TTA’s Summer’s Here 2: AliveCor’s Kardia 12L debuts, M&A with eVisit, Sharecare going private, big raise for Talkiatry, NeueHealth gets a $150M loan, Cracked SPACs, IPOs and more!

 

 

A quieter summer week minus any bombshells. AliveCor’s Kardia 12L compresses a 12-lead ECG into a single cable assisted by AI. There’s M&A activity at long last with eVisit and Sharecare going private along with some decent raises for Talkiatry, CipherHealth, and Heyday. Medtronic tries but fails to keep its layoffs on the QT and Strictly HushHush. NeueHealth resurfaces with another daring loaner. And the Gimlet Eye resurfaces with a take on Cracked SPACS and recent IPOs.

Short takes/wrapup: fundings for Talkiatry, Heyday Health, CipherHealth; Brightside Health now 50 states for Medicare Part B; Neurabody’s sensor based posture therapy; below the radar global layoffs at Medtronic
News roundup: AliveCor launches FDA-cleared Kardia 12L ECG, eVisit buys UPMC’s inpatient teleconsult, UPMC and MedStar invest; NeueHealth gains $150M loan–with caveats–and NYSE non-compliance notice
A Gimlet Eye view on IPOs and Cracked SPACs: Altaris’ buys Sharecare for $518M, takes it private; a look at Waystar and Tempus AI post-IPO (Gimlet returns from the Remote Pacific Island–virtually, of course)

The first Federal prosecution on telemedicine prescribing against the leaders of Done. VA extended Oracle Cerner’s EHR implementation for another year. The UK Synnovis hack was ransomware, still affecting London hospitals. Still around Verily gets in on the GLP-1 craze. Pepper the Robot resurfaces in San Diego for mental health. And closing the week, Change/UHG finally getting required data breach notifications out along with three fundings.

Week-end short takes: Change Healthcare/UHG breach notification starting; fundings for Pomelo Care, Marigold Health, Humata Health (Green funding shoots?)
A lighter update: Pepper the Robot’s comeback at San Diego State University–now AI-equipped for mental health
News roundup: VA extends Oracle Cerner for 11 months; Amwell founders swap jobs; Alphabet’s Verily pivots to Lightpath with GLP-1, retiring Onduo; UnitedHealth hasn’t notified on Change breach
Done CEO, president arrested, charged with $100M fraud on Adderall distribution in first Federal case on telemedicine prescribing (updated) (First of many?)
UK pathology services Synnovis hacked by Qilin ransomwareistes, demand $50M, justify attack due to UK involvement in “wars” (One system, lots of vulnerability)

A week of ‘further developments’. Teladoc replaces its CEO in two months–record time. Waystar finally IPOs after two years. Steward Health gets the DIP bucks at the last minute to continue until it’s sold off. Devices and app systems like Dexcom and Aktiia make significant improvements that improve their marketability. Category consolidations in telemental health and behavioral health risk analytics. And are these the last appeals for Theranos’ Holmes and Balwani?

Short takes: Dexcom G7 now directly connects to Apple Watch, Brightside Health acquires Lionrock, Aktiia CALFREE gains CE Mark for optical BP monitoring not requiring calibration (Further telemental consolidation and digital health device upgrades)
Oracle’s Q4/FY 23 earnings push Cerner to background, stock price soars on AI deals; 81% of VA clinicals really can’t stand Cerner (Can this EHR be saved?)
News roundup: Teladoc’s new CEO from major payer, Steward Health lives with $250M injection, Waystar’s IPO raises $968M, NeuroFlow acquires Owl (A record time for CEO replacement)
Theranos’ Holmes and Balwani appeal fraud convictions, $450M investor restitution (One last try on appeal?)

NHS England made a lot of not-good news this week, with ‘serious harm’ linked to their multiple EPRs and by midweek, a third-party vendor ransomware attack crashing pathology systems in London hospital trusts. Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes’ defense in court next week for appeal. Steward Health running out of operating money while being sold off in Federal Bankruptcy Court. Ascension breach scares health execs, but 1/3 don’t have contingency plans especially for vendor hacks. On the sunny side–some strong fundings for Eko, Sword, and Plenful.

Short takes: Holmes legal team appealing Tuesday 11 June; Steward Health asset sale OK’d, needs funding; fundings for Sword Health, Eko Health (Them’s that got, has $)
Breaking: multiple London hospitals, borough GPs declare ‘critical incident’ from ransomware attack via third party pathology vendor (Who’s responsible?)
News roundup: Change responsible for data breach notices; 37% of healthcare orgs have no cybersec contingency plan; health execs scared by Ascension breach; CVS continues betting on health services; Plenful’s $17M Series A
NHS electronic patient records linked to 100 ‘serious harm’ issues, with ~50% of NHS England trusts reporting patient issues: BBC News (Many fixes needed here before AI arrives)

This was a big post-holiday week, with Veradigm’s surprising bid for a buyer or ‘strategic alternatives’, a $1B Waystar IPO at last, a $34 million digital therapeutics merger, and an over-the-top Oracle response to last week’s Business Insider article. Clover markets Counterpart Assistant SaaS to other payers, CVS looks for an Oak Street investor, 23andMe looks to go private. Fundings for Wanda Health (UK) and Australia’s Updoc. And Done Health guests on Perspectives.

