TTA’s VERY Last Swing of Summer: UHG can complete Change buy, Oracle transforming Cerner, Meta Pixel health data privacy scrutinized, Redesign Health raises $65M, more!

 

 

Weekly Update

We wind up Summer with UHG finally receiving an OK from District Court to complete Change Healthcare buy–unless DOJ pursues appeal. Oracle set to Oracleize Cerner but VA hedges Cerner training with AWS. The Meta Pixel/health data privacy story continues, catching attention from the Senate. Some fundings and buys large and small.

(Note to Readers: no updates until 28 September)

Meta facing some Senate scrutiny on Meta Pixel’s health data collection–and how it’s used (Bad, bad Facebook)
Weekend reading: HHS Office of Information Security presentation on security risks in AI, 5G, nanomedicine, more (Warning, 34 page presentation)
ATA organizes Telehealth Awareness Week this week (And beyond)
Breaking: Judge permits UnitedHealth acquisition of Change Healthcare, denies DOJ motion (updated) (But beware DOJ taking it to appeal)
News roundup: Oracle’s modernizing Cerner’s tech, but VA hedges training with AWS; Redesign Health’s $65M raise; Kyruus buys Epion Health; Zócalo Health raises $5M seed; Cigna Evernorth adds to digital formulary

Back from Two Weeks in Another Town (except for a few extra days), the August-September ‘quiet time’ certainly was not. CVS’ big win in Signify’s auction was on Labor Day. Change may or may not be joining UHG/Optum after October. FTC doesn’t much like Amazon’s acquisitions, including One Medical. And Elizabeth Holmes’ legal team was busily filing–and delaying the (maybe) inevitable, including a declaration straight out of Perry Mason. The passing of a Queen and crowning of a King.

Elizabeth Holmes’ three swings and a miss in overturning her trial verdict reveal a crafty strategy (She’ll be in court long after Sunny Balwani toddles off to prison)
News briefs, catchup edition: UnitedHealth/Change decision October?, CVS wins $8B Signify Health auction, Walgreens majority buy of CareCentrix, FTC requests more info on Amazon-One Medical (Home care wars and a long-awaited decision)
Perspectives: Creating consistent standards isn’t a once and done job (The safety of digital treatment tools)
On the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II

$130M to Alma’s mental health platform, Cadence Care RPM with ScionHealth, NIH funding telehealth in cancer care, and more.

News roundup: RPM at 79 ScionHealth hospitals, 74% of employers like virtual care despite concerns, Alma Health garners $130M, NIH’s $25M for cancer care telehealth research, Parks’ virtual Connected Health Summit 30-31 Aug

Amazon threw in its beach towel on Care, put its bets on One (Medical), and paddle up in Signify’s auction closing after Labor Day. Babylon Health is eliminating distractions with the NHS to concentrate on the US. Oracle’s hit with charges of massive privacy violations, on top of massive Cerner VA dysfunctionality. But back to the future–Fitbit’s reviving with three new fitness watches.

Oracle in Federal court class-action lawsuit on global privacy violations; Cerner VA EHR had 498 major outage incidents, 7% of time since rollout (Misery upon misery)
Week-end news roundup: Fitbit revives with 3 new watches, Sena Health hospital-at-home, SteadyMD surveys telehealth clinicians, 9.4% fewer adult dental visits in England, save the date for ATA 2023
Perspectives: why digital apps need an in-house clinical safety lead (A Perspective from Wysa, more to come in September)
Breaking: Amazon Care shutting down after three years–what’s next? (updated) (Care an expensive course at the University of Healthcare Delivery)
Babylon Health exits last NHS hospital contract as a ‘distraction’, looks to US market for growth (Tighten your seatbelts)
Signify Health bidding war ensues, waged by Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, CVS, Option Care Health (A scrum with unknown outcome)

An action-packed mid-August. No one seems to be sitting on the beach unless you’ve been laid off. Meanwhile, companies are scrambling. No, Babylon Health is not being bought. But elsewhere, there is some good news around acquisitions and funding. 

Rounding up the week with good news: AliveCor’s Series F round, Scotland’s Smplicare gains £750K for fall research (A needed and refreshing drink!)
Friday short takes: was there a bidding war for One Medical? A concussion risk wearable tested. Get Well’s monkeypox digital care plan (One Medical’s gamble and a return to one of our old follow topics)
Week-end news roundup: +Oscar data tech platform pauses, BD buys MedKeeper pharmatech for $93M, Novant’s Meta misconfiguration reveals PHI, Mt Sinai’s Sema4 genomics spinoff releases 250 + founder (Reality bites in a lot of different areas)
Babylon Health: fending off bubbly rumors of acquisition this week (No, they’re not. Being. Bought.)

Big companies eager to snap up companies to fill out portfolios. Small (and not so small) companies drastically cutting staff and spending, looking for the Magic Survival Formula. Amwell finally closing a Big Deal with CVS Health. Babylon Health’s mixed picture as they grow. Cerner and VA’s miseries continue, but data and IoMT breaches thrive. And ISfTeH not only returns to live conferences, but also comes to the US.

Weekend short takes: May telehealth claims up to 5.4%; three health plan breaches, one at its law firm–affecting over 400,000 patients; layoffs hit Calm, Truepill (updated)
ISfTeH Global Connections for Sustainable Telehealth: 6-7 November, San Jose (International telehealth finally reaches the US)
Week-end news roundup: Allscripts on the acquisition hunt, Amwell’s CVS telehealth deal, Cerner’s $1.8M racial discrimination settlement, predicting Parkinson’s progression via smartwatch data
Mid-week news roundup: CVS eyeing Signify Health for in-home/VBC (updated); Babylon Health mixed pic of revenue and losses up; Geisinger doubles telemed specialties; connected IoT devices expand cyber-insecurity footprint; Owlet layoffs
More Oracle-Cerner VA/DOD EHR misery with 4 hour+ outage; 51% of VA iPads unused for video appointments (Not only VA’s
EHR, but also inventory management gone sideways)

This week’s big news centered on Oracle’s layoffs at Cerner–and Oracle–DOJ versus UnitedHealth Group, and telehealth nearing needed legislative change in the US. In UK news, NHS Digital trials wireless to compensate for looming staff shortages–and Cera raises £264 million. Advances in dementia diagnosis and therapy plus news from all over: multiple raises, VA, Cionic, Withings, Orion Health, Coviu, and more!

