ‘you can’t tell whether it’s coming or going)

Google-owned YouTube has decided to take a more organized approach to healthcare content with the hiring from CVS Health of Garth Graham, MD, who will serve as its director and global head of healthcare. At CVS, he was chief community health officer and president of the Aetna Foundation. His portfolio will include the development of content from providers including the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, the National Academy of Health, and Harvard’s School of Public Health. It’s seen as a platform for video-formatted health education both US and globally. The importance to Google is evident in the reporting line: Dr. Graham will report to Karen DeSalvo, MD, the chief health officer at Google. One wonders if the next step is the curating (a/k/a demonetizing or removal) of health content not Google-generated. FierceHealthcare, YouTube press release

Some states have done well on COVID-19 distribution. Others haven’t. It apparently doesn’t matter if you’re large or small. In the US, states were given vaccines based on CDC information and consultation with them. The states then designed their own distribution and priorities. Here’s a running tally on Becker’s Hospital Review Meanwhile, back in Hackerville, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed on 12 January that data relating to regulatory submissions by Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech that were on a hacked server was leaked to the internet. Becker’s

In IPO/M&A news:

Centene Corporation is acquiring Magellan Health, a behavioral health, specialty healthcare, and pharmacy management company, for $2.2 billion. Centene continues its transformation into a UnitedHealthcare structured company, with payer programs on one side and health services including population health management, data analytics and other areas of health tech on the other side. Magellan will be operated independently. The deal requires Federal and state review, and is expected to close in second half 2021. Release  Magellan this week announced its lead investment in a $20 million Series B raise by Philadelphia-based NeuroFlow, a clinical behavioral health monitoring system. Philadelphia Business Journal

Amwell announced a public offering of over 11 million shares. The date and pricing for the offering were not mentioned in the release, but at the current share price of $28, this would raise in excess of $308 million. This is on top of their socko IPO last September which raised in excess of $700 million. 

Behavioral therapy continues to be hot, with online behavioral therapy company Talkspace going the SPAC ‘blank check’ route in merging with investor company Hudson Executive Investment. It provides them with $250 million cash. Estimated net revenue is $125 million in 2021, up 69 percent from 2020, creating an enterprise value of $1.4 bn, which is quite a reach. Healthcare Dive, release.

Medicare Advantage payer Clover Health of Jersey City, NJ also went the SPAC route this week with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. III, giving it an enterprise value of approximately $3.7 billion. Clover Health styles itself as a health tech company as it analyzes member health and behavioral data to improve medical outcomes and lower costs for patients, many of whom have multiple chronic conditions or are classified as underserved.  Release

Israel’s Itamar Health, which focuses on integrating sleep apnea management into the cardiac patient care pathway, is buying SF-based Spry Health for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 2014, Spry has an FDA-cleared wrist-worn device, the Loop System, that monitors SpO2, respiration rate, and heart rate. Itamar plans to develop a wrist-worn device based on their Peripheral Arterial Tonometry (PAT) immediately, with initial market launch anticipated in 2022. Release

Hinge Health’s Series D raised $300 million and a new valuation of the company at $3 bn. (Remember when $1 bn was a unicorn amount?) Hinge’s specialty is musculoskeletal–a virtual MSK Clinic for back and joint pain care and rehab including access to physical therapists, physicians, health coaches, and wearable sensors to guide exercise therapy. Release

In startup news…Under the radar, Japan has been developing a crop of health tech startups. They were highlighted at this year’s virtual CES by Jetro–the Japan External Trade Organization. Their CES web page has a teaser video and sortable profiles on companies, many of which look very interesting. According to their materials, there are perhaps 10,000 Japan startups but few of them make it out of Japan. This Editor looked forward to their presentation on ‘Turning the Super Aging Society into a Super Smart Society’ yesterday evening, but virtual doesn’t mean that links work or events actually happen, so our reporting will attach some statistics on their super-aging society, as well as a comparison with other countries (PDF).

