Deals and news roundup: Ginger’s $100M, myNEXUS to Anthem, Everlywell snaps up PWN, Amwell’s banner year for revenue–and loss, VA reviews Cerner rollout, voice visits for MA, GE’s vScan goes wireless, uBiome founders indicted

Deals–and news–are piling up like Easter eggs before the hunt. Mental health and cognitive digital therapy scored another raise with Ginger‘s $100 million Series E to fund expansion into health plan and government partnerships. Blackstone Growth led the round. Total funding to date is $220 million. It’s entered unicorn status with a valuation just north of $1 bn. Ginger to date has concentrated on corporate mental healthcare. From being an ugly duckling only a few years ago, digital mental therapies are this year’s ‘it’. But competition is fierce: the traditional telehealth companies such as Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, and Amwell are closing in on the early entrants such as AbleTo. Direct-to-consumer models like Talkspace; UK/Ireland’s SilverCloud Health; and Lyra, Spring Health, and Happify, which just closed a $73 million Series D, all step out with slightly different ‘differentiators’ but target the same companies, health plans, and health systems. FierceHealthcare, Ginger release

Home health is also another former ugly duckling transformed into a swan. Anthem is acquiring home health/nursing management company myNEXUS, which manages home-based nursing services for 1.7 million Medicare Advantage members across 20 states. Their digital authorization and visit management couples with a nationwide network of providers and nursing agencies for local care. Exiting myNEXUS are private equity investors led by New York’s WindRose Health Investors, after four rounds and a conservative $31 million in funding (Crunchbase). Neither terms nor management transitions were disclosed. myNEXUS will join Anthem’s Diversified Business Group. FierceHealthcare, release.

Home testing+telehealth company Everlywell (not connected with the Everly Brothers) has a different take on home health. They are now integrating their self-test kits with fully owned lab testing. New acquisitions PWNHealth and its subsidiary Home Access Health Corporation will join Everlywell in Everly Group. PWN was Everlywell’s main telehealth partner and diagnostic testing partner since 2016. It will become Everly Health Solutions with their testing data kept separate from Everlywell’s. Home Access was PWN’s self-collected lab test company. Everly Health now will support more than 20 million people annually in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Acquisition terms were not disclosed. PWN’s CEO will take a seat on the Everly Group board to assist integration. Valuation is now estimated at $2.9 bn.  Mobihealthnews, Everly release, Bloomberg News

And in other news…

Amwell reported a Very Good Year in their telehealth services, with visits growing to 5.9 million from 2019’s 1.1 million. Total revenue was up over 65 percent to $245.3 million. However, profitability continues to be elusive, with net loss almost equaling revenue. Release

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) finally announced a review of the Cerner-Leidos EHR integration. Back in February, VA was hanging tough on the rollout after the GAO report questioning its wisdom and recommending postponement until high severity issues were corrected. Secretary Denis McDonough, new VA head, has directed the undertaking of a 12 week strategic review without pausing the project. Taking bets on that 12 weeks! Healthcare Dive

Payers and their lobbyists are supporting a newly reintroduced House bill that would permit telephonic-only telehealth visits to be reimbursed for their Medicare Advantage plans after HHS closes the pandemic period. There is considerable information that video/audio virtual visits still have limitations with the 65+ group, clustered around high-speed internet or good data connections, smartphones, and computers with cameras, making video visits difficult or impossible. Which begs the question about continuing coverage for those on Original Medicare. Healthcare Dive

Those readers with long memories will recall GE Healthcare’s heralded introduction of the VScan handheld clinical-grade ultrasound device–back in 2010, complete with Eric Topol rave and demo. Not much has been heard from GEHC since till this month, and other competitors, such as the Butterfly IQ from 4Catalyzer, have made handheld ultrasound common and affordable. GEHC announced Vscan Air, a fully wireless version that connects to iOS or Android. It was FDA cleared in November 2020 and will be shipping its dual-headed probe and accessories starting 1 April for a US-listed target price of $4,495. GEHC page (with the cute domain vscan.rocks), Mobihealthnews

And in our Scandal Sheet section, a Federal grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted the founders of now-bankrupt uBiome on 40-odd counts encompassing conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering, and identity theft. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed charges. Between 2016 and 2018, uBiome had raised $100 million through a Series C, and was likened to Theranos, after its fall, in the Big Claim (‘inventing the microbiome industry’). Its business was analyzing the DNA of fecal and other biological matter to sequence the bacteria of the body’s microbiome. Starting with low-cost, limited data comparison for at-home tests, the founders progressed to claiming to doctors that their diagnostic tests were clinical-quality and would be reimbursed by payers. Payers did–for awhile–and the investors piled in. By 2019, the wheels fell off their scheme and the FBI came knocking at their Silicon Valley offices after the founders cashed in. Chapter 7 followed in late 2019. The Register reports that the two married founders are on the run, whereabouts unknown. US Attorney’s Office release, SEC filing (PDF)

 

After the COVID Deluge: a Topol-esque view of what (tele)medicine will look like

A typically cheery view by Eric Topol, MD of what medical practice will look like after COVID is over. With the full court press to go remote in hospitals and practices worldwide, telehealth and telemedicine has gone fast forward in a matter of under two months. But what will it look like after it’s over? Most of what the good doctor is prognosticating will be familiar to our Readers who’ve followed him for years–certainly he was right on mobile health overall and especially AliveCor/Kardia Mobile— but not so on point with mobile body scanners (anyone remember VScan?)

