TTA’s Bipolar Start to May: Teladoc’s big loss, telemental health and drugs scrutinized, Allscripts’ CEO goes bye, as does 500 Noom staff, but positive announcements during ATA, more!

 

 

Weekly Alert 

Thank you for your patience over the last two weeks!


An unusual April has wrapped, but May has gotten off to an unsettling start, from the stock market to telehealth’s leaders such as Teladoc. Hot areas like telemental health and prescribing are (deservedly) under scrutiny, and Noom’s losing more than pounds. But a sign of normality is that ATA is back in person, and there were many announcements with significance. 

Weekend news and deals roundup: Allscripts closes sale of hospital EHRs, closing out CEO; DEA scrutiny of Cerebral’s ADHD telehealth prescribing; more telehealth fraud; Noom lays off; fundings; and why healthcare AI is only ML (Looks like some cleaning up is going on)
ATA conference roundup: a new board chair, a digital app review pilot, and company announcements (Hopkins study, BioIntelliSense, Connect America, AliveCor, Withings, more)
Some thoughts on Teladoc and the Week That Was in telehealth (When the whales are in trouble, there may be opportunities for the minnows)

April is proving to be an active month for something other than rain and blooming cherry trees. A new CEO for Tunstall. Tivity and MobileHelp are sold. UnitedHealth and Optum won’t give up on Change, including a hefty break fee, nor big buys. On the retail front, Walmart finally opens up Florida superstores powered by Epic, and Walgreens ‘corners’ with Blue Shield in California. Some local telehealth grants and the surprising vitality of audio telehealth for the underserved. And, to no one’s surprise, digital health got off to a slow start in Q1.

Tunstall Healthcare announces new group CEO, Emil Peters (More changing of the guard) 

Weekend roundup: telehealth claims ticked up again in January, Walmart opens Florida health ‘superstores’, Blue Shield California partners with Walgreens’ Health Corners 
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 (A recovery in the works?)
Digital health funding’s Q1 hangover from 2021’s bender–and Q2 is a question mark, even for Rock Health (Some companies have aching heads still)
Wisconsin’s $5M for child psychiatry, community telehealth; FQHC patients prefer audio-only telehealth–Rand (Back to the roots of telehealth for less health served populations)


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The first full week of Spring turned out to be a busy one, from big buys by UHG/Optum in home and mental health, a significant one by LetsGetChecked, and more health tech fundings. Babylon’s Higi integrates their chatbot. Optum’s physician telehealth study shows there’s a way to go, along with Laurie Orlov’s aging tech studies and articles. The former Practice Fusion’s miseries with DOJ continue. And Amazon Health’s looking for talent.

Weekend wrapup & reading: Amazon Health on talent hunt, Practice Fusion fined $200K for violating $145M prosecution agreement, and must-read studies and articles on older adults tech (Read in between spring cleaning)
What do physicians really think about telehealth, now that they’ve used it? Lower use, substantial frustrations remain. (Another needle puncturing the bubble)
Friday roundup: LetsGetChecked buys Veritas Genetics, Everly Health adds CMO, Babylon sends chatbot to Higi, ConcertAI’s $150M Series C, AmplifyMD’s $23M, and two ‘Brights’ raise $155M (Reviving market?)
UnitedHealth Group makes two jumbo buys for Optum: LHC Group home health for $5B, Refresh Mental Health (Optum not letting grass grow with the Change DOJ lawsuit)

Winter turned into Spring, it’s raining, and it’s time for pleasant thoughts of a cheerful movie about the Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Speaking of France, Glooko’s European tour picked up DIABNEXT. Action in Asia-Pac with Vietnam’s Jio Health and Pear for sleepless Japanese. Certainly Sunny Balwani isn’t getting much sleep lately with the kickoff of Theranos Trial #2. And after 25 years of one man at the top, it’s a young tech-savvy woman in charge at Centene–and their cubies are hanging on.

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 (More consolidation, funding, and a changing of the guard after 25 years)
The Theranos Trials, ch. 3: Sunny and Elizabeth were in it together, all the way (Balwani’s rerun of Holmes’ trial)
DOJ lawsuit to block UnitedHealth-Change Healthcare’s acquisition now set for 1 August trial (UHG and Change not giving up)


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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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Some thoughts on Teladoc and the Week That Was in telehealth

Yes, your Editor has, for the past few weeks, felt like Pepper the Robot, moving at two speeds–crazed and off. (‘Off ‘ to the left. Now cart me off.) Home renovations, with strangers tramping through your abode, noise, dust, and the corresponding moving of furniture, packing and unpacking, pre- and post-cleaning, then trying to put things right and get your life back will do that. Add to that an unexpected gushy kitchen sink that took three ‘fixes’ to get actually fixed. Then there were technical problems with our email sender that Editor and Administrator Emeritus Steve had to work through. One becomes more appreciative of order, routine, and Peace and Quiet.