Short takes: Virtual Therapeutics, Akili in $34M merger; why health clinics are struggling; Dollar General, DocGo call it quits; Clover Assistant AI debuts; fundings for Wanda Health (UK), Updoc (AU); Telstra buys out Fred IT (AU)
Oracle’s Glueck kicks back hard at Business Insider’s ‘deadly gamble’ article, Epic’s Faulkner (A response written at maximum seethe)
Perspectives: How Collaborative Care Combats Physician Burnout (From Done Telehealth)
News roundup: Waystar $1B IPO is on (updated); CVS looking for Oak Street PE partner; 23andMe net loss doubles to $667M, may go private; Otsuka dives into digital therapeutics; HoneyNaps’ $12M no snooze (A big IPO after a year)
Breaking news: Veradigm may sell, merge, or seek ‘strategic alternatives’; appoints new interim CEO effective June (updated) (Parts worth more than whole?)

A light news week before the US Memorial Day remembrance and the UK Bank Holiday, the unofficial kickoffs to summer. What’s hot: Larry Ellison’s gamble on Cerner–are he and Oracle losing big after three years at the gaming table? Walgreens cashes in its Cencora chips, Walmart Health workers’ chips are cashed out, Change looks for chips that aren’t hacked, while Cue Health finally runs out of them. But in the chips: Expressable, Centivo, Transcarent. 

Short takes: Cue Health shuts, Walmart Health lays off, Walgreens sells $400M share in Cencora, $26M Series B for Expressable
News roundup: 100+ medical orgs pile on Change/UHG; Teladoc hit with second class-action suit; Congress demands Oracle EHR improvement–or else; Transcarent intros WayFinding; Centivo buys Eden Health 
Must read: Oracle’s ‘deadly gamble’ on Cerner (new with audio file!) (Can Ellison win at  healthcare’s poker table? And listen to this Editor’s first reading, with a few audio-only extras.)


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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
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A Gimlet Eye view on IPOs and Cracked SPACs: Altaris buys Sharecare for $518M, takes it private; a look at Waystar and Tempus AI post-IPO

Gimlet EyeSharecare finally gets itself bought and taken private, less than three years after its SPAC. One-time health tech darling Sharecare, now a patient navigation and employee benefits platform and once valued at $3.9 billion, will be acquired by healthcare-focused private equity company Altaris LLC for $1.43 in cash per share, or about $518 million. The shares on the buy date, 20 June, were trading at $0.77 so the offer is about an 86% premium, though shares are now trading at around $1,38. (Notably, Sharecare was below the $1.00 threshold for Nasdaq since February.) The transaction is expected to close in Q2 subject to formal shareholder approval and regulatory agencies. In terms of management, the executive team is expected to continue at least for now, with founder Jeff Arnold voting his shares in favor of the transaction and continuing as a shareholder. Release, FierceHealthcare, Mobihealthnews

Founded in 2010 by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and celebrity doc/former political candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, Sharecare had IPO’d a decade later via a SPAC, Falcon Capital Acquisition Corporation. It announced in February 2021’s Pandemic Palmy Days then hit markets on 2 July. At that time as essentially a personal care management app, it debuted at above $9.00 and received $571 million in gross proceeds with a reported valuation of $3.9 billion. A month later, it acquired CareLinx, an on-demand home care provider, from Europ Assistance in a $65 million cash/shares deal. By late 2021, Sharecare entered the Cracked SPAC Track as shares cratered. Dr. Oz is no longer on the board of directors or the advisory board. As share values fell precipitously, in November 2023 Mr. Arnold turned over the CEO reins to Brent Layton, a 20+ year Centene veteran and its retired president, picking him from the BOD and moving to chairman.

Shortly thereafter, Fruit Street sued Sharecare, a former partner, for $25 million charging that their diabetes prevention program (DPP) was supplanted by Sharecare’s own, breaching their contract and appropriating intellectual property. [TTA 14 Dec 2023] This suit is apparently still wending its way through the infamous Fulton County, Georgia courts. Sharecare also faced an escalating number of shareholder class action lawsuits alleging false and misleading statements on their financial condition (KRON 4).

What can we learn from IPOs as they are reviving? The first, of course, is that SPACs have gone the way of the dodo and passenger pigeon. The second is that there are quality IPOs, and then there are the ones to watch out for even if you are not an investor.

Remember first and foremost that VC and PE investors want to exit, profitably. And quickly. Exit=Sell to Someone Else. “Someone else” can be an IPO or another investor. An IPO means offloading the risk to the investing public. Please do keep in mind that what follows 1) is not investment advice, only observations and 2) your Editor is only a marketer, but one who has seen investments go up, down, and sideways since her days at the Frank Lorenzo School of Airline (Mis)Management, a/k/a New York Air (right, below) including a year observing up front and personally the dismal fate of Eastern Airlines. (Somewhere she has her old Texas Air share certificates…)

The investment scene in health tech and AI strongly resembles the Wild West days of airlines post-deregulation 30 years ago. Investor money in, now fleeing for the exits, whether the bankruptcy court or passing the hot potato to others with money.