Haven finds no haven in healthcare, will close in February

Man Plans, God Laughs. Haven, the joint venture cobbled together by JP Morgan, Berkshire Hathaway, and Amazon to transform corporate healthcare three years ago, will be shuttering next month. The website has but a single page of signoff. All it is missing is a bit of sad synth music like the air crash simulations and analyses so popular on YouTube.

Haven’s founding in January 2018 made for expansive, far-seeing (sic) 50,000-foot quotes by JPM’s Jamie Dimon and B-H’s Warren Buffett about the ‘hungry tapeworm’ of healthcare costs and the need to simplify it for their million-odd employees. Surely it made for great speeches at annual meetings and glossy Annual Report pages. But in its three years of existence, Haven never found a home. It had the ambitious mission of “partnering on ways to address healthcare for their U.S. employees, with the aim of improving employee satisfaction and reducing costs” and setting up an independent company “free from profit-making incentives and constraints” [TTA 31 Jan 2018]. Yet it spent its first six months without a CEO, over a year without a name, and never created a clear direction. 

Atul Gawande, MD, one of the big thinkers on the broken US healthcare system, joined as CEO six months in, but oddly did not give up his teaching, clinical, and writing commitments. It left the sense that for the doctor, Haven was a part-time gig [TTA 21 June 2018]. One can imagine how Dr. Gawande, without a strong business management background, dealt with the egos of the Bezos-Dimon-Buffett trio without a strong backup team to deal with them, get a plan together, and execute.

The signs of failure were increasingly apparent by the Year of the Pandemic. Health systems and insurers–the ones with the data and the leverage–were never bought (though WellCare, a leading Medicare Advantage payer, was up for sale in 2019 and snapped up by Centene) or even engaged in partnerships. Management fled starting in 2019, accelerating in 2020: COO Jack Stoddard for personal reasons in May 2019, then in 2020 financial head Liam Brenner and people head Bryan Jones in April, Dr. Gawande in May, Head of Measurement Dana Safran in July, and CTO Serkan Kutan in September. Becker’s Hospital Review The one partner with retail consumer healthcare experience–Amazon–increasingly and publicly pulled off in its own beneficial directions, acquiring PillPack in mid-2019 as the first move towards a PBM, then in the past few months pushing Amazon Care for large employers and creating Amazon Pharmacy. The other two companies also, according to reports, executed their own projects with their own teams.

The small employee group (under 60) may find spots at one of the three companies. The official announcement states they will ‘collaborate informally’. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Fierce Healthcare, CNBC, HISTalk.

News roundup, lockdown edition: Oscar Health’s $140M raise, IPO filing; Centene’s Diameter Health investment; Abbott’s telehealth-guided COVID antigen test

Before we break for the Christmas and New Year’s festive season, though most of us are partially or fully locked down for travel and get-togethers, binge-watching the telly for comfort, a few items of interest–we’ll keep it short:

An Oscar Health Double Header. Not only did this relatively new payer in the individual, small group, and Medicare Advantage markets gain a $140 million funding round last week, adding to a $225 million raise in June (Fierce Healthcare), but they quietly filed their S-1 registration with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public on Monday (Healthcare Dive, Oscar release). Since their founding in 2012, the company has raised $1.6 bn in 10 rounds. The fresh funding will go towards 19 new markets and four new states in 2021, adding to their current 18 states and 211 counties. 

Speaking of payers getting into other lines of business, Centene Corporation, which has Medicare plans with different brands in all 50 states, seems to be moving in a different direction with some recent acquisitions and investments. Centene was the lead investor in an $18 million Series B round for Diameter Health, an enterprise data interoperability developer. Optum Ventures, LRVHealth, Connecticut Innovations, and Activate Venture Partners also participated. Fierce Healthcare Centene recently finalized their acquisition of Apixio (AI-assisted clinical data mining of unstructured data) [TTA 14 Nov] and is acquiring Pantherx, a specialty pharmacy focused on orphan medications and rare diseases, to blend into their Envolve Pharmacy Solutions unit. It does appear that Centene is moving into the UnitedHealthcare/Optum model of dividing services and innovations which can be sold to third parties (Optum) from their health plan and pharmacy businesses (UHC), which may be less profitable in the next few years.