Speaking of Peace and Quiet, there is little to be found in telehealth. Instead, there is a lot of Feeling Off. The Big News of late last week, of course, was Teladoc’s troubles. In the words of Seeking Alpha, they had one horrific quarter. The horror show started with writing off the Livongo acquisition– a noncash goodwill impairment charge of $6.6 billion, for a massive loss of $41.11 per share for a total of $41.58 per share. To compare, last year’s Q1 loss was $1.31 per share. While revenues were up almost to projection (25%), it was still a $3 million miss and in context, it was the cherry on a very nasty sundae. After rosy projections last year, Teladoc lowered their 2022 revenue guidance from $2.6 billion to $2.45 billion.  

Moving forward from the questionable Livongo acquisition at the absolute peak of the market, CEO Jason Gorevic admitted some hard truths to investors that deepened the hole: much more competition, particularly in telemental health; the rising cost of paid search advertising and the keywords driving towards direct-to-consumer telehealth driving up the cost of acquisition; and difficulty closing B2B deals. This creates, in the terms of analyst SVB Leerink’s Stephanie Davis quoted in FierceHealthIT, “a direct-to-consumer air pocket that business-to-business sales (and their inherently longer cycles) are too slow to fill” at least, in her view, until the end of the year.

Teladoc’s difficulties, as this Editor has noted, started after a peak in early 2021 as the pandemic started its protracted wind-down and telehealth volumes plunged to well below 5% of claims as practices reopened. The stock value is down over 90% from last February, not helped by a volatile market triggered by war and inflation. Similar difficulties are plaguing Amwell (down 92% since February 2021), Talkspace (down to a paltry 16 cents and in court for misleading investors), SOC Telemed (taken private at a 70% drop in value, TTA 8 Feb), and other health tech companies. For our Readers, this is no surprise: the telehealth bender is ovah.

One industry leader in a post-ATA conversation with this Editor cited a less obvious factor–that hospitals and other health providers are now putting together their own telehealth/triage packages tied into population health and case management software, with and without ‘white label’ providers such as Bluestream Health and Zipnosis (acquired by insurtech/payvider Bright Health a year ago). Teladoc is a late entry to this provider/payer market with Primary360, where they also compete with Babylon Health [TTA 7 Oct 22]. And health retailers have joined the primary care telehealth game. Walmart last week announced a virtual health diabetes care program for employers through their recently acquired MeMD.

Big Telehealth’s troubles may depress investment in related earlier stage companies–or help those in niches such as telemental and population health, or remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems that have telehealth features (e.g. TytoCare), as VC investment seeks a brighter home. Right now, this Editor’s Magic 8 Ball is saying ‘outlook, cloudy”. 

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

The end of the bubble? SOC Telemed, SPAC’d at $10 per share, acquired for $3 and $300M by Patient Square Capital

SOC Telemed (NASDAQ: TLMD), one of the earliest health tech SPACs [TTA 4 Aug 2020], is going private in a deal with the Sand Hill Road healthcare investment firm Patient Square Capital. Patient Square is paying $3 per share in cash.

Based on the 100,840,000 shares outstanding (MarketWatch), this Editor’s best estimate of the transaction is about $303 million. Holders of 39% of the outstanding shares have already voted in favor of the transaction. The deal includes a 30-day “go shop” period in which SOC Telemed’s board of directors can solicit additional bids. Unless there is a superior bid, the deal with Patient Square is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022. 

According to the release, Dr. Chris Gallagher, CEO since September of 2021 will remain. He was previously co-founder/CEO of Access Physicians, a multi-specialty acute care telemedicine business acquired by SOC Telemed in March of 2021. SOC Telemed claims to be the largest telemedicine provider in the US acute care market, supplying virtual consults in specialty areas such as neurology, psychiatry, and ICU. 

Here is where it gets interesting–and worrisome for telehealth. SOC Telemed’s SPAC in August 2020 started at $10.00 per share and a valuation of $720 million. On 2 February, two days before the announcement, SOC Telemed was trading at $0.64 per share. That is a plunge of 94% from the SPAC, with a 72.6% drop in the prior three months that was only arrested by the buyout. The reality is that the Patient Square offer represents a 368% premium over SOC Telemed’s closing share price on 2 February. It is currently trading in about the $2.75 range. 