Week-end wrapup: CVS plans to expand primary care, home health; Cera Care raises £264M; Linus Health’s AI enabled dementia screener, Cognito’s cognitive therapy slows brain atrophy
Short takes for Thursday: Diagnostic Robotics $45M raise; Sage’s $9M seed; VA names EHR ‘functional champion’; Aussie telehealth startup Coviu arrives in US
NHS Digital trialling Wireless Center of Excellence–in face of ‘crisis’ level staffing shortages (Can one compensate for the other?)
Mid-week roundup: UnitedHealth-Change trial kicks off; Amazon’s One Medical buy questioned; Cionic’s neural sleeve designed by Yves Behar; Medable-Withings partner; Orion Health’s new CEO; IBM Watson Health’s Simon Hawken passes (Line up your bets on DOJ vs UHG)
Telehealth waivers take critical step in extending to 2024 in House bill now passed (About time, Congress)
Oracle’s Big Vision will be missing a lot of people; layoffs hit Cerner, customer experience, marketing staff (Didn’t take long for the guillotine to fall)

 


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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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Breaking: Judge permits UnitedHealth acquisition of Change Healthcare, denies DOJ motion (updated)

US District Court judge dismisses Department of Justice motions to prevent UHG acquisition. The decision on Monday by Judge Carl Nichols of the District of Columbia district court denies DOJ’s action to stop the deal. It also orders the planned divestment of Change’s ClaimsXten claims payment and editing software to an affiliate of TPG Capital for $2.2 billion in cash.

The DOJ and entities such as the American Hospital Association had objected to UHG’s folding Change into OptumInsight as anti-competitive. As both Optum and Change offered competing claims processing software that covers 38 of the top 40 health insurers, UHG would then solely have access to nearly all competitive payers’ information. There were other competitive issues that were dismissed in the judge’s brief opinion. (For insight, see our earlier coverage starting here.) The full opinion, originally expected in October after the bench hearing in August, is under seal due to proprietary, sensitive information and will not be released. (US v UnitedHealth Group, 22-cv-481)

DOJ’s top antitrust official, Jonathan Kanter, said they are “reviewing the opinion closely to evaluate next steps”.  DOJ’s short statement surely sounds like the DOJ will appeal. UHG and Change are moving forward “as quickly as possible”. Stay tuned.  Reuters, Healthcare Dive

Update: As reported in HISTalk from Bloomberg the all-cash deal is $7.8 billion, not the earlier reported $13 billion.

TTA’s Last Swing of Summer: CVS wins $8B Signify auction, Amazon-One Medical gets FTC look-see, UHG/Change decision now Oct, Holmes files motions before sentencing, keeping digital treatment tools safe by design, more!

 

Weekly Update

Back from Two Weeks in Another Town (except for a few extra days), the August-September ‘quiet time’ certainly was not. CVS’ big win in Signify’s auction was on Labor Day. Change may or may not be joining UHG/Optum after October. FTC doesn’t much like Amazon’s acquisitions, including One Medical. And Elizabeth Holmes’ legal team was busily filing–and delaying the (maybe) inevitable, including a declaration straight out of Perry Mason.

The passing of a Queen and crowning of a King.

Elizabeth Holmes’ three swings and a miss in overturning her trial verdict reveal a crafty strategy (She’ll be in court long after Sunny Balwani toddles off to prison)
News briefs, catchup edition: UnitedHealth/Change decision October?, CVS wins $8B Signify Health auction, Walgreens majority buy of CareCentrix, FTC requests more info on Amazon-One Medical (Home care wars and a long-awaited decision)
Perspectives: Creating consistent standards isn’t a once and done job (the safety of digital treatment tools)
On the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II

$130M to Alma’s mental health platform, Cadence Care RPM with ScionHealth, NIH funding telehealth in cancer care, and more.

News roundup: RPM at 79 ScionHealth hospitals, 74% of employers like virtual care despite concerns, Alma Health garners $130M, NIH’s $25M for cancer care telehealth research, Parks’ virtual Connected Health Summit 30-31 Aug

Amazon threw in its beach towel on Care, put its bets on One (Medical), and paddle up in Signify’s auction closing after Labor Day. Babylon Health is eliminating distractions with the NHS to concentrate on the US. Oracle’s hit with charges of massive privacy violations, on top of massive Cerner VA dysfunctionality. But back to the future–Fitbit’s reviving with three new fitness watches.

Oracle in Federal court class-action lawsuit on global privacy violations; Cerner VA EHR had 498 major outage incidents, 7% of time since rollout (Misery upon misery)
Week-end news roundup: Fitbit revives with 3 new watches, Sena Health hospital-at-home, SteadyMD surveys telehealth clinicians, 9.4% fewer adult dental visits in England, save the date for ATA 2023
Perspectives: why digital apps need an in-house clinical safety lead (A Perspective from Wysa, more to come in September)
Breaking: Amazon Care shutting down after three years–what’s next? (updated) (Care an expensive course at the University of Healthcare Delivery)
Babylon Health exits last NHS hospital contract as a ‘distraction’, looks to US market for growth (Tighten your seatbelts)
Signify Health bidding war ensues, waged by Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, CVS, Option Care Health (A scrum with unknown outcome)

An action-packed mid-August. No one seems to be sitting on the beach unless you’ve been laid off. Meanwhile, companies are scrambling. No, Babylon Health is not being bought. But elsewhere, there is some good news around acquisitions and funding. 

Rounding up the week with good news: AliveCor’s Series F round, Scotland’s Smplicare gains £750K for fall research (A needed and refreshing drink!)
Friday short takes: was there a bidding war for One Medical? A concussion risk wearable tested. Get Well’s monkeypox digital care plan (One Medical’s gamble and a return to one of our old follow topics)
Week-end news roundup: +Oscar data tech platform pauses, BD buys MedKeeper pharmatech for $93M, Novant’s Meta misconfiguration reveals PHI, Mt Sinai’s Sema4 genomics spinoff releases 250 + founder (Reality bites in a lot of different areas)
Babylon Health: fending off bubbly rumors of acquisition this week (No, they’re not. Being. Bought.)

Big companies eager to snap up companies to fill out portfolios. Small (and not so small) companies drastically cutting staff and spending, looking for the Magic Survival Formula. Amwell finally closing a Big Deal with CVS Health. Babylon Health’s mixed picture as they grow. Cerner and VA’s miseries continue, but data and IoMT breaches thrive. And ISfTeH not only returns to live conferences, but also comes to the US.

Weekend short takes: May telehealth claims up to 5.4%; three health plan breaches, one at its law firm–affecting over 400,000 patients; layoffs hit Calm, Truepill (updated)
ISfTeH Global Connections for Sustainable Telehealth: 6-7 November, San Jose (International telehealth finally reaches the US)
Week-end news roundup: Allscripts on the acquisition hunt, Amwell’s CVS telehealth deal, Cerner’s $1.8M racial discrimination settlement, predicting Parkinson’s progression via smartwatch data
Mid-week news roundup: CVS eyeing Signify Health for in-home/VBC (updated); Babylon Health mixed pic of revenue and losses up; Geisinger doubles telemed specialties; connected IoT devices expand cyber-insecurity footprint; Owlet layoffs
More Oracle-Cerner VA/DOD EHR misery with 4 hour+ outage; 51% of VA iPads unused for video appointments (Not only VA’s
EHR, but also inventory management gone sideways)

This week’s big news centered on Oracle’s layoffs at Cerner–and Oracle–DOJ versus UnitedHealth Group, and telehealth nearing needed legislative change in the US. In UK news, NHS Digital trials wireless to compensate for looming staff shortages–and Cera raises £264 million. Advances in dementia diagnosis and therapy plus news from all over: multiple raises, VA, Cionic, Withings, Orion Health, Coviu, and more!

