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 (updated)

Teladoc continues to be buffeted by wake turbulence from the Livongo acquisition. The company took a $3 billion goodwill impairment charge in Q2, adding to the $6.3 billion impairment charge in Q1. The total impairment of $9.3 billion was the bulk of the first half loss of nearly $10 billion. While their revenue of $592.4 million exceeded analyst projections of $588 million, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $46.7 million were barely up from projections and were down from $66.8 million year prior. Losses per share mounted to $19.22, versus $0.86 in Q2 2021.

Another weak spot is their online therapy service, BetterHelp, which in the US is pursuing a substantial TV campaign. CEO Jason Gorevic in the earnings release pointed out competitors buying the business at low margins and consumer spending pullbacks. Teladoc’s forward projections are bolstered by Primary360 and Chronic Care Complete. Projected revenue for Q3 is $600 million to $620 million. Shares on Thursday took a 24% hit, adding to the over 50% YTD drop misery. At best, Teladoc will muddle through the remainder of the year, if they are lucky. MarketWatch, Mobihealthnews, FierceHealthcare

Health plans are also presenting a mixed picture. 

  • Humana announced a healthy earnings picture for the quarter and YTD. It earned $696 million in profit for Q2, up nearly 20% year over year. For first half, Humana earned $1.6 billion, an increase of 14.8% from 2021’s $1.4 billion. Cited were growth in their primary care clinics, Medicaid membership, and investment in Medicare Advantage. Earnings surpassed Wall Street projections and Humana increased its guidance to $24.75 in earnings per share. At the same time, they announced a reorganization of its operating units that separates their insurance services (retail health plans and related) and CenterWell for healthcare services including home health. Some key executives will be departing, including the current head of retail health plans who will stay until early 2023, ending a 30 year Humana career. FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive
  • Under new leadership, Centene posted a Q2 loss of $172 million which in reality was a significant improvement over Q2 2021’s $535 million and looked on favorably by analysts.
    • Their ‘value creation plan’ has sold off its two specialty pharmacy operations to multiple investors, using third-party vendors in future, and agreed this week to sell its international holdings in Spain and Central Europe — Ribera Salud, Torrejón Salud, and Pro Diagnostics Group — to Vivalto Santé, France’s third-largest private hospital company.
    • Medicaid, their largest business line, has been growing by 7%.
    • Centene is continuing to divest much of its considerable owned and leased real estate holdings, which marks a radical change from the former and now late CEO’s* ‘edifice complex’ to house his ‘cubie culture’. As a result, it is taking a $1.45 billion impairment charge.  Healthcare Dive. [* Michael Neidorff passed away on 7 April, after 25 years as CEO, a record which undoubtedly will never be matched at a health plan.)
    • A cloud in this picture: Centene’s important Medicare Advantage CMS Star quality ratings for 2023 will be “disappointing” which was attributed to the WellCare acquisition (accounting for most of the MA plans), two different operating models between the companies, and the sudden transition to a remote workforce. For plans, WellCare operated on a centralized model, Centene on a decentralized one, and the new management now seems to prefer the former. (Disclosure: your Editor worked over two years for WellCare in marketing, but not in MA.) Healthcare Dive
  • One of the few ‘pure’ health plans without a services division, Molina Healthcare, is also going the real estate divestment route and going full virtual for its workforce. Their real estate holdings will be scaled down by about two-thirds for both owned and leased buildings. Molina does business in 19 states and owns or leases space across the US. Net income for the second quarter increased 34% to $248 million on higher revenue of $8 billion. Healthcare Dive

Many of last year’s fast-growing health tech companies are scaling back in the past two months as fast as they grew in last year’s hothouse–and sharing the trajectory of other tech companies as well as telehealth as VCs, PEs, and shareholders are saying ‘where’s the money?’. 