The worrisome trend is that since August, the publicly traded and established industry giants, Teladoc and Amwell, have also taken it in the shins on their share prices. Teladoc has tumbled by half and Amwell (American Well) by 60%. Even the private companies like MDLive and Included Health (Grand Rounds + Doctor on Demand) must take note that telehealth consults have plunged to about 4% of claims. SPACs, which had opened up an alternate, less complicated channel of public financing for health tech and had its own role in inflating company valuations, have faded due to a combination of circumstances. Will more cautious investments and fewer IPOs be the trend in telehealth for 2022?

Short takes: rounding up revenue and acquisition action during JPM

The  JP Morgan conference (JPM), which wrapped on Thursday, is traditionally a major venue for healthcare announcements, from revenue to staff to investments. Having never attended but harboring a secret desire to observe (as a poor churchmouse on the wall–no fly am I) the 1% doing their thing, this Editor cannot imagine how boring it must be in virtual format. 

Here are a few highlights: the important, kind of interesting, and not too tedious.

  • Teladoc projects full-year 2021 revenue to hit $2.03 billion, nearly doubling its 2020 revenue. 2022’s projection is about $2.6 billion. It’s revenue without profitability, however. Teladoc lost $84.3 million Q3 2021, which more than doubled its PY $36 million loss. As we noted in our earlier article, Teladoc, like every other telehealth company, saw its shares plummet in 2021 as patients returned to offices and telehealth claims plunged to 4%, mostly for behavioral health. FierceHealthcare
  • Transcarent, Glen Tullman of Livongo’s ‘encore’ company, has landed a $200 million Series C and is now valued at $1.62 billion. Transcarent’s market is self-insured employers and provides a care management model focusing on personalized health and care support for employees. Kinnevik and Human Capital led investors and were joined by Ally Bridge Group, General Catalyst, 7wireVentures, and health systems Northwell Health, Intermountain Healthcare, and Rush University Medical Center. Release
  • Boston-based Medically Home, which supplies hospital-to-home support and integrates technology services, nabbed a $110 million venture round from investors Baxter International Inc., Global Medical Response, Cardinal Health, Mayo Clinic, and Kaiser Permanente. To date, they have worked with 7,000 patients. Release 
  • DexCare, a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that ‘orchestrates’ digital demand and health system capacity, closed a $50 million Series B funding led by Transformation Capital, with participation from Kaiser Permanente, Providence Ventures, Mass General Brigham, Define Ventures, Frist Cressey Ventures, and SpringRock Ventures. Release
  • Mental health/meditation app provider Headspace Health acquired startup Sayana to build out AI capabilities in mental health and wellness. Its self-care app leverages chat-based sessions with an AI persona. Terms were not disclosed, but Sayana CEO/founder Sergey Fayfer will join Headspace in a product leader role. Headspace acquired rival Ginger back in August [TTA 27 Aug]. FierceHealthcare, release

Headspace is also facing a shareholder lawsuit on securities fraud after going public in a $1.4 billion SPAC deal. According to FierceHealthcare, the charges filed 7 January center on non-disclosure in their financials of critical growth headwinds, including increased advertising and customer acquisition costs and worsening growth and gross margin trends. They also overvalued its accounts receivable from certain health plan clients. Coupled with management turmoil–their president/COO resigned after a ‘conduct’ problem at an offsite event–their share price has plummeted over 80%. Their projection of full-year 2021 revenue was cut to $112 million from $125 million. Headspace, of course, has said the suit is meritless.

  • Aledade, well known to this Editor as an organizer of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and a management services organization (MSO) for physician groups in value-based care, bought Iris Healthcare. Iris provides advance care and palliative care planning for health plans and providers for seriously ill and high-risk patients via its network of 1,000 independent primary care practices and health centers. It will be folded into their new Aledade Care Solutions unit. FierceHealthcare, release

What’s next for telehealth in the (almost) aftermath–and rating the US states on policies

crystal-ballWhat’s in that cloudy crystal ball?  Last year, especially the first half, saw telehealth acquisitions, stock prices and valuations hit the roof. The roof proved to be high but sturdy, as they bounced right back down, not unexpectedly. 