Waystar IPO’d earlier this month at $21.50 per share. Checking in today, it’s trading at $21.55, essentially in a narrow and flat trading range in a down market. The IPO gave Waystar a fully diluted valuation of $3.69 billion. It’s early days, but three factors in favor of WAY staying the course at least short term are:

  1. They waited to IPO for the better part of a year and pulled it back when their initial valuation of $8 billion made Mr. Market ROTFL.
  2. Their investors have held on tight: EQT AB, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and Bain Capital will beneficially own approximately 29.2%, 22.3%, and 16.8%, which is over 68% of the company.
  3. They occupy a boring part of healthcare and aren’t new kids on the block. Payments and revenue cycle management (RCM) aren’t sexy or trendy. Waystar is the combination of ZirMed (1999) and Navicure (2001) which merged and renamed in 2018. 

The downsides: Competition. Lots of it. The usual unprofitability. Waystar lost money the past two years. Last quarter, those losses accelerated (Google Finance). Will that show up later this year in share price?

Tempus AI also IPO’d mid-month at an eyewatering $37/share, at the top of its offering range, and a valuation in excess of $6 billion. It’s AI! It’s backed by Google! And it rose 15% on its first day of trading, 14 June! Precision Medicine! Intelligent Diagnostics!

But where are shares today on 26 June? It closed yesterday at $24.96. That’s a downer of 32% from the IPO price–38% if you take it against the first-day close above $40. I’m sure the first-day investors, unless they have cast-iron stomachs, have already reached for the antacids.

So what’s going on here? Tempus AI’s business combines AI for data analytics and a vast database to guide doctors in therapy and treatment, identify clinical trials, guide treatments, and close gaps in care. The analysis is done on blood samples, buccal swabs, and liquid tests. It’s a familiar pitch that multiple companies are using around AI and their ‘vast databases’ from the time of IBM Watson’s lofty ambitions.

  • Their CEO has already traversed the hype circuit. “We’re on a really good trajectory,” Tempus AI CEO Eric Lefkofsky, the founder of Groupon, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday morning before shares started trading. “As revenues have been growing quickly, we’re not investing all that gross profit dollar growth back into the business. We’re generating improved leverage every quarter.” (Exactly what does that mean? Probably that money is sent down to the profit line.) Setting expectations–within the next year, the company is expected to be cash flow and EBITDA positive within the next year. It’s twice been on CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list of private companies which historically has been a mixed bag.
  • In their favor is that they already have as of today 510(k) clearance from FDA for its Tempus ECG-AF device to identify patients who may be at increased risk of atrial fibrillation/flutter (AF). It’s the first FDA clearance for an AF indication in the category known as “cardiovascular machine learning-based notification software”. But it needs to be integrated into resting 12-lead ECG recordings collected at a healthcare facility and analyzed against other patient data. What is that timeline and market?
  • Tempus has already survived and evolved from one major pivot. Looking back, they started in the genomic testing business in 2015, primarily concentrating on oncology. In 2020, it branched out to then-trendy Covid-19.  CNBC 17 June 2020  Genomics is now subsumed on the site by terms such as pharmacogenomics (PGx) coupled with patient-reported outcome (PRO) software.

Investors up to the IPO were listed as Google, Baillie Gifford, Franklin Templeton, NEA, Softbank, and T. Rowe Price. Who’s sticking around? The underwriters are Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Bank of America Securities, and Allen & Company. Reuters  Customers include AstraZeneca and GSK (GSK.L). One of its competitors, Guardant Health, which has patents in DNA blood testing for cancer, is suing on infringement on five patents. Reuters

All in all, Tempus AI started off way high–and there is only one way to go from there. They have a great story and a potentially good business, but it bears watching, not investing, at this point.

News roundup: Teladoc’s new CEO from major payer, Steward Health lives with $250M injection, Waystar’s IPO raises $968M, NeuroFlow acquires Owl

Teladoc wraps up CEO search in record time–two months. On Monday, Charles “Chuck” Divita joined the company as chief executive officer with a board of directors seat. Divita comes from GuideWell, where he was executive vice president, commercial markets, earlier chief financial officer, and previously group VP and chief accounting officer at Florida Blue for a total of over 12 years. GuideWell is the parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans in Florida and covers 38 million people in 50 states through Florida Blue, Triple-S Salud (Puerto Rico), Truli for Health, Florida Health Care Plans, and Capital Health Plans. Interim CEO Mala Murthy resumes her CFO position

Long-time CEO Jason Gorevic departed in early April in a haze of red ink. Mr. Divita will find the turnaround situation facing him at Teladoc a real challenge compared to Blue Health Plan World. Undoubtedly he was hired due to his extensive CFO experience plus understanding of the payer market. Teladoc needs to achieve profitability, something never accomplished in 20 years. It also faces heavy competition, the growing obsolescence of its foundational model accelerated by the boom/bust pandemic, self-inflicted damage created by the Livongo acquisition, the underperforming BetterHelp, and frankly, its mixed track record in good judgment and accountability [further analysis–TTA 9 Apr]. Mr. Market barely responded with a continuing deterioration in share price. Do not be surprised when (not if) there are major changes and cuts at Teladoc, including removing its HQ from high-tax Purchase, New York to Florida, the new CEO’s home state.  Release, FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive

Steward Health beats deadline of 14 June, finds $250 million to pay the bills. The lenders announced Tuesday 11 June are existing FILO (first in last out) private credit lenders Sound Point Capital and Brigade Agency Services, Chamberlain Commercial Funding, WhiteHawk Finance LLC, Owl Creek Investments I LLC, OneIM Fund I LP, MidOcean Credit Fund Management; Brigade Capital Management, LP which are now debtors in possession (DIP). They will be presented to the US Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Texas, later this week, which is conducting Steward Health’s dissolution with sales starting in July. The FILO lenders were approached earlier, starting in March and up through last week, but could not come to an offer until now. The $250 million is structured as $75 million of the loan immediately upon court approval, with the remaining $150 million “available in draws not to exceed $50 million per draw.” The funds will keep Steward operations going and ‘maximize value’ until they can be sold in July and August. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare, Release

Waystar finally drops IPO, raises $967.5 million. The offering of 45 million shares debuted at $21.50 a share on Nasdaq, midpoint in the indicated range and giving Waystar a fully diluted valuation of $3.69 billion.  It is the largest health tech IPO since 2022. Back in October 2023, Waystar projected an $8 billion valuation which was a non-starter [TTA 29 May]. WAY closed near-flat today at $21.70. Previous funders will continue with shares in the company, with EQT AB, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and Bain Capital will beneficially own approximately 29.2%, 22.3%, and 16.8%. Its payment and RCM tools claim 30,000 customers representing approximately 1 million distinct providers, but lost money in 2022 and 2023. FierceHealthcare, Reuters

Behavioral health platform NeuroFlow acquires Owl. Purchase price was not disclosed. Both companies are in the data insights and analytics portion of telemental health delivery and integration into care management programs. The combination now integrates NeuroFlow’s platform across primary and specialty care settings to provide a 360-degree view of a population’s behavioral health risk. In 2023, NeuroFlow acquired Capital Solution Design, the parent company of Behavioral Health Lab and BHL Touch which have provided workflow support to clinical teams at the Department of Veterans Affairs for over 15 years and other care organizations. The combined organizations will cover 17 million lives on the platform with payers and providers in all 50 states, including Atlantic Health System (NJ), Emory Healthcare (GA), and Colorado Access, Centennial State’s Medicaid plan. Eric Meier, Owl’s chief executive officer, will transition to NeuroFlow’s president of behavioral health markets. Other transitions and headquartering are not disclosed.Their funding topped $52 million between 2019 and 2022. Release, Mobihealthnews

News roundup: Waystar $1B IPO is on (updated); CVS looking for Oak Street PE partner; 23andMe net loss doubles to $667M, may go private; Otsuka dives into digital therapeutics; HoneyNaps’ $12M no snooze

Waystar finally getting around to starring in its IPO. Again. The on-again/off-again public offering for this healthcare payments software platform developer is back on, according to their Form S-1 filed yesterday (28 May) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Their first filing draft was in October 2023 on Nasdaq which would have valued the company at $8 billion. The IPO was again revived in December and postponed. This filing for WAY floats 45 million shares valued between $20 and $23 which would raise $1 billion with a far more reasonable valuation of $3.7 to $3.83 billion (latter updated per Waystar). Lead book-running managers are JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, and Barclays.

Cornerstone investors, who purchase stock before the formal listing, have expressed interest in buying up to $225 million in shares; these investors include funds managed by Neuberger Berman and a wholly-owned subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority. 

Underwriters have a 30-day option to purchase up to 6.75 million shares at the IPO price less the underwriter discount. Their current investors are EQT AB, Bain Capital, Francisco Partners, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The net proceeds from the offering will repay outstanding indebtedness. No timing is stated for when the IPO will happen. Usually, there are roadshows for institutional investors that showcase the prospectus (in the S-1) and positive points such as their $5 billion in annual transactions. After the listing, the current investors will still have substantial shares: EQT, CPPIB, and Bain will own about 29.2%, 22.3%, and 16.8% stakes respectively. 

Release, Morningstar, FierceHealthcare, Reuters

CVS Health is reaching out for a private equity partner to expand Oak Street Health’s clinics. Bloomberg News reported this unusual move by CVS with a handful of private equity firms to explore what was termed by ‘insiders’ as a joint venture. It’s all very preliminary and a JV may not be the final form. OSH is far smaller than rivals One Medical (Amazon) and VillageMD (Walgreens) but CVS apparently does not want to go it alone to fully take on the development cost. On February investor calls, CVS projected building out to 300 clinics by 2026. Reuters

Even in early 2023 with rivals Amazon (One Medical), Walgreens (VillageMD), and Walmart Health on primary care clinic buying and building binges, CVS’ buy for $10.6 billion for the ‘runt of the litter’ was widely derided as a waste of money [TTA 16 Feb, 2 Mar 2023]. OSH had only 169 offices in 21 states. It was also a money loser, $510 million in the red in 2022 and $200 million projected in 2023, with no breakeven predicted until 2025. A large part was due to OSH’s patient population, heavily skewed towards Medicare Advantage and underserved, high-risk patients. Those factors have gotten worse, not better. CMS has now tightened payments on MA with new rates and on reimbursement for diagnoses, making the growth of this population even riskier. Further dimming prospects for a willing partner: Walmart Health is shutting at end of June and VillageMD has shed or is shedding 140 locations to perhaps 620.  