  • Included Health, the virtual health company created from the merger of Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand plus the later acquisition of care concierge Included Health, rebranding under that name, has cut staff by 6%. The two main companies continued to operate separately as their markets and accounts were very different: Grand Rounds for second opinion services for employees, and Doctor on Demand for about 3 million telehealth consults in first half 2020. As Readers know, the entire telehealth area is now settling down to a steady but not inflated level–and competition is incredibly fierce. FierceHealthcare
  • Unicorns backed by big sports figures aren’t immune either. Whoop, a Boston-based wearable fitness tech startup with a valuation of $3.6 billion, is laying off 15% of its staff. (Link above)
  • Digital pharmacy/telemedicine Capsule is releasing 13% of its over 900 member staff, putting a distinct damper on the already depressed NYC Silicon Alley.  FierceHealthcare also notes layoffs at weight loss program Calibrate (24%), the $7 billion valued Ro for telehealth for everything from hair loss to fertility (18%), Cedar in healthcare payments (24%), and constantly advertising Noom weight loss (495 people). Updated: Calibrate’s 150-person layoff was reported as particularly brutally handled with employees. Many were newly hired the previous week, given 30 minutes notice of a two-minute webinar notice, then their laptops were wiped. Given that the company makes much of its empathy in weight loss, facilitating prescription of GLP-1 along with virtual coaching, for a hefty price of course. HISTalk 8/3/22
  • Buried in their list are layoffs at Stockholm-based Kry, better known as Livi in the UK, US, and France, with 100 employees (10%).
  • Layoffs.fyi, a tracker, also lists Babylon Health as this month planning redundancies of 100 people of its current 2,500 in their bid to save $100 million in Q3. Bloomberg

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

Weekend reading roundup: Amwell’s Schoenberg opines to Politico; Teladoc’s new CMO also opines, SPACs are done, done, done

If Teladoc’s Jason Gorevic [TTA 1 July] and new CMO Vidya Raman-Tangella (below) are suddenly available to the health press, can a Schoenberg brother be far behind? This brief Q&A with Politico is with Roy Schoenberg of Amwell and covers the state of telehealth, obstacles, abortion, consolidation, and automation. He stays pretty much on message with no surprises as the questions are short and, as is the practice, pre-submitted:

  • Telehealth is a distribution arm of healthcare, not just videoconferencing
  • The biggest war in telehealth remains state licensure–as it was pre-pandemic, past the ‘jumping in’ stage
  • Telehealth will not be a ‘pill mill’ for abortion pills (abortifacients) or controlled substances–it will be based on clinician professional judgment. (In the Editor’s opinion, this ‘hot potato’ was pre-written by the legal department.)
  • Consolidation as a question is not answered. We will see telehealth delivered by large healthcare organizations and telehealth that works with multiple brands. (What is not addressed is what telehealth services large healthcare organizations will go forward in using–the ‘high-priced spread’ of all-inclusives or the white-labels)
  • His opinion around automation is that it will be split between the camps of replacing clinicians, or augmenting them plus giving patients the opportunity to manage their health reality. (One wonders for what reality Amwell is preparing)

Teladoc’s new chief medical officer Raman-Tangella is also on the healthcare charm offensive with a Healthcare Dive interview on strategy and new products. She discusses enterprise clinical strategy and whole-person care, which echoes the Gorevic interview. There’s a diversion to ‘health equity’ which is first defined as a continuum [Editor’s term] of gathering data, taking solutions to customers, and seeking outcomes that validate the first two. She then moves on to closing care gaps through this information, especially in musculoskeletal and physical therapy, and returning to health equity, disparities and then (what we used to define as) proactive care based on all this patient information.

Forget the fork. SPACs as an IPO method are burnt and heading to the trash bin. Again [TTA 9 June] we have PrivCo’s Daily Stack addressing their demise, this time quantifying the crack of the full SPAC market (in and outside healthcare):

  • From one in 2009 to 248 in 2020
  • 2021: an estimated 50% of the total US IPO market in Q1 with 299 listings valued at $98.3 billion
  • 2022: 18 registrations this entire 2022 year and still in the process of raising $2 billion. (This Editor noted that the only healthcare SPAC apparently in progress is VSee and iDoc Telehealth with Digital Health Acquisition Corporation to close in Q3.)

As we’ve previously noted, SPACs are under attack by the SEC and by perpetual hair-on-fire for the press Senators such as  Elizabeth Warren. According to Bloomberg (sign-in needed), 30 SPACs have been called off this year. And as we’ve noted, there are healthcare SPACs like SOC Telemed which went private at a fire sale discount. Others like Owlet, Headspace, and Talkspace are struggling. Watchful eyes are on late SPACs such as Pear Therapeutics and Babylon Health. It’s a less-than-grand finale to what was touted as a low-muss way to IPO.