But gee whiz, Fast Company’s article seems to be shocked, shocked at all this, calling it a bubble. This Editor sincerely doubts that any investor that tracked telehealth over the last 10 years would have NOT expected this ride on the rollercoaster after the urgent care and practice offices reopened starting in mid-2020 and worked slowly through 2021. The rebound, as with health insurance payers, took a few months to work through into 2021. Telehealth usage in 2021 receded steadily to single digits, and at last report to just above 4% of claims as of October 2021 (FAIR Health US claims data).  What remains is the continued dominance of mental health–62% for mental health codes. It’s turned out that Babylon Health‘s SPAC was the last of the major action for 2021, getting in under the wire in October. 

It’s obvious that investors will be more realistic in assessing telehealth companies, looking at the areas that sustained telehealth usage, such as behavioral health. Another surprising niche is LGBTQ telehealth–Grand Rounds’ buy of Included Health in May, which then led to the entire company, including Doctor on Demand, adopting the name [TTA 20 Oct].

The other move that telehealth companies are making is to take more of the patient than a few virtual visits. They’ve moved into offering primary care teams to patients in employer plans (Babylon360 and Teladoc’s Primary360). Amazon Care moved into in-home health and clinics with Crossover Health. Amwell acquired SilverCloud for expanding behavioral health capabilities internationally, and stuck a toe into care management with their Converge platform and acquiring startup Conversa‘s health coaching app. The flip side is retail health migrating into in-person and virtual primary care–CVS Health and Walgreens, via VillageMD.

What also held telehealth back for over a decade of less than 1% was reimbursement by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The pandemic broke through that barrier. While it has narrowed considerably, CMS will still reimburse audio-only telehealth for behavioral health services, addiction treatment, and in-home health visits. State policies on telehealth practices can positively influence telehealth growth for patients and physicians. Free-market organizations Reason Foundation, Cicero Institute, and the Pioneer Institute have reported on all 50 on several policy metrics: 

  • In-person requirements
  • Modality neutral (asynchronous or synchronous, technology including audio, video, store and forward, and remote patient monitoring.)
  • No state barriers
  • All providers can use telehealth
  • Independent practice (including nurse-practitioners)
  • No coverage or payment mandates
  • Cross-state compacts

Rating the States on Telehealth Best Practices

Short takes: Athenahealth close to sold, Teladoc wants More of the Patient, CVS fewer store customers

Some thought starters for your weekend…

Reportedly, EHR and systems provider Athenahealth is thisclose to being sold. Via Becker’s Health IT, Seeking Alpha, a stock analysis site, connects the dots. In September, Bloomberg reported that private equity firms Veritas Capital and Elliot Investment Management (Evergreen Coast Capital) were considering selling Athenahealth for $20 billion or filing an initial public offering (IPO), two dramatic ways to exit. They entered in 2019 for $5.7 billion when it was already public, taking it private and combining it with a GE acquisition, Virence Health.

Timing is now Q1 2022. The most interested investors apparently are Hellman & Friedman, Bain Capital, KKR, Thoma Bravo, and Brookfield Asset Management. While no longer the powerhouse it once was in EHRs and related systems, it still can fetch a good return and provide a favorable exit for the two companies. Athenahealth had no comment for Becker’s. 

Teladoc and Big Telehealth wants More of the Patient, but will it be profitable? Our Readers are well aware of the War of the Roses (because it’s gone on so long) among the traditional telehealth players: Teladoc, Amwell, Included Health (Grand Rounds-Doctor on Demand), MD Live, with other smaller players jumping out of the juggernauts’ way and sticking to their knitting. With the addition of primary care (and, one can assume, the pandemic push), health systems and companies like Amazon Care and Babylon Health have jumped into the mix with ‘hit them where they ain’t’ offerings–Amazon offering house calls and services direct to employers, and Babylon 360 being offered to health plans and employers. Babylon and Teladoc’s Primary360 cover much the same ground, though, in connecting the patient users with an assigned doctor and primary care team for ongoing care.

As noted last month [TTA 7 Oct], the walls between payer and provider in primary care are collapsing in multiple ways in telehealth and payer models like insurtechs. Another model is Amwell’s reinforcing behavioral health capabilities (SilverCloud) and sliding into care management (Conversa and Amwell’s Converge platform).

Readers do not have to go far for confirmation that Teladoc aggressively wants most or all of the patient and isn’t going to settle for less. This is conveniently summarized by HISTalk from Teladoc’s Investor Day (with Editor’s emphasis)

image

Teladoc’s investor day presentation predicts that consumers will expect virtual-first encounters whose quality equals in-person ones and that offer them a variety of coordinated care services. The company says it has evolved from fee-for-service video visits and will become a partner with its customers in offering whole-person care at under value- and risk-based arrangements. It says it will be “the first place consumers turn to for all healthcare needs” for “whole-person care that is personalized, convenient, and connected.” TDOC shares dropped 8% on the day and have shed 25% in the past 12 months, with the company’s market value being $20 billion versus the $18.5 billion in cash it paid to acquire Livongo in late October 2020.