Week-end wrapup: CVS plans to expand primary care, home health; Cera Care raises £264M; Linus Health’s AI enabled dementia screener, Cognito’s cognitive therapy slows brain atrophy
Short takes for Thursday: Diagnostic Robotics $45M raise; Sage’s $9M seed; VA names EHR ‘functional champion’; Aussie telehealth startup Coviu arrives in US
NHS Digital trialling Wireless Center of Excellence–in face of ‘crisis’ level staffing shortages (Can one compensate for the other?)
Mid-week roundup: UnitedHealth-Change trial kicks off; Amazon’s One Medical buy questioned; Cionic’s neural sleeve designed by Yves Behar; Medable-Withings partner; Orion Health’s new CEO; IBM Watson Health’s Simon Hawken passes (Line up your bets on DOJ vs UHG)
Telehealth waivers take critical step in extending to 2024 in House bill now passed (About time, Congress)
Oracle’s Big Vision will be missing a lot of people; layoffs hit Cerner, customer experience, marketing staff (Didn’t take long for the guillotine to fall)

The news for this week is a mix of some good and some not-so. Oracle’s new sheriff moves to fix Cerner’s VA EHR problems, quickly. Investment is reviving, led by Amazon’s buying One Medical, Cleerly, and 3M’s 2023 healthcare spinoff. But Teladoc continues its losing streak. Health plans are shedding real estate and holdings. Also shedding are unicorns–Babylon Health, Included Health, and Noom.

Week-end roundup of not-good news: Teladoc’s Q2 $3B net loss, shares down 24%; Humana, Centene, Molina reorg and downscale; layoffs at Included Health, Capsule, Noom, Kry/Livi, Babylon Health, more (Hit by both telehealth and tech downturns)
Weekend investment/divestment roundup: 3M to spin off Health Care, Cleerly’s $223M Heartbeat, Elation’s $50M Series D, Health Note’s $17M Series A, Galen bought by RLDatix (A revival?)
Oracle’s ‘new sheriff’ moving to fix Cerner EHR implementation in the VA: the Senate hearing (High Noon at VA?)
Amazon moves to acquire One Medical provider network for $3.9B (revised) (Another worry for providers)

Having survived heat waves on both sides of the pond, the news is emerging from its lull. The most significant is around Oracle Health sunsetting the Cerner brand, which frankly has become a bit tarnished. Some of it is about staff cuts and hack attacks piling up, for different reasons in the US and UK. Other news is encouraging in that investment and business are moving forward, despite the parlous state of the markets.

Special congratulations to Herts Careline on its 40th birthday! 

Week-end news roundup: Fold Health launches OS ‘stack’; admin task automator Olive cuts 450 workers; 38% of UK data breaches from cyber, internal attacks; hacking 80% of US healthcare breaches; does AI threaten cybersecurity?
VA’s final, troubling OIG ‘unknown queue’ report on Cerner Millenium rollout; Oracle’s Sicilia to testify before Senate today (Oracle’s inherited mess)
Herts Careline marks 40th Anniversary (Congratulations!)
Midweek heat wave roundup: GE Healthcare’s new name, hospital-to-home health trending big, over 2 million patient records hacked (Hint: GEHC doesn’t have to change the brochures right away)
Cerner’s business now consolidated under Oracle Health (Excuse Cerner as it disappears–but save the swag for eBay!)

 


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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. 


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

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

News briefs, catchup edition: UnitedHealth/Change decision October?, CVS wins $8B Signify Health auction, Walgreens majority buy of CareCentrix, FTC requests more info on Amazon-One Medical

Your Editor is semi-returned from Almost Two Weeks in Another Town, with a few more days to close out September (and summer into autumn) coming up. A lot of big news broke despite the usually slow Labor Day holiday week.

UnitedHealthcare Group/Change Healthcare Federal lawsuit to be decided in October–reports. The bench trial in the US District Court in Washington DC pitted the Department of Justice and state plaintiffs against UHG’s massive $13 billion acquisition of claims and EDI/data processing giant Change. It concluded 16 August with closing arguments presented 8 September. Dealreporter via Seeking Alpha reported that UHG and Change effectively countered DOJ’s antitrust objections to the acquisition. Change Healthcare had previously sold their claims editing business to TPG Capital to ease antitrust concerns.  Whether that will be enough in the current environment with greater sensitivities around healthcare consolidation remains to be seen. If approved, Change will be folded into OptumInsight. For a deeper dive into the issues, see TTA’s earlier reporting 3 August and 23 March.

CVS Health beat out other contenders with an $8 billion cash bid for Signify Health. It was a busy Labor Day for CVS as Signify’s board met and decided that day on CVS’ cash offer of $30.50 per share in their unusual auction. Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, and little-known Option Care Health were the other bidders. Signify is a strategic boost for CVS in becoming a major player in primary care, provider enablement, and home health as we’ve summarized here from CVS’ Q2 earnings call. Signify’s capabilities in in-home health delivery and provider services were cheaper to buy than to develop. Based on the weight given to it in the CVS release, Signify’s Caravan Health and their Medicare ACOs furnishing value-based care management services to 170 providers was a significant factor in the top price paid.

New Mountain Capital and their investors own 60% of Signify and will be exiting. Signify had in July announced their own exit from the costly and problematic Episodes of Care/BPCI business acquired with Remedy Partners back in 2019. This led to most of the over 480 staff layoffs announced last month. The sale is, as usual, pending regulatory approvals and isn’t expected to close until first half 2023. Kyle Armbrester, Signify’s CEO Kyle Armbrester will continue to lead the company as part of CVS Health. Healthcare Finance, FierceHealthcare

Rival Walgreens Boots Alliance completed their acquisition of a majority share of home care coordination platform CareCentrix. Walgreens’ final payment was $330 million for 55% of the company at an $800 million valuation. As noted previously, Walgreens ‘go big or go home’ strategy in primary care kicked off in 2020 with growing investments in VillageMD, culminating in last year’s $5.2 billion for 63% of the company. The plan is to co-locate Village Medical offices with 600 Walgreens locations by 2025 [TTA 14 Oct 2021]. CVS’ recent actions can be seen as a reaction to Walgreens’ aggressive moves. Healthcare Finance

Amazon now under FTC scrutiny for One Medical acquisition. If shutting down the much-publicized Amazon Care wasn’t quite enough last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be reviewing Amazon’s $3.9 billion buy of One Medical. This was announced in a 1Life Healthcare (parent of One Medical) 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Both 1Life and Amazon received requests for additional information on 2 September, above and beyond the usual required Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR) reports that will be reviewed by the FTC and DOJ. Effectively it extends the HSR waiting period by 30 days after One Medical and Amazon have substantially complied with the additional information ‘second request’.