Weekend news roundup: Teladoc adds to Primary360; Novartis, Medtronic support UK digital cardiac startups; Bluestream adds PrimaryOne Health; NoKo ransomware threatens healthcare; more Fed scrutiny on telehealth Rx, billed time may be coming

Teladoc had some positive news this week with additions to Primary360, its new primary care service for the provider/payer market. It added in-network referrals and care coordination capabilities, free, same-day prescription delivery from Capsule, and in-home, on-demand phlebotomy from Scarlet Health. The release notes that about half of patients fail to pick up their prescriptions. In addition, Priority Health, a nonprofit health benefits company serving Michigan, has added Primary360 to its fully insured virtual first plan design for employers. FierceHealthcare

Some good news from the UK in a time of government upheaval. Novartis is supporting cardiac digital health startups through the Novartis Biome UK Heart Health Catalyst 2022. This investor partnership is to identify and scale innovations for non-invasive lipid testing and at-home blood pressure testing using software as a medical device. Partners in support are Medtronic, RYSE Asset Management and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and its official charity CW+. Successful applicants will receive support from partners during the competition process, the opportunity of investment up to £3 million provided by RYSE Asset Management, subject to due diligence at RYSE`s discretion, access to the Novartis Biome UK eco-system located in White City, and opportunities to work with our NHS partners to set up and deliver a pilot evaluation of the winning innovation. Applications must be in by 31 August–form is here. FierceBiotech

Bluestream Health adds PrimaryOne Health. Bluestream provides a white-labeled customized virtual care service that will be integrated into PrimaryOne’s services. This medical group of 11 community healthcare facilities across central Ohio serves 48,000 patients with primary care, OB-GYN, pediatric, vision, dental, behavioral health, nutrition, pharmacy, physical therapy, and specialty care.  Release

North Korea’s Maui Ransomware is no Hawaiian vacation. The threat has built enough since May 2021 for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to release a joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA) on Thursday warning healthcare and public sector health organizations. It is state-sponsored North Korean malicious cyber activity. The CSA provides a sample of how it executes, what it targets, how it encrypts files, and how to respond. Hackermania, NoKo Style, is Running Wild with breaches piling up [TTA 7 July], and not only in healthcare. Healthcare Dive, Healthcare IT News

And in Dog Bites Man News, a former US assistant district attorney for Massachusetts predicts that Federal entities such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) may not stop with telemental prescribing. They will not only be ramping up their scrutiny of telemental health companies–but also telehealth billing. For Cerebral and Done Health that facilitate the prescribing of Schedule 2 drugs, this assumption of scrutiny has become a no-brainer. What it also is: a caution for mainstream telehealth providers such as Teladoc and Amwell charging into psychiatric telehealth.  But the former ADA, Miranda Hooker, now a health sciences area partner with Troutman Pepper in Boston, makes a broader prediction. Prosecuted telehealth fraud, as this Editor has noted, has grown in other areas, such as prescriptions for durable medical equipment (DME) billed to Medicare [TTA 6 May] and cardiologists moonlighting as Dr. Mabuse, Master Cybercriminal [TTA 19 May]. But the next frontier may be time-specified telehealth consults billed to Medicare under various CPT codes (e.g. 994XX). A 15-minute consult billed as a more lucrative 30-minute consult can be considered fraud. The Cerebral investigation, according to Hooker, marks a shift by the DOJ into investigating the actual provision of telehealth services and whether they are being billed properly. FierceHealthcare

Two telehealth case studies: St. Luke’s University Health, CommonSpirit Health

Telehealth effectiveness measured in two different US health systems. Some of our Readers are marketers like your Editor, who are always searching for references on program effectiveness. Healthcare IT News in recent days has presented two, one using Amwell and the other using Teladoc:

St. Luke’s University Health is a small health system with 14 hospitals and multiple clinics covering eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey. They were addressing several problems:

  • Network coverage expansion and time to consult reduction
  • Integration with EHR and multiple systems
  • Maintaining high privacy standards
  • Introducing behavioral telehealth for both patients and employees, especially during the Covid pandemic

The case study is primarily about the implementation of Amwell Psychiatric Care for 24/7 coverage and the SilverCloud Health platform, part of Amwell. This accelerated at the start of the pandemic. St. Luke’s instituted a Virtual Remote Monitoring Center (VRC) that monitored more than 6,000 patients supported by a 24/7 operations team.