As we’ve previously noted, Teladoc has never made a profit. Many felt it overpaid for Livongo and cut loose too many in the leadership with truckloads of gold. Investors weren’t quite on board with the whole-person vision either, looking at the share price trends. 

CVS Aetna, on the other hand, wants fewer store customers, more patients. Their announcement this week is that they are closing 10% of their stores (900 of 9,900) to focus on urgent/chronic care HealthHUBs, expand those services, and cut down on the brick-and-mortar. This responds to Walgreens buying a majority interest in VillageMD/VillageHealth with adjacent full-service primary care practices and CareCentrix for home care [TTA 14 Oct]. Reuters

Say goodbye to the local, easily navigated ‘boulevard’ CVS, often furnishing food, writing tablets, wrapping paper, and paper towels along with prescriptions and shampoo, often patronized by an older age group, for a barn-like, coldly-lit superstore that you have to drive to. (And say goodbye to pharmacy head Neela Montgomery.) And why is every HealthHUB this Editor has seen unimpressive–strangely under-staffed or no-staffed, tatty waiting areas with a couple of plastic chairs, expanded with ugly outside trailers that cut down on parking spaces?

Cui bono? According to CNN Business, it’s Dollar General, which loves those local locations and has been planning to beef up its health-related OTC meds. They also now have a chief medical officer who is evaluating in-store eye exams, telemedicine, and partnerships with local pharmacies. Given inflation, more customers will be checking Dollar General out.

Short takes: Now J&J splits up, a Color(ful) $100M, Cue Health goes DTC, Amwell’s busy Q3, Teladoc’s Investor Day 19 Nov

Breaking up seems to be the thing this month. Now Johnson & Johnson is spinning off its consumer brands into a separately traded public company, retaining the pharmaceutical and medical device businesses. The consumer business includes such J&J global signature products such as Band-Aids, Neutrogena, Q-tips, Baby Powder and Shampoo, and the Listerine line of products. It’s expected to take 18 to 24 months. The pharma/med device business will retain the J&J brands, sub-brands like Janssen, and development in AI and robotics. The consumer products divisions will have to hunt around for a new one. Outgoing CEO Alex Gorsky must be heaving a sigh of relief and dreaming of a long vacation, as he won’t have to shepherd this one– incoming CEO Joaquin Duato starts in January. Pharma/med device is much larger, with $77 billion in revenue. Consumer accounts for $15 billion, with four products alone accounting for $1 billion each. The reason behind it, of course, are the talc lawsuits around Baby Powder and Shower to Shower which have been adroitly hived off, but continue. CNBC, Reuters

Population health and genomics is more Color(ful) than ever, with the company’s $100 million Series E topping off last year’s $167 million Series D for a total of $497 million since 2014 (Crunchbase). Valuation of the company is now at $4.6 billion. Color’s platform is targeted primarily to the public sector–health agencies, research institutions, employer organizations, health systems, and others for custom-built software that can integrate patient information and genomics with lab results and education.  It previously teamed up with the National Institutes of Health for the ‘All of Us’ project collecting research data from a broad scope of the US population. Mobihealthnews

San Diego-based Cue Health, which up to now was known for a molecular COVID-19 at-home test, is expanding its direct to consumer market with a virtual health platform featuring their COVID-19 test (on FDA EUA, CE marked) starting on 15 November. It’s expanding ‘on cue’ with a membership offering, Cue+, with 24/7 online medical consults, e-prescriptions, what they term CDC-compliant test results for travel through in-app video proctoring, and same-day delivery of their products. Membership starts at $49.99 per month for the lowest level plan, escalating to $89.99/month for supervised COVID-19 testing. To make this work requires a Cue Reader that costs $249 along with testing packs priced at $225 for three. Cue also has in development testing for other factors–where it started prior to the annus horriblis of 2020. Not for those on a tight budget, but if you need it…. Cue release, Mobihealthnews

Amwell’s busy Q3 in visits reflected the uptick in the ‘delta’ variant of COVID-19, but was disappointing on the earnings side as urgent care brings in less revenue than behavioral health or specialty care. Amwell’s year-to-year revenue was down less than 1% to $62.2 million, but the decrease is forcing a revision in 2021 full year forecasted revenue. The Converge platform [TTA 29 April] has reached 4,000 providers and 43 enterprise clients which was far more than forecasted. Newly acquired SilverCloud and Conversa Health [TTA 29 July] are integrated into Converge and already cross-selling. Amwell, however, remains in the red with a quarterly net loss of $50.9 million. Healthcare Dive  

The Telehealth Wars continue to see-saw, with Teladoc’s Investor Day on Thursday 19 Nov next week. According to Seeking Alpha, a stock analysis site, “Bank of America is cautious on TDOC ahead of the event, citing questions about the near-term margin trajectory and competition. Shares of Teladoc rose 22% in the three weeks following its last investor day.”