When the high tide recedes, what will the beach look like?

  • “Telemedicine will play the role of the first consultation, akin to the house-call of yore.” (Terminology note–interesting that Dr. T still uses ‘telemedicine’ versus ‘telehealth’–Ed.)
  • Chatbots will serve as screeners–once they are proven to be effective (a ways to go here, as the Babylon debate rages on)
  • Smartphones will be the hub, connecting with all sorts of monitoring devices (the ‘connected health’ Tyto Care and Vivify Health model–which makes the Editor’s former company, the late Viterion Digital Health, even more of a pioneer that died crossing the Donner Pass of 2016)
  • Smartwatches are also part of this hub (this Editor remains a skeptic) 
  • Now is the time to harness technology by both health systems and individual practices, but multiple barriers remain. (This Editor can speak to the difficulties for both primary care and specialty practices in not only practice but also reimbursement–and acceptance by patients.) Device expense is also a problem for the non-affluent.

As to the rest, it is pretty much what we’ve heard from Dr. T before.  The Economist

Your Editor will add:

  • Easy to use, secure platforms that don’t put users through multiple security steps remain a concern for users. This Editor’s concern is that easy to use = insecure. Skype and Zoom are inherently insecure–Skype’s user unfriendliness and insecurity outside enterprise platforms and Zoom’s major security problems on its platform and user flaws are well-known (ZDNet).
  • Reimbursement, again! CMS has done a creditable job in broadening reimbursement for telehealth a/v and telephonic services, but coding remains a nightmare for practices struggling to remain open and with some lights on. After COVID, will CMS and HHS get religion, or put it right back in its rural bottle? Covered in the CARES Act passed at the close of March, $200 million sounds like a lot from the FCC to bankroll telecom equipment for providers, but these funds will go quickly. At least they are not delayed in endless rule making, as the Connected Care Pilot Program has been for two years. Mobihealthnews 

Comings and goings, short takes, and in other news…: Vivify’s new SVP Sales, Parks’ Connected Health Summit, $35M for 3D portable ultrasound, Oxford Medical Sim new pilot

In comings and goings….remote patient monitoring company Vivify Health announced that Chris Fickle has joined them as Senior Vice President, Sales. Mr. Fickle was previously with Qualcomm as senior director, business development including international and in the home health market as general manager of Healthfield and American HomePatient. Vivify currently has customers such as UPMC, Trinity Health, and the Ontario (Canada) Telemedicine Network and provides remote care management through personalized care plans, biometric data monitoring, and multi-channel patient education. Certainly in the umpteenth iteration of their website and June’s MedTech Breakthrough Award, they have apparently bounced back from their bounce-out from their VA award in early 2018 [TTA 14 June 18 and 16 Jan 18].

A reminder that Parks Associates’ Connected Health Summit in San Diego is now open for registration. TTA has been in the past a formal media supporter of the CHS and while not this year, it’s a great way to spend a few days in late August. The location, content around the demand for both clinical and consumer health and wellness solutions aimed at improving the quality of life for people living and seeking support at home, and the speaker list has always been outstanding. Follow their Twitter feed at @CONN_Health_Smt | Hashtag: #CONNHealth19. And register here.

This Editor has been following handheld ultrasound since GE Healthcare debuted the VScan in what seems an eternity ago (only 2010!) –and yes, it’s still around–Mobisante demonstrated at TED by no less than Eric Dishman in 2013–and last year the locally-based Butterfly IQ hit the market at about half the price and raised $250 million. Now Redwood City, California startup Exo Imaging has gained a $35 million Series B round to develop its portable ultrasound that through AI assistance generates a 3D image. Release. Mobihealthnews

The UK’s Oxford Medical Simulation has picked up another pilot of their Oculus Rift VR headsets to simulate in-practice interactive patient treatment at the OxSTaR (Oxford Simulation, Teaching and Research) center, part of  John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxfordshire. We covered OMS in April with their pilot with Health Education England Wessex at the Portsmouth and Southampton Hospitals. Mobihealthnews

 

Butterfly IQ handheld ultrasound offers clinical-quality body imaging for under $2,000

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/butterfly-iq.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Butterfly IQ is a NYC and Connecticut-based company which has developed a handheld ultrasound that transmits images to a smartphone. Where it differs from current handhelds like GE’s VScan is that it uses a single transducer for all images both near-field and deeper in body, and connects to a iPhone loaded with their software.

Larger machines, even on portable carts like the Philips Lumify [TTA 27 Mar] operate on an older vibrating crystals-based technology. The IQ uses capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers or CMUTs. 

It claims to be FDA-cleared for 13 applications. All this is delivered for under $2,000, far under other handhelds or carts (VScan is above $12,000, Lumify about $6,000), with delivery this year (pre-order notification at present) in the US only. Butterfly is also working on problems such as the volume of blood a heart is pumping or detecting problems like aortic aneurysms.

The IQ has a brace of impressive testimonials from doctors at Yale, UC Irvine, Denver Health, Rocky Vista University, Mass General, St. Elizabeth’s (Boston), and Metrowest Medical Center. According to vascular surgeon and company chief medical officer Dr. John Martin, he used it on himself to diagnose a mass in his neck last year that turned out to be Stage 4 cancer, for which he is under treatment. Daily Mail, 9to5 Mac, MIT Technology Review  Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve Hards