With SilverCloud, they custom-built a support program for employees that included a self-paced program for stress, anxiety, and depression with support from a social worker and app-based 24/7 coaching interventions. If needed, the employee could be referred to an Employee Assistance Program or a St. Luke’s therapist. 

For the mental health programs, using the PHQ-9, comparing results between in-person and virtual visits from July 2021 to March 2022, results were close to identical in 6-point reductions in both virtual (96%) and in-person (90%) populations. In overall telehealth visits, between March 2021 and March 2022, they had over 205,000 unique patients use telehealth. Another metric that telehealth affected was outpatient care. St. Luke’s reduced no-show rates from 14% to 6%. Article

CommonSpirit Health is the largest Catholic and second-largest non-profit health system in the US.  The problem they were attempting to solve was primarily onboarding patients in crisis in the shortest possible time, well within the four hours recommended by the Joint Commission. They expanded their use of Teladoc in the CommonSpirit Telehealth Network to include behavioral health, instituting a.”round and respond” model to improve access to behavioral health specialists in several hospital emergency departments (EDs) and quickly assess patients as mild, moderate or severe based on patient risk. They also added services such as geropsychiatric and crisis intervention with medication-assisted treatment as consultation-liaison services. Results were:

  • Decrease in length of stay, cost; increased satisfaction and expectations of care met
  • 1,200 telebehavioral health consultations per month, through three states and across 25 hospitals
  • Establishing a standard of care of response within 60 minutes to all ED consult requests, have actionable recommendations within 90 minutes, and an ED disposition plan within the first four hours
    • 61% of cases seen within 30 minutes, 79% within 60 minutes with average response 42 minutes
    • 65% rate for discharge recommendations and a 35% rate for transfer at specific locations.

Article

Weekend news, deal roundup: Teladoc CEO’s tapdance interview, VA EHR cost reporting now law, Tunstall-Doncaster Deaf Alliance partner, Cleveland Clinic’s $33M medtech spinoff

Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic’s curious tapdance of an interview. Teladoc has had a rough 2022 to date. Their 2022 Q1 financials [TTA 4 May] were disastrous, their share price has not recovered since it cracked in late April with a 62% year-to-date plunge, the Livongo acquisition is shaping up to be the healthcare equivalent of Eastern Airlines’ takeover by Texas Air Corporation circa 1986, and shareholders are filing class action lawsuits. Now this Editor doesn’t mean to pile on. As a professional in two fields, she does understand the value of the press and leadership being available. But FierceHealthcare’s Heather Landi cleverly got Mr. Gorevic to stake his ground for growth yet again on “holistic, integrated solutions” that combine multiple care services from primary to complex care as the ‘longitudinal’ way to go. Yet Ms. Landi does have the nerve to bring up recent history and their long-time competitors like Amwell and Doctor on Demand (now Included Health) in the same space. Then there are the slices taken by players in the direct-to-consumer and niche target players (she cites troubled Cerebral and Talkspace–I’d offer DTCs like Babylon Health and the ‘white-labels’ like Bluestream Health and Zipnosis, now owned by BrightHealth, which are directly and cost-effectively working with providers). Think of this: in an economic downturn, will providers buy the ‘premium spread’ that requires a big implementation lift, or get by a less comprehensive solution that’s easier to implement and costs less?  Surprisingly, given the ‘everyone wants everything’ strategy, he again blames the cost of paid search advertising and brushes off Microsoft and Amazon. I’m not so sure that so soon after their Q1 bad news in May, with lawsuits centering on statements to investors, and nothing new in good news, this interview was particularly good timing.