Short takes: Papa Health’s $150M Series D, Hinge Health’s $600M Series E, Teladoc’s revenue up 81% but continues in the red

Senior care provider Papa Health gains a Series D of $150 million, for a total of $240 million. Home care and older person support continues on its hot streak, after the blockbuster Honor-HomeInstead and Humana-Kindred at Home acquisitions plus smaller ones like ModivCare-VRI, Walgreens investment in CareCentrix, and Sharecare-CareLinx. The company’s valuation is now estimated at $1.4 billion. Papa’s technology connects older people with trained Papa ‘Pals’ for companionship and light home work through to Papa ‘Docs’ who serve to coordinate that person’s care. Their business model is to contract with payers such as Aetna and WellCare to offer its service as a benefit. They claim that they have added over 25 health plans as partners in the past seven months. This funding round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 with participation from TCG, Tiger Global Management (which seems to have a bottomless bucket of funding), Canaan, Initialized Capital and Seven Seven Six. Mobihealthnews, Papa release

But Papa should envy Hinge Health, with its $600 million Series E for a total of $1 billion. In January, they had a $300 million Series D [TTA 14 Jan]. Their valuation is now boosted to an eye-blinking $6.2 billion, up from $3 billion. Tech and musculoskeletal seem to be a hot match, with Hinge’s 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. Existing investors Coatue and Tiger Global led the round, with new investors Alkeon and Whale Rock taking a $200 million stake.   FierceHealthcare 

Teladoc’s strong Q3 growth outstripped Wall Street’s forecast, but the competition is ever more fierce–and it continues in the red. Teladoc’s Q3 revenue grew 81%, to $522 million from $289 million prior year, beating a projection of $517 million by Zachs. Organic revenue growth (excluding acquisitions) was 32%. 2021 is now projected to be $2.02 billion, up 85% compared to 2020 revenue, and a 2022 projection of $2.6 billion. However, Teladoc continues to lose money, with an $84.3 million Q3 loss compared to $36 million in last year same quarter. Teladoc stated that it was primarily attributable to increased stock-based compensation and amortization of acquired intangibles, usually the case with acquisitions. Their stock value logically has taken a hit.

As previously reported, Teladoc has entered into the primary care sector with Primary360, now being pitched to health systems as a white-labeled “virtual front door” in addition to existing agreements with Aetna and Centene for 2022 exchange plans in four states. But as FierceHealthcare notes, the competition is equally hot, with care startups such as One Medical, Oak Street Health, Privia Health, and Forward. Accolade, which is a benefits platform, is acquiring PlushCare, and payers are setting up their own virtual-first primary care.

Amazon Care confirms five more cities, beefs up DC lobbying–but what’s the real game?

Amazon Care will be expanding in 2021, confirming five new locations–and maybe more. Kristen Helton, the director of Amazon Care, confirmed at HLTH21 that 2021 rollouts of the virtual + mobile care service would include Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles, ‘to name a few’. Ms. Helton confirmed that Washington DC and Baltimore region are live. The website does not state active cities, only permitting a zip code search and confirmation. Pharmacy delivery is also available in select, but not stated, areas. Healthcare Dive

Amazon Care originated with Amazon employees as a telehealth service, with in-person available to employees in the Seattle area. By March, they opened the full service (Video and Mobile Care Medical) to other Washington state companies. At that time, they announced that Video Care will be available nationally to companies and all Amazon employees by the summer–and claimed that in-person services would be rolled out to multiple cities by the summer. That did not happen. 