23andMe’s losses double while revenue shrinks by 31%. Things continue to dim at the beleaguered genetics testing company. Their Q4 ending 31 March 2024 (FY24) closed with a net loss of $209 million on $64 million in revenue, compared to a net loss of $64 million on $94 million in revenue in the prior year Q4. In adjusted EBITDA, Q4 lost $33 million, compared to a loss of $39 million in prior year Q4. Net loss in full year FY24 was $667 million on revenue of $220 million, versus prior year’s loss of $312 million on revenue of $299 million. Adjusted EBITDA was $176 million versus prior year’s $161 million. As previously reported [TTA 20 Apr], CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki may offer to buy out the 80% of shares she does not already own. In developments, 23andMe has introduced an ancestry feature called Historical Matches, three new genetic reports for 23andMe+ members covering breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer based on polygenic risk scores, and some clinical trials moving forward. 23andMe also lost revenue in mid-year from GSK’s expiring agreement, had an impairment relating to Lemonaid Health, and of course (but not mentioned here) their massive 6.9 million record data breach. Shares closed today at $0.61, slightly up from April’s lows. Release

Otsuka America bucks the down trend, moves into digital therapeutics with Otsuka Precision Health. The Japanese pharmaceutical company’s US division is moving forward with a new digital health unit, Precision Health (OPH), headed by 14 year veteran Sanket Shah. Their first rollout later this summer will be based on the newly FDA-cleared Rejoyn, the first prescription digital therapeutic authorized for the adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) symptoms. Rejoyn was developed in conjunction with Click Therapeutics. Mr. Shah and Otsuka are taking the longer view in terms of development, that future developments will be about both partnerships and solo effort, and that the road is long–and littered with the burnt-out shells of failed companies like Pear Therapeutics, Babylon Health, and way back to Happtique. Otsuka has had its own digital health learning experience. They partnered in 2017 with Proteus Digital Health’s smart pill tech for its Abilify MyCite anti-depressant. After abruptly ending the partnership, Otsuka bought the smart pill technology out of bankruptcy [TTA 19 Aug 2020]. Release, Healthcare Dive 

One funding of note this week is HoneyNaps‘ $11.6 million Series B. Hi Investment Partners, QUAD Investment Management, and Industrial Bank of Korea led the South Korean sleep diagnostics company’s funding. HoneyNaps has an FDA-cleared (2023) bio-signal monitoring and AI-assisted sleep diagnosis software, SOMNUM, that will be introduced to the US market. In the release, the company CFO announced plans to “further advance the AI to expand its application to other critical areas such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease”. Mobihealthnews

Peering through the cloudy crystal ball into 2024 healthcare investment and company health

crystal-ballWill 2024 be the mirror image of 2023? This time last year, signs pointed to slow, steady growth after the bubble bath of 2020-early 2022 was followed by failures of tech-leveraged banks (SVB and Signature in March 2023) leading to a mid-year bust [TTA 11 Aug 23]. Some big deals kicked off the year (CVS’ Carbon Health investment, Oak Street mega-buy TTA 16 Feb 23). Then as the year went on, they were followed by sheer turmoil–huge losses and business divestitures (Cano Health, Bright Health, insurtechs like Clover and Oscar), bankruptcies and shutdowns (Babylon, Pear, Quil, OliveAI, Smile Direct, Cureatr, Rite Aid), IP lawsuits (Apple-Masimo, Apple-AliveCor, FruitStreet-Sharecare), C-levels walking the plank (Walgreens, Noom), and big layoffs nearly every week. Cigna and Humana called off merging again, perhaps because Cigna didn’t like what it saw. M&A fell to its lowest level in years and IPOs fell to zero.

To cap the year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new Merger Guidelines that made the M&A mountain even steeper, and will follow up this year with Pre-Merger Notification guidelines that will make that part even more costly. Both signal hard times for M&A. Add to that the overt hostility the chair of the FTC has to any kind of M&A and the weaponization of the tools government has at hand…..Even early-stage, independent companies which allegedly these agencies are trying to foster don’t catch a break. A change in the tax law hitting hardest in 2023 forces annual expenses in research and experimentation (R&E) to be amortized over five years versus one year which severely affects their financials. (Section 174 explained here)

The crystal ball promises to be more like a Magic 8 Ball this year. Other than a flurry of smaller-scale investments, a rumor of a $5 billion EHR company sale (Netsmart), and predictable layoffs in health systems, the start of the year in healthcare has been fairly (ominously?) quiet.

HealthcareFinance talked to two partners in law firm Akerman’s healthcare practice group to get their take, weaving in some findings from a PWC report: 

  • Buyer interest in acquiring practices and surgery centers
  • Partnerships on rise, for example Amazon’s One Medical with health systems 
  • Smaller hospitals in mid-America will merge as there is “safety in numbers’
  • More investment in life sciences and drug development, especially diabetes/weight loss drugs in the GLP-1 category
  • Anything around AI attracts interest

The two big factors: interest rates (the Federal Reserve has signaled no further increases, and maybe cuts in 2024) and (of course) a presidential election as well as all of the House, much of the Senate, and state gubernatorial offices.