VA corralled by Congress on Cerner EHR. The Department of Veterans Affairs now, by Federal law enacted late last week, has to prepare quarterly reports on its transition to the Cerner Millenium EHR to both House and Senate Veterans committees on performance and cost, including a breakdown of program funding sources. The new bipartisan law’s title is the VA Electronic Health Record Transparency Act.  Healthcare Dive

Tunstall Healthcare is now working with a local trust, the Doncaster (UK) Deaf Trust, to provide support for deaf and hearing-impaired children and adults. With Whitley Parish Council, Tunstall is working with the specialist gardening team at Communication Specialist College, part of Doncaster Deaf Trust, to secure over 100 plants for the planters which have been grown at the Trust’s gardens. Tunstall volunteers planted them in the planters across the village. Doncaster Free Press

Cleveland Clinic’s successful spinoff, Centerline Biomedical, closed a $33 million Series B equity financing. Leading it was Cleveland Clinic with participation by GE Healthcare, RIK Enterprises, JobsOhio, Jumpstart Ventures, and G2 Group Ventures. Centerline’s technologies improve visualization and guidance of stents, catheters, and guidewires in endovascular procedures, reducing dependence on radiation and contrast agents with the goal of improving patient outcomes. These include sensors and electromagnetic tracking that create 3-D color visualization and navigation of the human vascular system. Release, Becker’s

Wednesday AM roundup all about money: $28B Oracle-Cerner closes today, 9 June strategy talk; Teladoc class-action lawsuits begin; Cigna’s look at loneliness

As you read this, Oracle has closed on their acquisition of Cerner Corporation. According to the Oracle release, approximately 204,280,589 shares, or 69.2% for $28 billion, have been validly tendered and other conditions, such as passing antitrust approvals, have been satisfied. If there are other loose ends to tie off, they aren’t impediments to the closing.

Interested Readers can register to hear Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman, and other speakers outline Oracle’s strategy to “redefine the future of healthcare” (a song we’ve heard before) on 9 June at 3pm Central Time. If our UK Readers have been wondering what former PM Tony Blair’s been up to, he’ll be on this call. Other UK speakers are David Walliker, chief digital officer of Oxford University Hospitals, and Kevin Jarrold, joint CIO of Imperial College Healthcare. Another outside speaker is Meharry Medical College‘s CEO, James E.K. Hildreth, MD, PhD. Meharry, located in Nashville, is the second oldest medical school founded (1876) to educate black Americans in medicine and dentistry.  

Here we go with class-action lawsuits against Teladoc based on loss of share value and misleading statements. Teladoc, whose stock has taken a long jump off a very tall building (90% loss from the high), is being sued in US District Court for the Southern District of New York by a shareholder, Jeremy Schneider. This is a Federal securities class-action lawsuit (text here) with Mr. Schneider representing shareholders who purchased Teladoc shares between 28 October 2021 and 27 April 2022 (the date of announcing Q1 2022 results). The charges involve materially false statements that Teladoc made on its business, operations, and prospects including minimizing competition leading to increased advertising costs, unrealistic projections for revenue made in the period, and the impact of the Livongo writeoff announced Q1–a noncash goodwill impairment charge of $6.6 billion, or over $41 per share [TTA 4 May recaps Q1].

A lookup on Justia indicates that Mr. Schneider is being represented by Jeremy Alan Lieberman of Pomerantz LLP. The filing names Jason Gorevic, CEO, and Mala Murthy, CFO as individual defendants along with Teladoc. Mr. Schneider is not a large shareholder; his investment was a little over $250,000 from December 2021 to February 2022. Other shareholders may join the suit by contacting Pomerantz.

What usually happens after this is other firms file class-action suits in the same court representing other shareholders. An example of this trolling is this announcement/release from Bernstein Liebhard LLP

If you like risk and volatility, TDOC and AMWL shares remain relatively cheap (the latter below $5) and haven’t recovered. TTA reflected on Amwell’s equally shaky Q1 and growing losses in May 

If and when they’ll recover is anyone’s guess, with increased direct-to-consumer competition from retail (CVS, Walmart) and with providers maintaining their own telehealth systems, homegrown and whitelabeled (Bluestream Health, Zipnosis). Healthcare Dive, Mobihealthnews recap much of what led to this point.

