HTN: Weekly Health Tech Reads 7/18

UHG posts Q2 earnings,"rest stop" telehealth visits explained, & more!

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News:

  • UHG posted Q2 earnings, and again the earnings call indicates the staggering breadth of UHG's business and how they're touching every trend in the digital health landscape. SDoH? They're in 20 communities to close gaps in care. Full-cap primary care? They currently have 2 million patients in global cap. Virtual first plans? They're launching virtual PCP plans in 8-9 markets for commercial. Mental health? They did 500k virtual visits this year. Provider automation? They signed up another system this quarter to outsource backoffice functions. DTC pharma? They've launched the OptumStore. It's wild how far-reaching this company is. The most interesting exchange in the earnings call, though, was an analyst asking about whether OptumCare should be spun out into its own company to maximize shareholder value. It's a bold question to ask on a earnings call, and would seem to indicate more chatter in the background. Is this the beginning of a trend or a one-off question? Link.
  • Revenue cycle management company Waystar acquired PatientCo to bolster its capabilities in the patient payment space this week. Lots of activity in this space as startups and incumbents alike compete to help health systems collect more revenue from patient bills in a consumer friendly manner. Link.
  • CMS has proposed extending Medicare telehealth coverage, although apparently docs are not too pleased about it because there's a 3.75% reduction in payments included. Interesting to read this and then the Stat article in the Opinions section below on the challenges facing telehealth adoption as state requirements are eased. Link.
  • Microsoft and Teladoc announced they're partnering to integrate Teladoc into Microsoft teams for clinicians. Link.
  • In a battle of monopolists, Hospitals are suing robotic surgery company Intuitive Surgical. The hospitals are upset Intuitive isn't allowing them to use other vendors to service the machines. Intuitive is a pretty incredible healthcare startup story that goes relatively under the radar. Link.
  • Amazon launched AWS for Health. Link.

Funding:

  • Truveta, a startup helping health systems monetize their patient data, raised $95 million. They've now signed up seventeen big-name health systems to contribute data to the effort. For those folks trying to work on health system innovation this is a really interesting example. This idea has been floating around health system innovation teams for a while now - what set of circumstances has led this iteration to take off? My guess is the key component is a couple of very committed, and influential, health system CEOs. Link.
  • Aidoc, a startup building AI to interpret medical images, raised $66 million. Link.
  • Visiquate, a company in the rev cycle automation space, raised $50 million. Link.
  • Mytonomy, a startup helping health systems develop video-based patient engagement tools, raised $25 million. Link.
  • Johns Hopkins spin-out Bayesian Health raised $15 million to build machine learning models for sepsis. A+ nerdy name choice. Link.
  • Axuall, a startup helping with provider credentialing, raised $10.4 million. Interesting to see the number of health systems in this round. Link.
  • Interoperability startup Kno2 raised $15 million. Link.
  • Medorion raised $6 million to help health plans with member engagement. Link.
  • Banjo Health raised $5 million to automate the prior auth process. Link.
  • JOON raised $2.3 million to help employers get employees to use wellness offerings. Link.

Opinions:

  • As investors and startup founders all keep an eye on telehealth utilization, this Stat piece highlights the challenges posed by emergency rules that were put in place to encourage telehealth are slowly being peeled back. This is the first I have heard of the "rest-stop telehealth visit" phenomenon - which I am still grappling with the absurdity of. Since states are re-instituting the restrictions about providers practicing across state lines, some docs are telling patients to drive into their state and take a telehealth visit from a rest stop. Um, this seems... less than ideal? We've got some work to do to fix provider licensing in this country. Link.
  • Jonathan Bush was interviewed about Zus Health, and leaving aside for a second I have no idea what the "healthcare internet" means, it presents some interesting thoughts around why the time is right for a company like Zus. I love that when talking about the rise of virtual care models he references a book from 1997 talking about the consumerization of healthcare - a good reminder that sometimes change that may seem obvious can still take decades to even begin to take hold. Link.
  • Here's a provocative blog post from Chris Chen of ChenMed, aimed directly at the cost / quality issues we have created by hospital monopolies in local care delivery. It's a sign of the times (i.e. growth in next gen primary care models) that ChenMed is openly going directly against the medical establishment and starting a public political fight - which those institutions generally win. It will be interesting to watch how this fight evolves over time. The solution proposed in the blog post - fully-capitated primary care as a panacea - feels a bit simplistic and self-interested, but such is the nature of political arguments these days. Link.

Data:

  • McKinsey, creators of the prediction that telehealth could be a $250 billion market used in digital health pitch decks everywhere, provided an update on their views. It includes this interesting chart on consumer adoption, looking at appointment locations by type of appointment. Check out how wildly different mental health visits are from any other visit type. Lots of debate to be had (and it was a fun convo in the Slack channel this week!) over what equilibrium should look like for these various visit types over time. Link.
  • This is an interesting report on the caregiving economy. Behind the website is a really long powerpoint presentation, lots of interesting data on the aging-in-place market as well as other caregiving-related spaces. Link.
  • A study this week appears to confirm what is already common knowledge - employers do not have the market power to negotiate better rates with health systems. Link.

Featured Jobs:

  • Charlie Health, a startup building personalized mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults, is hiring a Growth and Operations Associate. Link.
  • Circulo Health, an early stage health insurance startup focused on the Medicaid population, is hiring a Sr. Product Manager. Link.
  • Dimagi, a company developing open-source software for low-resource settings that assisted in COVID contact tracing and is expanding it's US Health Division, is hiring a Senior Software Engineer. Link.
  • Redox, an EHR integration and healthcare interoperability focused startup, is hiring a Director of Sales. Link.
  • Upfront Ventures, an early stage VC focused on technology and healthcare, is hiring a Chief of Staff / Healthcare Investor. Link.