Bubbling under this are reports of two big pending IPOs:

  • Home health, pharmacy, and eldercare services provider BrightSpring Health filed with the SEC on 3 January for a near-billion dollar IPO (publicly released on 17th). This is estimated to raise $960 million, valuing the company at about $3 billion. Common stock will debut between $15 and $18 on Nasdaq under the symbol BTSG. They are also selling 8 million tangible equity units at $50. Proceeds will go from the offerings to repay outstanding debt under various credit facilities and pay penalties associated with terminating its monitoring agreement with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR, the current owner) and Walgreens Boots Alliance. BrightSpring serves 400,000 daily patients and dispensed 34 million prescriptions in 2022. IPO timing is still to be announced. This is the second time the company has filed, abandoning its first attempt in late 2021 as the market softened in 2022. KKR is signalling an exit…will it happen this time? Release, FierceHealthcare
  • Waystar’s IPO is still pending after being announced late last year [TTA 26 Oct 23]. The RCM and payments software company delayed it to 2024 due to an uncertain market at year’s end. Reportedly the roadshows were postponed to December but there has been no confirmation that they took place. Will it happen?

Fasten your seatbelts…it may be a bumpy ride.

Olive AI selling rest of business to Waystar Health and Humata Health, winding down: reports (several updates)

The final reorganization is to sell everything. Today’s report in Axios states that Olive AI’s remaining business has been sold to revenue cycle management/payments software Waystar Health and to Humata Health, a startup (see update below). Olive’s Clearinghouse and Patient Access business units went to Waystar and its Prior Authorization business unit to Humata. Sale prices and staff transitions were not disclosed. OliveAI’s business lines centered on automating routine tasks in healthcare so that more time could be spent on patient care and higher value tasks.

Olive’s statement was simple and brief, in part reading “These products represent the heart of Olive’s business and we believe this decision will provide important stability and a bright future for these customers. With the sale of our core business units, Olive will wind down the remainder of its business.” Other than this message, their website was almost totally disabled except for a customer login on a product named Lighthouse. In the message, there is no information on handoffs nor on the fate of remaining staffers.

This follows on our reporting of Olive AI’s slow bleed starting July 2022 when they pink-slipped 450 employees, or one-third of staff, followed by additional layoffs of 35% of staff (215 workers) this past February, then the sale of various businesses to an undisclosed sister company, business intel to BurstIQ, and its utilization management tool to Availity all between February and June. They had a lot to sell in refocusing on core business. Since its founding in 2012, Olive had pivoted its business model 27 times according to its CEO, which sounds to this Editor more like a constant pirouette. The final layoff reported was in July of another 450 staff, another one-third. An Axios report in April 2022 demolished much of their credibility with examples of overpromising on their technology producing savings and efficiencies, then underdelivering, an assessment echoed by KLAS. HISTalk

OliveAI’s demise as it reaches the end of the runway for near-total hull loss is almost in the Theranos class as a Unicorn Fail. They were valued at one point at $4 billion and burned through over $850 million in nine rounds of funding up to a Series H, including from top VCs General Catalyst, Tiger Global, and Vista Equity Partners. General Catalyst is now moving into the transformation business with the awkwardly named HATco,  The Health Assurance Transformation Corporation, announced at HLTH earlier this month and defined as “a more affordable, accessible and proactive system of care”.  As this Editor noted then, HATco’s promise is a song we’re heard before. (The Gimlet Eye would say it should be played on a tinny, out-of-tune piano.)

One of the remaining business buyers, Waystar Health, filed only two weeks ago to be the first IPO in digital health in over a year, for an estimated valuation of $8 billion. Mr. Market’s bad behavior though is delaying its roadshow till December at the earliest due to weakness. The IPO will be 2024. Sometime. [TTA 26 Oct] The cycle begins anew.

Even so, yet another demise of a once-promising company is sad news. This is developing and will be updated.

Update on Humata Health (see comment below). Turns out it is a startup that will be headed by a former Olive president for their payer business, Jeremy Friese, MD. According to his LinkedIn profile, Dr. Friese had that position November 2020 to September 2022 after the sale of Verata Health, where he was co-founder and CEO from 2017 until they sold their prior authorization business to Olive AI. Three former Olive employees contacted the author of Axios’ coverage, Erin Brodwin, after she published the original article on 31 October. So Dr. Friese, who lists a ‘stealth startup’ from April 2023 in his profile, is apparently taking back his prior authorization business. Does this seem reminiscent of Pear Therapeutics’ CEO, Corey McCann, obtaining backing to acquire many of Pear’s assets out of bankruptcy for a paltry $2.03 million [TTA 24 May]?

Was Olive AI a scam? HISTalk has an interesting discussion today on whether it met the definition, as some have claimed. Their POV is that it was not, but investors and customers didn’t do their due diligence despite poor KLAS reviews (except for prior authorization) and especially in the hothouse of 2020-2021 did not see past the hype. For those evaluating companies, whether to take them on as a vendor or to go work for them, there are three cautionary points that stood out in their seven lessons:

  • Companies can be wheezing their last even as they pay big money for impressive exhibits and sponsored events at conferences.
  • Rapid company expansion, acquisitions that look like an attention-diverting shell game, and a product line that is too confusing to summarize in a single “what does your company do” sentence are reasons for skepticism.
  • All companies and investors look smart when the economy is booming.

HISTalk’s Curbside Consult columnist Dr. Jayne takes on Olive AI, which in her health IT world is being much talked about. She and this Editor are on the same page about these running-out-of-funding runway startups which she summarizes so well:

In talking with friends who know the industry well, most are in agreement that it’s time for a lot of companies to pay the proverbial piper since they can’t deliver on the promises they made in exchange for startup funding. They forecast that many more companies will be trying to reinvent themselves over the coming months. Those that are successful may live to fight another day, but others may become the stuff of fire sales or ultimately closures.