If you feel a little lonelier after your Teladoc (or other telehealth) shares tanked, or you feel like life hasn’t gotten back to normal now that the pandemic is really over (despite the hoo-hah over monkeypox), Cigna’s latest research commissioned from Morning Consult will be on point. Isolation is a function of lower income, lower physical and mental health, and being a single parent or mother. Contrary to the usual assumption, young adults 18 to 24 feel lonelier and more left out (79%) compared to those aged 66 and over (41%). (Your Editor speculates that the office and workplace are more necessary for socialization by those starting their careers than those toward the end who’ve built their networks.) What’s also a little surprising is the increased indication of loneliness among racial lines with black/African American (68%) and Hispanics (72%) feeling significantly lonely. The impact at work is less productivity and more unhappiness with their jobs. The study recommends increases in work and community activities, work flexibility, improved benefits, and workplace inclusion. A bit more along with quotes from Cigna’s Evernorth subsidiary in FierceHealthcare

News roundup: telehealth claims drop 9% in February; Amwell’s good news, bad news Q1; tech-enabled practice Crossover Health growing; NowRx and Hyundai test semi-self-driving delivery

FAIR Health’s February monthly tracker is pointing downward again. After a brief post-holiday rise to 5.4% of claims in January, it dropped to 4.9% in February, a 9% drop. Mental health claims seized the lead again by a country mile at 64.2% of claims. COVID-19 fell off the list of top 5 claim areas, though only 3.4% in January compared to 58.9% for mental health. This month lists categories of specialists delivering telehealth, and social workers topped the list at over 31%, which fits the telemental health picture. 

Amwell’s shaky opening to 2022. It should not come as any surprise to our Readers that Amwell, the Avis to Teladoc’s Hertz, didn’t have a good Q1. Most of their key indicators around total revenue, providers, and visits grew smartly. Unfortunately, their losses did too. Comparisons are to Q1 2021 unless noted:

Revenue grew to $64.2 million [$57.6 million], up 11.5%
Gross margin: 42.8% [38.0%], up 12.6%
Total active providers grew 12% from Q4 to approximately 102,000 [91,000] Total visits also grew 20% from Q4 to 1.8 million [1.5 million]

But there’s no turning the corner on losses this quarter, despite Converge, their unified platform, shifting over telehealth visits as planned, and adding SilverCloud, Conversa, and specialty telehealth with musculoskeletal (MSK) and dermatology programs to the totals.

Net loss was ($70.3) million, compared to ($39.8) million, an increase of 77%
Adjusted EBITDA was ($47.1) million, compared to ($26.4) million, an increase of 78%

Amwell’s projected 2022 is the same–growth mixed with financial losses: revenue between $275 and $285 million, adjusted EBITDA between ($200) million and ($190) million.

Inquiring investors may very well ask when Teladoc and Amwell, now smaller by a factor of just over 9, will ever be profitable. Mr. Market had its say over the past year, from a high of $14.26 in early June 2021, to today’s close of $3.09, an enterprise valuation loss of $11.17 or 78%, just a little better than Teladoc’s 81% in the same period. It will likely be no time soon. But the shares may be an excellent opportunity at a low cost. Yahoo Finance, FierceHealthcare, Becker’s 

Crossover Health, a hybrid virtual/in-person primary care practice group, announced that they would be opening new centers in Seattle, Austin, and another one in New York this year. Their virtual care operates in all states, while their in-person footprint consists of 41 health centers in 11 states which are generally about 5,000 square feet. They have 33 on-site clinics for employers, which are a combination of exclusive to one company and shared, and in total cover 400,000 eligible employees and dependents including for 115,000 Amazon employees and dependents. In addition to corporate clinics, Crossover offers individual membership plans in a concierge, under one roof type model. FierceHealthcare

In another tech area, med delivery company NowRx is partnering with Hyundai for a limited test of their self-driving cars in the LA area. Hyundai will be using slightly modified Hyundai Ioniq 5 electric vehicles with some autonomous capability, but using a driver. The purpose of the test is to simulate and gather data on autonomous vehicle delivery, such as delivery statistics, dispatch and customer interactions, and feedback. NowRx offers free same-day prescription delivery in the San Francisco Bay area, Orange County, and Los Angeles areas. FierceHealthcare

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.”