The FTC isn’t winning popularity contests with Amazon’s legal department, as the agency is reviewing their acquisition of iRobot, maker of robot vacuum cleaners. Mobihealthnews

Mid-week roundup: UnitedHealth-Change trial kicks off; Amazon’s One Medical buy questioned; Cionic’s neural sleeve designed by Yves Behar; Medable-Withings partner; Orion Health’s new CEO; IBM Watson Health’s Simon Hawken passes

The Department of Justice lawsuit to block the $13 billion acquisition of Change Healthcare by UnitedHealth Group started on Monday. It is a bench trial in US District Court in the District of Columbia that will last 12 days, concluding on 16 August with a verdict date to be determined. The DOJ and the plaintiffs, including Minnesota and New York State, are presenting their case over seven days. UHG and Change will have five days. It’s expected that UHG CEO Andrew Witty and former chief David Wichmann will be testifying. The American Hospital Association (AHA) was a key player in pushing for a DOJ action (their article here). TTA recapped the main competitive issues in play on 23 March, along with this Editor’s opinion that the merger will be blocked given this current administration’s anti-trust stand. ‘It will be one for the books–the ones marked ‘Nice Try, But No Dice’. FierceHealthcare, HealthcareFinanceNews

Will Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical be reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)? That is what Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) is requesting. He cites that Amazon will have “access to enormous tranches of patient data. While HIPAA and other privacy laws exist to thwart the worst potential abuses, loopholes exist in every legal framework.” He also cites, somewhat broadly, that information of this type could be used to suggest over-the-counter blood pressure medications to a One Medical patient shopping at a Whole Foods Market. (What is meant here is that there are many supplements that claim to benefit blood pressure available OTC, such as Garlique; however, there are many OTC meds that can increase blood pressure such as decongestants.) This Editor agrees with Senator Hawley that the acquisition should be carefully reviewed by FTC and, to go further, HHS as it involves patient data.) Hawley Senate.gov page 

The Cionic Neural Sleeve, designed to aid people with mobility issues, is getting a design upgrade via Yves Behar and his fuseproject. The Neural Sleeve [TTA 30 June] aids the legs through sensors in the sleeve that monitor movement for muscle firing and limb position, then analyzes them through an app to optimize functional electronic stimulation (FES) delivered through the sleeve. The Behar team, according to the release, has delivered a neural sleeve “designed for everyday wear, and importantly, is easy to put on and take off – a critical design element for those with inhibited mobility. The lightweight, breathable fabric feels like an athletic legging, and is available in multiple colors and sizes. Paired with the intuitive CIONIC app, the sleeve enables the user to be in control of their own mobility journey.” Cionic is taking pre-orders for delivery in early 2023. Also The Robot Report.

Medable partners with Withings for clinical trials. Medable, a clinical trials platform, is partnering with Withings Health Solutions to connect Withings devices for monitoring at home. Withings devices will provide medical-grade measurements, including temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, and weight to connect the data into Medable’s decentralized clinical trial platform. Direct monitoring also assists in attracting and retaining subjects in clinical trials, plus improving accuracy, by eliminating subject manual reporting and checkins. Financial terms and duration were not disclosed. Release, FDA News, FierceBiotech

Short international take: Orion Health, an Auckland, New Zealand-based health IT company headed by Ian McCrae for the past 30 years, announced he is stepping down for health reasons. Replacing him in late August as CEO will be Brad Porter, coming from Fisher & Paykel, a NZ-based medical device company. Mr. Porter is Mr. McCrae’s son in law.  Orion recently won what could be the largest health information exchange system in the world for Saudi Arabia, covering 32 million people. Healthcare IT News 

And a sad passing: Our UK and European Readers likely know Simon Hawken from his long career with IBM, including Watson Health (now Merative) and Merge Healthcare, and earlier with BEA Systems. HISTalk reported that he passed away on 25 July. This Editor has not been able to find other notices, so is asking for Reader help and comments.

Amazon moves to acquire One Medical provider network for $3.9B (updated)

Amazon joining the in-person provider network space for real. Amazon Health Services last week moved beyond experimenting with in-person care via provider agreements (Crossover Health, TTA 17 May) to being in the provider business with an agreement to acquire One Medical. Earlier this month, news leaked that One Medical as 1Life Healthcare was up for sale to the right buyer, having spurned CVS, and after watching their stock on Nasdaq plummet 75%.

  • The cash deal for $3.9 billion including assumption of debt is certainly a good one, representing $18 per share, a premium to their $14 share IPO in January 2020. (The stock closed last Wednesday before the announcement at just above $10 per share then plumped to ~$17 where it remains.)
  • The announcement is oddly not on One Medical’s website but is on Amazon’s here.
  • The buy is subject to shareholder and the usual regulatory approvals. The IPO was managed by JP Morgan Securities and Morgan Stanley. It is primarily backed by Alphabet (Google).
  • One Medical’s CEO Amir Dan Rubin will stay on, but there is no other executive transition mention.
  • Also not mentioned: the Iora Health operation that serves primarily Medicare patients in full-risk value-based care models such as Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare shared savings, quite opposite to One Medical’s membership-based concierge model. However, Iora’s website is largely cut over to One Medical’s identity and their coverage is limited to seven states.

There is a huge amount of opinion on the buy, but for this Editor it is clear that Amazon with One Medical is buying itself into in-person and virtual primary care for the employer market, where it had limited success with its present largely virtual offering, and entree with commercial plans and MA. One Medical has over 700,000 patients, 8,000 company clients and has 125 physical offices in 12 major US markets including NYC, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta. It has never turned a profit. Looking at their website, they welcome primarily commercial plans and MA (but not Medicare supplement plans).

Amazon, with both a virtual plus provider network, now has a huge advantage over Teladoc and Amwell, both of which have previously brushed off Amazon as a threat to their business. There is the potential to run two models: the current Amazon Care pay-as-you-go model and the One Medical corporate/concierge model. This puts Amazon squarely in UHC’s Optum Health territory, which owns or has agreements with over 5% of US primary care practices, is fully in value-based care models such as Medicare shared savings through its ACOs, and is aggressively virtual plus integrating services such as data analytics, pharmacy, and financial. Becker’s

What doesn’t quite fit is Iora Health and the higher cost/higher care needs Medicare market that is less profitable and requires advanced risk management, a skill set that Amazon doesn’t have. This Editor will make a small prediction that Iora will be sold or spun off after the sale.