News roundup: Waystar’s $8B IPO plan takes delay, Perficient to buy SMEDIX, PicnicHealth buys AllStripes, MDLIVE buys Bright.md, Sage garners $15M, Cureatr shuts suddenly, Calibrate reorganizes, BetterUp lays off 16% (updated)

  • It’s a Tale of Two Cities…the best and worst of times, depending on what company you’re with.

Waystar files for the first IPO of 2023 in healthcare. Revenue cycle management (RCM) and payments software company Waystar filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, after filing a draft with the SEC in August. Waystar, formed from RCMs ZirMed and Navicure, isn’t profitable (2023 first half net losses of $21 million on $387 million revenue) but it is big–30,000 provider organization customers in a subscription model generating $4 billion in healthcare payment transactions last year. The offering on Nasdaq under WAY potentially values the company at $8 billion.

The IPO offering is being led by JPMorgan Securities LLC, Goldman Sachs, and Barclays Capital. Swedish global investment firm EQT Partners and the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board became majority investors in 2019 with Bain Capital retaining a share. Waystar also acquired that year Connance, Ovation Revenue Cycle Services’ transaction services tech, PARO and Digitize.AI.

A comparative factor is that its main competitor, R1 RCM, is public.

It’s been over a year since the last digital health company went public, but any speculation that this is a dambreaker for health tech IPOs would be premature, even in the ever-optimistic view of Rock Health. FierceHealthcare, Waystar release

Update: The WSJ reports that the Waystar roadshow to pitch the IPO to investors, scheduled for this week, has been delayed to December at earliest, pushing the IPO into 2024. Sometime. IPOs for other companies have gone south. Reuters

What is more typical are these three acquisitions and consolidations, mainly in the healthcare software and data collection areas, as time goes on and fresh funding rounds grow scarce.

Perficient, a ‘digital consultancy’, is in agreement to buy SMEDIX, a $12 million in revenue healthcare software engineering firm headquartered in San Diego, California, with offshore operations located in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Acquisition cost was not disclosed. Closing is anticipated in January 2024. SMEDIX President and CEO Fayez Sweiss will join Perficient in a key leadership role and the release mentions the addition of 175 skilled global professionals.

Patient community, clinical data, and patient-reported evidence collector PicnicHealth is acquiring AllStripes, a platform for rare disease data and patient access. PicnicHealth’s partnerships are primarily with pharmaceutical companies and nonprofit research organizations for patient data. AllStripes generates research-ready evidence to accelerate rare disease research and drug development, as well as a patient/family-facing app connecting them to treatment research. AllStripes had a $50 million Series B funding round in 2021 and PicnicHealth had a $60 million Series C round in 2022 backed by new investor B Capital Group plus existing investors Felicis Ventures and Amplify Partners. But as is usual of late, the acquisition cost is not disclosed. Release

In TelehealthLand, MDLIVE is buying Bright.md. Announced at HLTH, MDLIVE, part of Cigna unit Evernorth, will add Bright.md’s asynchronous telehealth capabilities to its existing platform. The expansion will target their virtual urgent care area, adding chronic disease management and wellness visits in 2024. Asynchronous telehealth adds an information gathering and triage option to standard virtual consults in gathering initial information, optimally directing the patient to the right care at the right time. Acquisition costs (again) were not disclosed. MDLIVE also announced a care coaching option within its virtual primary care program. MDLIVE works with employers and health plans which gives them in total a 43 million member base. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare

Sage scored a $15 million Series A. Funding for their senior housing care platform was led by Maveron with participation from Distributed Ventures, ANIMO Ventures, and Goldcrest Capital. The platform consolidates and coordinates nurse call and care information for residents. This follows on their August 2022 $9 million in seed funding.  Mobihealthnews

Also typical of late are closings, reorganizations, and layoffs.

NYC-based Cureatr shut down suddenly Tuesday 17 October. According to the sketchy reports on places like Reddit, it was with three days notice to staff nor severance and done on a Zoom call. Systems were shut down on Friday but not the website which is still up. Cureatr was a comprehensive medication management company with staff pharmacists working with topline providers like New York Presbyterian, Northwell, Penn Medicine, and DaVita. Surprisingly, they bought a competitor, SinfoniaRx, only last March. Posters on Reddit describe new hires starting in the last two months and people yet to start who had already left their jobs. From Glassdoor, posters state that the company went bankrupt after not getting more financing. Things went south fast. What is going on now is a bad rerun of the 2007-8 period when funding dried up and companies ran out of runway fast, a period that this Editor experienced firsthand at Living Independently Group. Shotgun takeovers and sudden closings. Thanks to HISTalk 23 Oct for the heads up.