An antigen test for COVID-19 with a telehealth spin is Abbott Pharmaceuticals’ BinaxNOW 15-minute antigen test. It is the first at home, telehealth guided test to get an FDA emergency use authorization (EUA). The Ag Card Home Test requires a prescription and used telehealth to guide users through the sample self-collection process, then to help them read and understand their results. MedTech Dive  It was followed up this week by Quidel’s EUA for a dipstick-style collection with a reading in minutes, similar to that of a pregnancy test, but is only cleared for healthcare settings for now. MedTech Dive

Above: Rockefeller Center, 2011. This year’s tree was mangy and the decorations leading to the plaza scarce.

News roundup: Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on horizon, CVS’ new CEO, Vodafone UK 5G health survey, Centene acquires Apixio AI, Doro’s 24/7 Response

As infection rates continue to rise, Pfizer’s and German partner BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine was the top of the news this undecided post-US election week. It was found to be “more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis” of the Phase 3 clinical study. They exceeded their evaluable case count (total was 94). Protection was achieved 28 days after the initiation of the 2-dose vaccination. Pfizer release. Chain and independent pharmacies have already signed on for distribution at no cost to patients, covering about 60 percent of pharmacies through the US, Puerto Rico, and the USVI. It’s expected that FDA approval will be by end of year with availability early next year. HHS release. Work on 10 other vaccines goes on. The NHS is lining up for distribution with Health Secretary Matt Hancock promising that they’ll be ready from December as coronavirus diagnoses and deaths climb up from summer levels. BBC News

CVS’ CEO Larry Merlo announces 1 Feb 2021 retirement, Aetna head Karen Lynch to take the helm. Ms. Lynch will also join the board of directors. Mr. Merlo will depart after the shareholder meeting and serve as a strategic adviser until 31 May, which is typical of CEO phased departures. He leaves CVS in excellent shape having conducted during his 10-year tenure the acquisition of Aetna in 2018 and the growth of CVS to almost 10,000 store locations, initiating 1,500 HealthHUBs, and over $199 bn in earnings through Q3 this year. Ms. Lynch joined Aetna in 2012 from Magellan Health Services, a specialty/behavioral managed health company, and Cigna. She hit a home run with vitalizing Aetna’s Medicare Advantage business to 2.5 million members from under 1 million in 2013 and became Aetna’s president in 2015. Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO during the merger in 2018 (but not Federally approved till September 2019), lost his spot on the board in an apparent spat/downsizing last February.  FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive, Fortune

Vodafone UK’s new survey on 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) devices in UK health and social care has been issued. A key finding is the comfort level of some telehealth consults well past 50 percent, and over 60 percent in the 18-34 and 35-54 age groups. There is 60-70+ agreement with Government investment in digital technology to ‘future proof the UK healthcare sector’ and to pay for care homes’ high-quality broadband and mobile. More in Vodafone’s study here.

Healthcare payer Centene Corporation is acquiring healthcare analytics company Apixio. Apixio’s AI platform analyzes large amounts of unstructured patient data in physician notes and medical charts. It then creates algorithms to extract high-quality insights to support payers’ and providers’ administrative activities. Acquisition cost is not disclosed and close is expected by end of year. It will be an ‘operationally independent entity’ in an Enterprise group, but complement other in-house technologies such as Interpreta. A bit of catch up here as larger plans Anthem, UnitedHealth/Optum, and Humana all have either substantial in-house AI analytics or have contracted with outside vendors (e.g. Microsoft) for this capability. Release. (Disclosure: This Editor was formerly with Centene, via their WellCare Health Plans acquisition)

Doro Mobile UK and Ireland is introducing ‘Response by Doro’, a touch button service to summon help if needed. The alert button is on the back of the phone versus on the screen, which differs it from most mobile systems. The standard level connects to family and friends, with the Response Premium level connecting to a 24/7 service. For BT Mobile and EE mobile customers with a Doro mobile phone, their first month’s access to Response Premium is free. Release (PDF)

More consolidation: BioTelemetry acquires population health platform from Envolve/Centene, inks agreement with Boston Scientific