This Editor continues to believe that the real game for Amazon is monetizing patient data. That has gained traction since we opined that was the real Amazon Game in June and October last year, To restate it: Amazon Care’s structure, offerings, cheap pricing, feeds our opinion that Amazon’s real aim is to accumulate and own national healthcare data on the service’s users. Then they will monetize it by selling it to pharmaceutical companies, payers, developers, and other commercial third parties in and ex-US. Patients may want to think twice. This opinion is now shared by those with bigger voices, such as the American Economic Liberties Project. In their statement, they urged that the government block the buy due to Amazon’s cavalier attitudes towards customer data and far too much internal access, unsecured, to customer information (Revealnews.org from Wired). Adding PHI to this is like putting gasoline on a raging fire, and One Medical customers are apparently concerned. For what it’s worth, Senator Bernie Sanders has already tweeted against it.   MarketWatch

Whether this current administration and the DOJ will actually care about PHI and patient privacy is anyone’s guess, but TTA has noted that Amazon months ago beefed up its DC lobbying presence last year. According to Opensecrets.org, they spent $19.3 million last year. In fairness, Amazon is a leading Federal service provider, via Amazon Web Services. (Did you know that AWS stores the CIA’s information?)  One Medical is also relatively small–not a Village MD/Village Medical, now majority owned by Walgreens Boots. This is why this Editor believes that HHS, DOJ, and FTC will give it a pass, unlike UHG’s acquisition of Change Healthcare, especially if Amazon agrees to divest itself of the Iora Health business.

Treat yourself to the speculation, including that it will be added as an Amazon Prime benefit to the 44% of Americans who actually spend for an Amazon Prime membership. It may very well change part of the delivery model for primary care, and force other traditional providers to provide more integrated care, which is as old as Kaiser and Geisinger. It may demolish telehealth providers like Teladoc and Amwell. But as we’ve also noted, Amazon, like founder Jeff Bezos, deflects and veils its intents very well. FierceHealthcare 7/25, FierceHealthcare 7/21, Motley Fool, Healthcare Dive

Thursday legal news roundup: Oscar Health accused of IPO securities fraud; Venezuelan cardiologist moonlights as cybercriminal, faces slammer; Change Healthcare sues former employee now at Olive AI

To use a cliché, what a difference a year makes. In March 2021, insurtech Oscar Health successfully raised $1,4 billion in its IPO with shares at $39. Heady times didn’t last long, with shares tumbling to $5.67 as of this writing. Now the shareholder lawsuits have begun, with the complaint stating that negative effects of COVID-19 on Oscar’s business were not disclosed, specifically the growing cost of the pandemic on testing and treatment costs they would cover, and “Oscar would be negatively impacted by an unfavorable prior year Risk Adjustment Data Validation (RADV) result relating to 2019 and 2020 [and] that Oscar was on track to be negatively impacted by significant SEP membership growth”. The lack of forward-looking disclosure at an IPO is a violation of the Securities Act. The initial lawsuit has been filed in the US District Court for the Southern District Court of New York by shareholder Lorin Carpenter. Multiple law firms have invited shareholders to join in the suit — example from PR Newswire. Also named in the suit are Oscar Health co-founders CEO Mario Schlosser and Vice Chairman Joshua Kushner, plus several investment banks.

Oscar started the year with a Q1 loss of $0.36 per share versus an estimate of a loss of $0.40, but this is less than half of last year’s loss of $0.98 per share. They are also exiting the Arkansas and Colorado markets in 2023. Healthcare Dive

Cardiologist, master cybercriminal, a new Dr. Mabuse? Accused of the creation, use, and sale of ransomware is one Venezuelan doctor and practicing cardiologist, Moises Luis Zagala Gonzalez, a dual citizen of Venezuela and France. The charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Eastern District of New York also detail his “extensive support of, and profit sharing arrangements with, the cybercriminals who used his ransomware programs.” SaaS can’t hold a candle to the RaaS–ransomware-as-a-service–operation he created to sell what he dubbed ‘Thanos,’ allegedly named after a fictional cartoon villain responsible for destroying half of all life in the universe. Turns out that Iranian state-sponsored hackers and fellow ransomware designers really liked it too. If convicted, he faces 10 years in Club Fed–five years for attempted computer intrusion, and five years for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions. Designing criminal software really does test the limits of moonlighting. DOJ release, TechCrunch

Change Healthcare sues former employee at competitor Olive AI. While their merger with UnitedHealthcare is tied up in the US District Court in DC [TTA 23 Mar], Change Healthcare is not letting any courtroom grass grow under their feet. They are suing a former employee, Michael Feeney, with violating the non-compete clauses of his employment contract. The suit was filed in Tennessee Chancery Court, its HQ state. Mr. Feeney has countersued in his state of residence, stating that the non-compete violates Massachusetts law. He was VP, strategy and operations at Change handling physician revenue cycle management. At Olive AI, he is currently SVP, provider market operations. Information is a bit scarce on this and the free article this Editor has found reads machine-translated. If you have access to the Nashville Post or Modern Healthcare it’s probably more decipherable.

As to the lawsuit affecting non-competes due to the tight labor market–don’t count on it. It’s a conflict between the state the company is in enforcing non-competes, versus a state which restricts (or negates) them that is the former employee’s state of residence and work. What wins out will be the interesting part and affect many of us in the US.

Thursday roundup: UHG/Optum, Change extend merger deadline to 31 Dec, buys Kelsey-Seybold; $2B Tivity Health sale; General Dynamics enters derm AI diagnostics; MobileHelp PERS sold to Advocate Aurora

UnitedHealth Group’s Optum unit and Change Healthcare, to no one’s surprise, have cast the die and extended their merger deadline to 31 December. Originally, the acquisition was to be completed at end of 2021 and later pushed to 5 April.

In a joint release, they touted their shared vision for a “simpler, more intelligent and adaptive health system for patients, payers and providers”. Backing this up is a break fee of $650 million from Optum to Change Healthcare in the event the court scuppers the deal.