In June, at a Wall Street Journal Tech Health event, while being coy about the rollout, Amazon Care VP Babak Parviz said that the service would look like:

  • Clinician chat/video connected within 60 seconds
  • If an in-person visit is required, a mobile clinician arrives within 60 minutes, who can perform some diagnostic tests, such as for strep throat, provide vaccinations and draw blood for lab work. For other diagnoses, that clinician is equipped with a kit with devices to monitor vital signs which are live-streamed to remote clinicians.
  • Medication delivery within 120 minutes

Basically, what is not being said is that Amazon has been slow walking Amazon Care, probably wisely. With telehealth visits, mobile care, and pharmacy, there are multiple and complex elements to mesh seamlessly, which is after all Amazon’s Promise. What’s not so seamless is paying for it. While for Amazon it is with immediate payment for service, it is not for the patient–obtaining reimbursement, if available, is left up to the patient–at least for now, as reports indicate they are negotiating with Aetna. Amazon Care is also its own closed network.

There’s also the blunt fact that Amazon is moving into territory well staked out by major players that integrate employers, insurance, primary care, and pharmacy: Teladoc, Amwell, Included Health (Grand Rounds + Doctor On Demand), MD Live. They are now joined by UnitedHealth Care’s announcement a few days ago of NavigateNOW, a new virtual-first commercial plan rolling out next month to employers in nine markets and 25 markets by end of 2022. It offers 24/7 primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health care services through Optum as well as UnitedHealthcare’s national provider network. Many services and medications will have $0 copayments. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare

However, if the cost of Washington lobbying is any indicator, Amazon is blasting off in healthcare. According to a report in OpenSecrets.org, “Amazon, which is creating its own health care service, is the biggest corporate lobbying spender so far in 2021. The company has spent nearly $10.2 million on lobbying in the first six months of the year, and spent $18.7 million in 2020.” The (unfortunately paywalled) report in STAT confirms the hire of Claire Winiarek from PCMA to be their new director of health policy.

This Editor’s opinion remains as in June–that Amazon’s business plans for Care and Pharmacy, and generally in healthcare, are really about accumulating data, not user revenue, and are certainly not altruistic no matter what they say. Amazon will accumulate and own national healthcare data on Amazon Care and Pharmacy users far more valuable than whatever is spent on providing care and services. Amazon will not only use it internally for cross-selling, but can monetize the data to pharmaceutical companies, payers, developers, and other commercial third parties in and ex-US. That’s a very different game than traditional insurers and the telehealth giants.

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

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

Post-pandemic, the shift corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is healthcare too much for Big Tech’s Google and Apple? Look at the track record. And David Feinberg’s $34M Cerner package.

With Google scattering Google Health to the four winds of the organization--the heck with what employees recruited for Health think of being reorg’d to, say, Maps or YouTube and falling through the corporate rabbit hole–more detail has leaked of Apple’s struggles. This time, on the scaleback list (a/k/a chopping block) is Health Habit. It’s an app in the Apple Store that connects users with AC Wellness, a doctor’s group in Cupertino, California. The ‘eligible participants’ are restricted to Apple employees. From the app site, they can check weight, nutrition, blood pressure, and schedule wellness checks. It seems to be the typical ‘skunk works’ project that’s not ready for prime time, but its public fate seems to be poorly timed and simultaneously, overblown because they are–well–Apple

Bottom line, is healthcare once again proving rather resistant to being leveraged by technological solutions? Those of us who go back to the Stone Age of health tech, or those of us who joined in the Iron and Bronze Ages, remember when you couldn’t get into a conference cocktail party without a “wellness” app. (You say you’re in behavioral and remote patient monitoring for older adults? Oh, look! A squirrel!)

Microsoft was going to dominate consumer health with their HealthVault for personal health records (PHRs). We know how that turned out–dead apps, Fitbit an also-ran bought, Pebble and Misfit going to the drawer of failed toys, Jawbone t-boning plus Intel and Basis written off in 2017, and HealthVault unlamentedly put out with the trash at the end of 2019. Oh yes, there was an earlier Google Health for PHRs, which died with a whimper back in 2012 or so.

The press releases crow about Big Tech’s mastery of complexity, yet going off on their own without partners–or even with partners–never seems to work. In the industry, it makes for a few good articles and the usual rocket launching at places like Forbes, but the pros tend to treat it with a shrug and pull out a competitive plan. Glen Tullman, founder of Livongo who will never have to worry about paying for chateaubriand for two for the next billion years or so, stated the obvious when he said that patients cared about the overall experience, not the tech.

Speaking of experience, Amazon Care promises the best for its employees and enterprise accounts–a one-minute telehealth connection, a mobile clinician if needed within the hour, and drugs at the door in two hours. All with direct pay. This has met with skepticism from telehealth giants like Teladoc and Amwell with established corporate bases. There’s also CVS Health and Walgreens. The Editor has opined that care isn’t Amazon’s game at all–it’s accumulating and owning national healthcare data on Amazon Care and Pharmacy users that is far more valuable than whatever is spent on providing care and services [TTA 16 June]. Will Amazon really be able to pull it off?