BioTelemetry , a RPM company in the cardiac monitoring, population health management, and clinical trials research, quietly announced last week two agreements that once again confirm the consolidation of now the remote patient monitoring market:

  • The acquisition of the On.Demand remote patient monitoring (RPM) and coaching platform, formerly owned and operated by Envolve People Care, Inc., a Centene Corporation subsidiary. The population health management platform contains real-time monitoring of biometric data with cellular- and web-based technology (including Alexa), proactive and reactive health coaching, population health reporting, and customizable interventions. While acquisition cost was not disclosed, BioTelemetry retains through a strategic partnership agreement Envolve and its base with Centene health plan members for diabetes RPM for the remainder of 2020. BioTelemetry is also free to pursue business with other health plans. Release.
  • BioTelemetry will also be a sales agent in the United States for the Boston Scientific LUX-Dx Insertable Cardiac Monitor (ICM) System. Release.

If you go back to 1994, up to 2013, BioTelemetry was CardioNet and one of the Ur-Companies in the RPM space. They went public in 2015 on Nasdaq, and have quietly made many acquisitions both before and after the IPO. Their 2nd Quarter results were $99 million in revenue; operations were profitable, despite a downturn in revenues from the pandemic and beat their estimates (Zacks). Unlike Teladoc and Livongo, their shares have been solidly up since end of July and they’re rated a ‘hold’. Nothing flashy, but solid work.

CVS-Aetna merger will run off the tracks in Federal court: reports

Reports emerging this past Monday after the close of last week’s DC Federal District Court hearings in indicate that the CVS-Aetna merger may be nixed by Judge Richard Leon. This may result in the full unwinding of the already-closed merger, a derailing of the settlement which involved selling the Aetna Medicare Part D business to government-plan insurer WellCare, or something in between.

The original report was in Monday’s New York Post. A source working with CVS and Aetna stated “I think Leon rules against us. If he rejects the settlement, we would have to figure out the next steps.” That settlement is significant because it represents the only major overlap between the CVS and Aetna businesses. In other words, there’s nothing left to divest or concede.

Judge Leon, based on reports, was consistently irritated with the Department of Justice, questioning everything from the Part D divestiture to the effects of adding 21 million Aetna customers to CVS’s pharmacy benefits management (PBM) business not being revealed in DOJ documents to him. Conversely, the sale of the Part D business to WellCare was batted one way–as not enough to reduce CVS’ market control and not competitive–and then the other, as WellCare remains a CVS PBM customer for 2.2 million members in its health plans. What was also clear from his selection of expert witnesses that Judge Leon was more interested in the anti-competitive effects of the merger than any of the benefits.

It is obvious both from Judge Leon’s in-court actions (such as not permitting DOJ attorneys to cross-examine any witnesses), assorted remarks, and delay for now over six months, that this merger is coming to a pre-ordained conclusion, at least by this judge. This is already a first under the Tunney Act enacted in 1974. A negative decision will certainly be appealed by CVS-Aetna and DOJ, which will drag out any finalization even if successful–and the sale of the Part D business, important to WellCare as part of its own pending acquisition by Centene–to the end of the year and possibly beyond.

With this background and oral arguments delayed until 17 July, according to Judge Leon, the legal teams on all sides won’t have much of a summer.  Also Barrons, video on NBR.

Anthem-Cigna merger nixed, finally (US)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Thomas.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] Breaking News. Not with a bang, but a whimper. Late Wednesday 8 Feb, the anticipated decision derailing the $54 million Anthem-Cigna merger was released by the Federal District Court, District of Columbia. Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s decision denying the merger was very much along the anti-competitive and anti-trust rationales contained in the 19 January advance report by the New York Post. There’s little that hasn’t already been explored in our prior reports, so we will leave the rehashing to sources like CNBC. The general consensus is that the four Big Payer Merger participants (Aetna and Humana merger denied [TTA 24 Jan]) will be moving on, perhaps to their advantage as most of the premises for merging, based on ACA’s effects, are expected to change, drastically.