On 25 February, the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Washington, DC to stop the acquisition on anti-competitive grounds [TTA 25 Feb]. UHG/Optum and Change, despite divestitures, could not evade DOJ’s reasoning that Optum was buying its only major competitor in areas such as hospital claims data, claims processing, claims editing, and EDI clearinghouse, which facilitates the transfer of electronic transactions between payers and physicians, health care professionals, or facilities. Less than a month later, Optum and Change responded, contesting the charges in that same District Court, and contending that it would be ‘economic suicide’ for Optum to be anti-competitive, since Optum’s business model is dependent on payers other than UnitedHealth. Fighting rather than switching off the deal, it’ll be heard on 1 August [TTA 23 March]. FierceHealthPayer

As noted last week, Optum is writing big checks for LHC Group home care/management services and Refresh Mental Health. This week’s jumbo buy is the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic of Houston. This is a multi-faceted operation with multiple multi-specialty care centers, a cancer center, a women’s health center, two ambulatory surgery center locations, and a 30-location specialized sleep center. It also has a highly regarded ACO and KelseyCare Advantage, a 5 Star Medicare Advantage plan, in addition to partnering with insurers on commercial value-based health plans. If it closes, Optum will be more than likely well over its goal of owning or controlling over 5% of US providers. Terms were not disclosed, but TPG’s private equity arm made a minority investment in Kelsey-Seybold two years ago. At the time, the valuation was rumored to be $1.3 billion.

Tivity Health is being acquired by funds managed by Stone Point Capital for $2 billion. The $32.50 per share is a 20% premium to the 90-day price average, which reflects its 40% financial share growth in the past year. Having sold its original name of Healthways and a sizable chunk of its original business to the digital health conglomerate Sharecare, it rebranded in 2017 as Tivity and concentrated on fitness businesses: senior-targeted SilverSneakers, gym chain Prime Fitness, and alternative/complementary medicine WholeHealth Living. Closing is anticipated to be Q3. CEO Richard Ashworth will remain with the company, and headquarters stay in Franklin, TN. Release, Becker’s

A palate cleanser: a division of defense/aerospace giant General Dynamics, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) has developed an AI diagnostic for remote dermatologic use for the active service/veteran market. It classifies images of skin lesions, determines if they are indicative of skin disease, and will recommend follow-up care. According to the GDIT release, “the GDIT skin lesion classifier tool won third place in the VA National AI Tech Sprint 2020-2021, a competition organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Artificial Intelligence Institute (NAII) to match private sector talent with veterans, VA clinicians and other experts to brainstorm AI-based solutions that can improve veteran health and well-being.” Also Healthcare IT News

MobileHelp, one of the earliest mobile PERS, and sister company Clear Arch Health, a remote patient monitoring provider, have been purchased by Advocate Aurora Enterprises. Terms were not disclosed, but management will remain in place in Boca Raton. MobileHelp was private, so estimates of valuation are difficult, but their private equity backing included ABRY Partners and Topmark Partners (Crunchbase). Their PERS market claimed 300,000 households. Clear Arch had a separate clinical base with provider care management of chronic condition patients connected to EHRs. For AAE, a division of Advocate Aurora Health systems in Illinois and Wisconsin, MobileHelp’s acquisition will complement their recently acquired home health provider Senior Helpers and Xhealth clinical digital solution ordering. The traditional PERS and call center business continues to be of interest, but blending into other businesses. Release, Healthcare IT News

DOJ lawsuit to block UnitedHealth-Change Healthcare’s acquisition now set for 1 August trial

UnitedHealth Group isn’t giving up. Last Thursday (17 March) UHG filed with the US District Court in Washington, DC, responding to the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) suit to stop their acquisition of Change Healthcare and folding into its Optum unit. Essentially, their argument in their public statement is that the acquisition would have multiple consumer benefits and big savings as the ‘healthcare system of the future’, including:

  • We can increase efficiency and reduce friction in health care, producing a better experience and lower costs
  • Helping health care providers and payers better serve patients by more effectively connecting and simplifying key clinical, administrative and payment processes
  • Improve the quality of health care delivery, automate claims transactions, and accelerate payment between provider and payer
  • Patients get a simplified consumer experience, lower costs, and get better point-of-care delivery due to improved adherence to best clinical evidence

In their view, it would be ‘economic suicide’ for Optum to be anti-competitive. UHG states that Optum’s business model is dependent upon their external customers, and if their competitively sensitive information is misused, they would stop using Optum’s services and turn to competitors.

The DOJ does not agree, of course. As to competition, they contend that Change is the only significant competitor to Optum in claims processing. The merger would be anti-competitive in other ways as well:

  • Change is “United’s only major rival for first-pass claims editing technology — a critical product used to efficiently process health insurance claims and save health insurers billions of dollars each year — and give United a monopoly share in the market.” It would also give UHG the ability to raise competitors’ costs for that technology.
  • Hospital data accounts for about half of all insurance claims. UHG with Change would have effective control of that ‘highway’.
  • Change is also a major EDI clearinghouse, which facilitates the transfer of electronic transactions between payers and physicians, health care professionals, or facilities. UHG would have control of the EDI clearinghouse market.
[More–TTA 25 Feb

It moves to the District Court and Judge Carl J. Nichols on 1 August. The trial will be 12 days–seven for DOJ, five for UHG/Change. With the delay, analyst Jailendra Singh of Credit Suisse expects Change to press UHG to sweeten the deal, such as a termination fee, versus an increase in purchase price. It’ll be an interesting summer for a bevy of lawyers! Forbes, Credit Suisse note

This Editor holds to her previous opinion that this merger is ‘one for the books–the ones marked ‘Nice Try, But No Dice’.  No matter what, Change will have to change.

The shoe dropped: DOJ sues to block UnitedHealth Group-Change Healthcare merger. What’s next?

To nearly no one’s surprise, the US Department of Justice did what was reported back on 17 Jan: block UnitedHealth Group’s (UHG) bid to acquire Change Healthcare on anticompetitive grounds. Earlier today, the DOJ issued their statement in a release on the joint civil lawsuit with the attorneys general of New York and Minnesota. (This Editor finds the New York AG participation interesting, as Change is HQ’d in Nashville, Tennessee with UnitedHealth in Minnesota. The usual grounds are state interest and commerce.)

The reasons cited will also not come as any surprise to our Readers, as these objections were raised from the start in that the acquisition would give UHG an unfair advantage against their payer competition and squelch innovation. These are from the DOJ release and the complaint filed today (24 February) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

  • UHG is the US’ largest insurer and also a major controller of health data. Change is a major competitor to UHG/OptumInsight in health care claims technology systems, which was the basis of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) objections.
  • The acquisition would eliminate a major competitor to UHG in claims processing. Moreover, Change is “United’s only major rival for first-pass claims editing technology — a critical product used to efficiently process health insurance claims and save health insurers billions of dollars each year — and give United a monopoly share in the market.” It would also give UHG the ability to raise competitors’ costs for that technology.
  • Hospital data accounts for about half of all insurance claims. UHG with Change would have effective control of that ‘highway’.
  • Change is also a major EDI clearinghouse, which facilitates the transfer of electronic transactions between payers and physicians, health care professionals, or facilities. UHG would have control of the EDI clearinghouse market.
  • UHG would be able to view competitors’ claims data and other competitively sensitive information through Change. “United would be able to use its rivals’ information to gain an unfair advantage and harm competition in health insurance markets.”