Paddy Padmanabhan, the author of Healthcare Digital Transformation, lists a few more reasons It’s Too Hard For Big Tech In Healthcare in his HealthcareITNews article here….

  • Healthcare is a part-time job for Big Tech
  • Big tech firms want to solve the healthcare problem by themselves
  • Selling technology is not the same as selling healthcare services

…but holds out some hope that the initial success of “digital-first and virtual-first providers of healthcare emerging as challengers” will point the way for them.

And speaking of Google Health and former employees, Cerner’s necessary SEC disclosure today of new CEO and president David Feinberg, MD’s compensation package was sure to create some talk in Googleville among his now-scattered team. $34.5 million over the next 15 months is structured as follows:

  • $900,000 base salary
  • a target cash bonus of $1.35 million
  • a one-time cash bonus of $375,000 stock
  • $13.5 million in Cerner’s restricted shares for 2022
  • $3.375 million in stock shares for the fourth quarter of 2021
  • a new hire award of $15 million in restricted stock shares to offset his equity loss with Google. 

Whew! Becker’s HealthIT

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

Telehealth Wars: Amwell’s raises game with buys of SilverCloud and Conversa Health (updated); Teladoc’s slow member, hospital growth lead to $133M Q2 loss

Updated. Amwell’s announcement today (28 July) of the twin acquisitions of SilverCloud Health and Conversa Health for the tidy total sum of $320 million in cash and stock was, if not quite a ‘see ya and raise ya’ move, a confirmation that Amwell was going to raise its game, at long last, versus Teladoc. SilverCloud provides digital telehealth programs for common behavioral health conditions. A spinoff of Trinity College Dublin, it counts as US clients Kaiser Permanente, Optum, and Providence Health, plus over 80 percent of NHS’ mental health service. Conversa is a StartUp Health portfolio company that developed a scalable care management triage system for at-risk patients that provides automated patient outreach and engagement tools that can move them to higher levels of care where needed. Clients include Northwell Health, UCSF Health, UNC Health, Merck, MedStar Health, and Prisma Health. 

For Amwell, this expands their capabilities in the hot behavioral health area and, with Conversa, into a care management platform targeted to providers, pharma, and payers. They see digital workflows, patient engagement, a longer-term relationship with their consumer base through the continuum of care, through these two companies’ hospital, health system, health plan, and employer clients.

The wrinkle? Neither company is all that far along–SilverCloud has total funding of only $26 million but is more established with 750,000 clients and 300 organizations. Conversa’s Series B was a tiny $8 million for total funding of $34 million. Amwell also paid a premium price. According to Healthy Skeptic, a blog written by long-time UnitedHealth Group senior healthcare executive Kevin Roche, their combined revenue was $15 million–more than a 20x multiple of the purchase price. The other challenge for Amwell? Making all the systems work together in a meaningful way–and to market what can be a confusing picture properly. Amwell press release, Mobihealthnews

Update 2 August. The Irish Times, undoubtedly working a local contact at Silver Cloud, ascertained that Silver Cloud was purchased by Amwell for a price in excess of $250 million. That means a tidy payday of €23 million ($27.3 million) for the company’s founders – Ken Cahill, James Bligh, Karen Tierney, Dr John Sharry, and Gavin Doherty. If that is so, Conversa was bought for $70 million or less. One wonders why a shell game tactic was used, as Conversa is known to be an early-stage company. Hat tip to HISTalk today.

For Teladoc, growing beyond urgent care, plus integrating the former Livongo and InTouch Health, presents difficulties. Telehealth usage continues to shrink as in-person visits rebound save for behavioral health, which is also bad news for the payers as utilization goes up. Teladoc now struggles to add new members after last year’s pace. Their hospital business that came with last year’s acquisition of InTouch Health is growing more slowly than expected [TTA 16 July]. The expected cross-sales traction with the former Livongo hasn’t caught fire yet, but that may change with myStrength Complete and the myStrength app going live with health plans or employers starting this month. The first enterprise customers are a major Blues plan (likely HCSC) and a Fortune 100 employer. [TTA 14 May]. Teladoc is also growing into other areas with more continuous user engagement, such as chronic care, weight management, and primary care. That program, Primary360, is in “very very late-stage” discussions with multiple payers. Teladoc, which has never been profitable, lost $133.8 million for Q2.   Healthcare Dive