Cigna must also be relieved after its reported ‘merger remorse’ after too many rumored disagreements with Anthem. According to Bloomberg, Cigna is sitting on $7 to $14 billion deployable capital, with the high end including extra debt. (Does this include the $1.85 bn breakup fee that Anthem owes to Cigna? Stay tuned on how Anthem tries to get out of this.) And the American Medical Association is beyond delighted (release).

Of course, there’s a lot of speculation about all that loose cash being deployed on new merger targets, which include the Usual Suspects of Humana, WellCare, Centene and Molina. Some free advice: all these companies should, for the next year, sit quietly and breathe deeply (as many employees who would be redundant in any merger are). They should also take care of business (TCB!), refocus on serving their policyholders, make their processes far less onerous on providers, and let it all shake out rather than rushing out to find out Who To Buy. (New Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in this morning, and many changes are coming in both healthcare policy and the judiciary.) Also Neil Versel’s pointed take in MedCityNews.

Breaking: Aetna-Humana merger blocked by Federal court

Breaking News from Washington Judge John B. Bates of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled today (23 Jan), as expected, against the merger of insurance giants Aetna and Humana. Grounds cited were the reduction in competition for Medicare Advantage plans, where both companies compete. “In this case, the government alleged that the merger of Aetna and Humana would be likely to substantially lessen competition in markets for individual Medicare Advantage plans and health insurance sold on the public exchanges.” The decision could be appealed in the US Appeals Court for the DC Circuit, or could be abandoned for different combinations, for example a rumored Cigna-Humana merger, or smaller companies in the Medicare/Medicaid market such as Centene, WellCare, and Molina Healthcare. Certainly there is money about: Humana would gain a $1 bn breakup fee from Aetna, and Cigna $1.85 bn.

No decision to date has been made in the Anthem-Cigna merger, but the general consensus of reports is that it will be denied by Federal Judge Jackson soon. [TTA 19 Jan]

Healthcare DiveBloomberg, Business InsiderBenzinga

Of course, with a new President determined to immediately roll back the more onerous regulatory parts of the ACA, in one of his first Executive Orders directing that Federal agencies ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare on both patients (the mandatory coverage) and providers, the denial of these two mega-mergers in the 2009-2016 environment may be seen as a capital ‘dodging the bullet’ in a reconfigured–and far less giving to Big Payers–environment. FoxNews

DOJ sues to derail Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna mergers on anti-trust grounds (updated)

Breaking News. The anticipated shoe has dropped. With all the US news concentrating on the Republican convention, the US Department of Justice, late today, without much fanfare beyond the presser, lobbed lawsuits at Aetna and Anthem to stop their respective acquisitions of Humana and Cigna. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch was joined by Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General William Baer, who had been the DOJ’s point person for this anti-trust review.

According to CNN’s report, Mr Baer said “the two mergers would leave consumers at risk by reducing benefits and raising premiums. He also stressed that the most vulnerable would be hit the hardest and that competition would be reduced. “These are so-called solutions that we cannot accept,” Baer said. He added that the mergers are a “convenient shortcut to increase profit for these two companies,” and that the DOJ had “zero confidence” that they would benefit consumers.”

Reuters reported that Aetna and Humana expect “to vigorously defend the companies’ pending merger,” Anthem’s response was “more muted”, as industry observers expected, as it has been more problematic not only in size and with Medicare Advantage divestiture, but also with reports of disagreements on management and governance.

If these mergers were successful, the Big Five in US health insurance would be reduced to the Big Three, with the $48 bn Anthem-Cigna matchup besting UnitedHealthCare for the #1 pole position with 45 million covered persons.

Why is this important to those of us in telehealth, telemedicine and telecare? We are still seeking ‘who pays for it’ (remember our Five Big Questions/FBQs?) and when five becomes three, and things are unsettled….negotiations grind to a halt. (This Editor will reference the post-2008 years where health tech US deals and development came to a screeching stop as we waited to find out what was in that mystery ACA bill. Recovery/reset took years….)

Earlier reports via Bloomberg News and Reuters noted that both sets of insurance companies faced substantial opposition from the start. (more…)