The plaintiffs–DOJ, New York, and Minnesota–conclude with a request of the court to 1) enjoin (stop) the acquisition and 2) award restitution by UHG and Change for costs incurred in bringing this action.

Consider this acquisition one for the books–the one embossed ‘Nice Try, But No Dice’. 

So what’s next? Here’s your Editor’s speculation.

Change is one of the ‘shaggiest’ independent companies in healthcare, in so many businesses (many acquired) that it’s hard to understand exactly what they stand for. It has extensive businesses not only in the areas above that will nix the UHG buy, but also in imaging, data analytics, clinical decision making, revenue cycle management, provider network optimization and related solutions, pharmacy benefits, patient experience in billing and call centers, funding healthcare….and that’s just the surface of a giant list. From the outside, it’s hard to see how all these parts coalesce.

In the industry, Change was long rumored to be for sale. Recently, it’s become unprofitable. It closed its FY 2021 (ending 31 Mar 2021) with a $13.1 million loss and through Q3 FY 2022 with a $24.5 million loss.

At the end of this, Change may be better advised to sell off some of its businesses, retrench, and refocus on its most cohesive and profitable areas. 

DOJ to block UnitedHealth-Change Healthcare buy: report

Change is controversial, at least for UnitedHealth. Healthcare Dive reported today that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is preparing a lawsuit to block UnitedHealth from purchasing Change Healthcare. Their source is a report published on a subscription financial website, Dealreporter, that their sources say that both companies will be meeting with the DOJ for what is charmingly called a ‘last rites’ meeting. Apparently, all the companies’ plans for divestitures [TTA 26 Jan] are not enough to satisfy DOJ on the antitrust issues raised not only by the DOJ, but also strongly by the American Hospital Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Announced in January, the merger approval had been tabled in August and October/November, with the closing delayed accordingly, so the DOJ action resulting from their mandatory review under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Act (HSR) was anticipated. Even in August, the delay did not bode well for this $8 billion in cash/$5 billion in debt deal.

What’s at issue here is the consolidation of data and businesses both UH and Change are in–health IT and revenue cycle management–and reduced competition that drives up costs for health systems and providers. As this Editor observed in March, OptumInsight, Optum’s data analytics unit, and Change provide a similar range of services in health IT and revenue cycle management (RCM). As one of the largest independents in these areas, Change contracted with providers and had access to the data of 1 out of 3 patients. Optum’s parent, UnitedHealthcare, is also the largest US payer. These were the factors that made those represented by the American Hospital Association (AHA) very nervous indeed [TTA 25 Mar] regarding pricing of these services–and they expressed their misgivings cogently in a seven-page letter (PDF link) to DOJ on 17 March. In their view, Change integrated into OptumInsight would reduce competition and increase pricing in RCM, claims clearinghouse and payment accuracy services, and clinical decision support services.

In DC, the view of what is anti-competitive is cyclical. The 2020 acquisition of WellCare by Centene was approved with nary a whinny. CVS-Aetna took forever because of a showboating judge, but was finally approved in 2019. Yet only two years before, the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers were doomed to fail. In this administration, large mergers do not fare well; both Aon-Willis Towers Watson and Lockheed-Aerojet Rocketdyne were canceled.

Expect to hear more by end of month. 

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.

Short takes: Walgreens now majority share of VillageMD, CareCentrix; Lark Health lifts $100M, UnitedHealth Group’s profitable Q3 and Change delay

Walgreens has ‘gone big’ with its VillageMD primary care practice investment, putting on the table $5.2 billion. It’s now t the majority owner with 63% of the company, up from 30% last year. Their projected number of co-located full-service Village Medical practices is projected to grow to 600 by 2025, up from a current 52. VillageMD is still planning an IPO in 2022, making for a potential great ROI for Walgreens. Walgreens Boots Alliance also invested $330 million in CareCentrix, a post-acute and home care provider, for 55% of the company. CareCentrix was a recent investor in Vesta Healthcare [TTA 9 April]. Wrapping it all up is their new Walgreens Health, for tech-enabled consumer-directed primary care, post-acute care, and home care.

Weight loss and chronic conditions app Lark Health flew into a $100 million Series D, led by Deerfield Management Company, with PFM Health Sciences and returning investors Franklin Templeton, King River Capital, Castlepeak, IPD, Olive Tree Capital, and Marvell Technology co-founder Weili Dai. Their total funding since 2011 is over $195 million (Crunchbase). Lark claims an AI-based platform for individual coaching in weight loss along with related conditions such as diabetes, pre-diabetes, diabetes prevention, cardiovascular, and behavioral health. The platform logs and provides immediate feedback on food and tracks data from sources like Apple Health. The new funds will be used for R&D and to expand its virtual care integrations to more payers. Current payer partnerships include Anthem, Highmark BCBS, and Medical Mutual. Release, MedCityNews, FierceHealthcare

UnitedHealth Group, parent of UnitedHealthcare and Optum, reported $4.1 billion in profit for Q3, notching $72.3 billion in revenue for the quarter, a tidy gain over year prior’s $65.1 billion. The mega-acquisition of Change Healthcare to fold into OptumInsight is further delayed, being worked towards a closing of early 2022, having hit more than a few strong regulatory headwinds and the rocks of DOJ [TTA 14 Aug].  Becker’s Payer Issues, FierceHealthcare 

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

Just the news, no deals. UnitedHealth Group’s $13 billion acquisition of diversified health IT/imaging/payments company Change Healthcare has hit another snag. Back in March, the US Department of Justice requested specific information as part of DOJ’s review of the merger under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Act (HSR). Both UHG and Change have agreed with DOJ to not certify compliance with the request before 15 September, then wait an additional 120 days, based on a 7 August Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. This could be shorter if DOJ formally advises them that their investigation is closed. Announced in January as a giant addition to UHG’s Optum unit, this now looks like the sale will close sometime in December–if it is not derailed. Becker’s Health IT with a brief recap. This was not a good week for UHG as they had to pay $15.6 million to settle a US Department of Labor finding that they did not pay out-of-network mental health claims at parity, wrongfully denied others, and flagged still others for utilization reviews. FierceHealthcare

Tunstall Healthcare announces a new Group Chief Technology Officer. Gary Steen joins Tunstall from broadband provider TalkTalk where he was Group Managing Director for Technology. He will lead Tunstall’s innovation and development function globally including all solutions and products from Tunstall’s technology delivery centres in the UK, Sweden and Germany. Previously, he was with MDS Global, a software services business active in Europe, Australia, and the US. Tunstall release.  Hat tip to Jenny Marston at Lucky North.