Another NYC former high-flyer, ‘metabolic health’ weight loss digital health coach Calibrate, was sold in a ‘reorganization’ to private equity firm Madryn Asset Management along with other investors. Prior to the sale, Calibrate raised about $160 million in funding. With scarcity of their GLP-1  drug therapies Ozempic and Wegovy and insurers refusing coverage of their over $1,700 direct-to-consumer regimen (not including medication cost), plus new competitors like Teladoc, Calibrate lost patients, received rafts of angry social media postings, refunded millions to them, and laid off 150 staff in July 2022 with 100 departing last April. Weight loss/obesity management remains hot, but in more payer and employer-centered models, to which Calibrate announced it was pivoting to this summer. MedCityNews

Calibrate was one of the companies out of Redesign Health, which has developed about 50 health tech companies, the latest being Harmonic Health for care management of dementia patients and family support. 

Telemental health is also going wobbly, with BetterUp recently laying off 16% of its workforce or 100 employees. BetterUp provides virtual behavioral change coaching for corporate performance, including mental health. Their base is primarily enterprise clients with a B2C offering. The brief report in the Daily Beast states that the company has missed financial targets starting with last year and “grappled with internal tumult for many months, including a rebellion by its army of coaches last spring.” Back in the palmy days of 2021, BetterUp raised $300 million through a Series E in a total of seven funding rounds and achieved a $4.7 billion valuation, which is not likely to be the same now.

Yes, this is the company that employs Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex as its chief impact officer. No one quite knows what he does, how much time he spends on company business, nor what he is paid–which are issues with the employees, especially those facing or contemplating The Ax. The prince has made some corporate appearances at conferences. The CEO characterizes his duties as expanding “global community reach”. Perhaps this Editor is cynical, but Prince Harry a/k/a ‘This One’ is beginning to resemble one of his ancestors, Edward, the Duke of Windsor, without the splendid sartorial style.  The Mercury News manages to spin a whole article about this and Netflix. Certainly, a lesson to be learned about celebrity employees.

Comings and goings: Cuts hit Athenahealth, IBM Watson’s Drug Discovery unit; Bain may sell Waystar RCM

Athenahealth has announced they are trimming 4 percent of their total workforce. With a large 900-person campus in Belfast, Maine that once belonged to MBNA credit cards, and a workforce of about 5,000 headquartered in Watertown, Massachusetts, there is considerable local concern in an area of Maine that offers few well-paying jobs. Reportedly dozens of jobs there will be lost. This caps a tumultuous period with the company. Athenahealth was acquired last November by Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital, then merged with a GE Healthcare spinoff they owned, Virence Health, in value-based care, under the Athenahealth name. Bangor Daily News

IBM Watson’s Drug Discovery product, which was targeted to pharmaceutical companies, is being cut back to work with only current partners and with clinical trials due to poor sales. According to The Register, a tart-tongued UK tech website which actually reached an IBM spokesperson, IBM’s Ed Barbini stated that “We are not discontinuing our Watson for Drug Discovery offering, and we remain committed to its continued success for our clients currently using the technology.” Also Seeking Alpha. IBM Watson and Watson Health, like Athenahealth, are moving through a rocky period of closing initiatives (Watson Workplace), layoffs, executive departures (head Deborah DeSanzo last November), bad publicity, and clients like MD Anderson who don’t part quietly. [TTA 8 Nov 18].

Another merged health infotech company may have a new owner soon. Waystar, which was formed by the acquisition of ZirMed and Navicure in 2017 and manages revenue cycles for 450,000 practices, is rumored to be up for sale by owner Bain Capital. Interested parties include Visa and OracleBloomberg

CVS-Aetna, Cigna-Express Scripts reportedly on road to merger approval; Athenahealth in hostile takeover–or not (updated)

CVS’ pickup of Aetna, and Cigna‘s acquisition of Express Scripts are reported to be clearing the Department of Justice anti-trust review within the next few weeks, just in time for pumpkin season. The DOJ may have concerns on some assets related to Medicare drug coverage and may require a sell-off to resolve them. One potential buyer is WellCare Health Plans, which this week completed its acquisition of Meridian Health Plans and entered the S&P 500 on Monday. The Cigna-Express Scripts combine may not require any asset selloff. Seeking Alpha (report is from the Wall Street Journal).

The once blazingly hot Athenahealth is up for sale but can’t seem to get arrested by another healthcare company. Both Cerner and UnitedHealthcare passed on an acquisition. One of the larger shareholders, Elliot Management, initiated moves toward a hostile takeover in May, and in the process managed to oust founder and CEO Jonathan Bush on still-murky charges of past domestic abuse and workplace sexual harassment. Mr. Elliot is partnering with Bain Capital which owns Waystar, a revenue cycle management (RCM) company from the merged ZirMed and Navicure. Waystar could benefit from Athenahealth’s systems and IP. Mr. Bush would receive a relatively small sum in a sale –$4.8 million– with new executive chair and former GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt earning $150,000 a month in salary and $150,000 in restricted stock perhaps looking for a new job. Elliot’s reputation is that of a corporate raider–taking over businesses to strip assets and sell off the remains. New York Post, POLITICO Morning eHealth.

UPDATED 19 Sept Reports from yesterday indicate that Mr. Elliot has ‘balked’ at the $160 per share price that Athenahealth is asking, and may be angling for a lower price, according to the NY Post report. Reportedly no one else–Cerner and UnitedHealthcare–is interested, though Athenahealth has extended the bid deadline to 27 September. There may be problems uncovered by the due diligence. It’s also a recognized hardball lowball strategy to get the share price way down. The industry is betting on the latter because the former is difficult to contemplate for customers and healthcare as a whole. Also HealthcareITNews.