Amwell projects that Covid-19 will depress second half telehealth results by 200,000 visits and $8 million. CEO Ido Schoenberg MD made this surprising projection on the second quarter investor call, but the projection may be sound. His rationale is that there will be not much of a cold and flu season, as the latest virus variants will have people masking up and social distancing (and presumably avoiding indoor crowds. As we’ve noted previously, the Brothers Schoenberg tend to be contrarians on various headline trends (e.g. looking askance at Amazon Care biting into the enterprise telehealth business and hospital-grade in home care). One would assume that if more stay away from in-person care, telehealth would increase beyond the current claims rate of 5% especially in mental health which is half of telehealth claims. But this could be some clever sandbagging for investors, as he went on to say in the call that if the impact of Covid isn’t as bad as we think, there’s always the flu! FierceHealthcare

Amwell’s frequent sparring partner in various courts, Teladoc, announced that they would be powering Aetna Virtual Primary Care for their Aetna members in national self-funded employers. This is a trifecta of Teladoc’s physician-led care team model, Aetna’s provider network, and CVS Health services at MinuteClinics and where available, CVS HealthHUBs. The virtual visits will have no co-pay for as well as select in-person CVS Health services. CVS Health release, FierceHealthcare

Fitbit is, believe it or not, still around. They announced a partnership with LifeScan diabetes monitoring to integrate its health tracking apps with the company’s glucose monitoring devices for diabetes management. The Fitbit tools that track activity such as daily activity, nutrition, and sleep will provide tracking of impact on blood glucose levels. FierceHealthcare

US Department of Justice decides additional scrutiny needed of $13bn Optum acquisition of Change Healthcare

Change, so to speak, will not be fast for Optum. On Friday, Change Healthcare filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a Form 8-K (PDF link) that confirms that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked for additional information pertinent to their proposed acquisition by UnitedHealthcare Group and integration into their Optum unit. On 24 March, both received a request from the DOJ for additional information and documentary materials (called a “Second Request”) as part of DOJ’s review of the merger under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Act (HSR). The Second Request extends the waiting period for 30 days after UHG and Change comply with the review, unless either the DOJ shortens it or it is extended by the two companies (para. 3).

The integration of Change Healthcare into Optum already had significant competitive concerns for DOJ to consider. OptumInsight, Optum’s data analytics unit, and Change provide a similar range of services in health IT and revenue cycle management (RCM). However, Change is one of the largest independent companies providing these services to major providers, with access to the data of 1 out of 3 patients. Optum’s parent, UnitedHealthcare, is the largest US payer. These were the factors that made those represented by the American Hospital Association (AHA) very nervous indeed [TTA 25 Mar] regarding pricing of these services–and they expressed their misgivings cogently in a seven-page letter (PDF link) to DOJ on 17 March. In their view, Change integrated into OptumInsight would reduce competition and increase pricing in RCM, claims clearinghouse and payment accuracy services, and clinical decision support services.

Why it’s important. The closing of the $13 bn deal, originally forecast as second half 2021, now has a decent likelihood of being postponed. As CVS and Aetna found between 2017 and 2019, once the objections start in the flashpoint called US Healthcare, they tend to snowball into delays, even if it can be managed to a successful conclusion. (Extreme examples: the doomed to fail Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers) While RCM and data analytics are not as high profile as health plans and retail health, industry groups have a lot of clout in the DC Swamp when the cause is higher cost and DOJ, in this administration, is likely to be more activist. Another reason: if UHG or Change have to divest themselves of too much (UHG set a boundary of $650 million), they may Call The Whole Thing Off. Also Healthcare Dive and FierceHealthcare

News and deals roundup: AHA opposes Optum buy of Change Healthcare; big raises by Komodo Health, Evidation Health, Ro’s $500M; Appriss acquires PatientPing

Sometimes $13bn Mega Deals run into powerful opposition. The nearly 5,000 member American Hospital Association (AHA) is opposing UnitedHealth Group’s Optum‘s acquisition of software/analytics/revenue cycle management (RCM) company Change Healthcare. The AHA is urging that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) review it on anti-competitive grounds. Their position is that the OptumInsight integration of Change, planned for Q2, will drastically reduce competition for health care information technology (IT) services to hospitals and other health care providers, driving up costs to hospitals and patients. Optum is already one of the largest in this sector. It would also shift data from a third-party company to a subsidiary of the US’ largest payer. Change is the largest independent provider of health IT services for payments and RCM. Though substantial divestitures are part of the deal, the AHA opposition may kick off the same from other healthcare groups and successfully force DOJ to take action. FierceHealthcare, AHA letter to DOJ (PDF link).

Dizzy Digital Health Deals Continue This Week. Data analytics companies haven’t been as hot as other areas of digital health closer to telehealth and behavioral health, but Komodo Health just completed a big Series E of $220 million. This follows their snack-sized January Series D of $44 million (Crunchbase). Komodo feeds their 325 million patient encounter database drawn from EHR, pharma, lab, and government data into their proprietary software for analytics to drive better health outcomes across therapeutic areas. Their primary markets are life sciences and pharma for R&D, clinical trials, and medical affairs. The Series E was led by Tiger Global Management, which earlier this month invested in Tyto Care and Dispatch Health [TTA 4 March], with Casdin Capital plus existing investors ICONIQ Growth, Andreessen Horowitz, and SVB Capital. Release 

Evidation Health, another data aggregation and analytics company, raised $153 million in a Series E led by OMERS Growth Equity and Kaiser Permanente Group Trust for a total funding since 2012 of $259 million. This will be used for building out their virtual health analytics and research platform, Achievement. Release

In direct-to-consumer healthcare, integration gets tighter. For those who can stand their tacky commercials for Roman, you’ll be seeing many more of them because parent DTC/telehealth company Ro just raised $500 million in a Series D round, led by General Catalyst, FirstMark Capital, and TQ Ventures. The intent of co-founder Zachariah Reitano is to combine a nationwide telemedicine, pharmacy distribution, and in-home care network. Their total funding since 2017 is $876 million. According to the TechCrunch article, Ro is building out a patient-centric ‘vertical optimization’ model with 10 pharmacies scheduled for 2021 and the ability to provide 500 common drugs at $5 per month. Earlier this year, Ro acquired Workpath, a software platform that enables healthcare companies to offer on-demand, in-home care, and diagnostic services. Look for Ro to make another acquisition or two this year to bolster their telehealth capabilities. Release

PatientPing, a care coordination software that connects providers to create continuity of patient care to notify them of patient events, is in an agreement to be acquired by Appriss Health, a 25-year-old SaaS software company primarily known for behavioral health care coordination and data analytics solutions to identify and mitigate substance use disorders. The combined company will cover 1 million professionals, 2,500 hospitals, 7,500 post-acute facilities, 25,000 pharmacies including every national pharmacy chain, and 43 state governments. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, nor valuation or management transition, but closing is expected in Q2. Release