Kevin's Weekly Health Tech Reads 6/21

Walmart makes some moves; Proteus files for bankruptcy; more funding rounds: Abacus, Big Health, Kalderos, Proprio, Kaia Health, Conversa, and careMESH; some good newsletters & more

For access to exclusive content, join the community

News:

  • Walmart made the news a few times this week:
  • Walmart made a move in the pharmacy space, purchasing prescription management technology from a startup called Carezone for an amount rumored to be around $200 million. Link.
  • Walmart also announced this week that they’re expanding their Walmart Health model to two additional sites, in Georgia and Arkansas. Link.
  • Proteus filed for bankruptcy, marking the end of one of the original high flying digital health startups. They certainly had an attractive underlying premise - that you could put a sensor in a pill to track whether an individual took the pill, without all the pitfalls of other medication adherence solutions (i.e. human error). Ultimately it looks like it will go down as a story about a super cool technology that couldn’t figure out a business need. In court filings, Proteus described itself as ‘pre-revenue’, which seems like an issue for a company that was started in 2002 and at one point was valued at $1.5 billion. Proteus appears to still be pursuing a sale of the company, with Otsuka looking like a potential partner given the relationship there. Link.
  • Advocate-Aurora and Beaumont announced this week that they intend to merge, forming a $17 billion health system in the midwest. Advocate views this as moving one step closer toward a goal of doubling its revenue to $25 billion by 2025 (I’m sure reaching that scale will finally enable them to bring down health care costs in their local markets, naturally). Seems like it won’t be the last merger Advocate does to hit that number. Link.
  • GoHealth, the health insurance marketplace company, filed its S-1 to start the process of going public. The growth story behind the S-1 appears to be driven largely by increasing enrollment in Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. Link.
  • Quite a few funding announcements this week:
  • Abacus Insights, a startup creating a better data platform for payers, raised $35 million. Link.
  • Big Health, a company building digital therapeutics for sleep and anxiety, raised $39 million. Link.
  • Kalderos raised $28 million to build its platform for managing drug discounts, including the 340B program. Link.
  • Proprio raised $23 million for a cool-sounding next generation x-ray. Link.
  • Kaia Health, a digital therapeutic startup focused on the musculoskeletal space, raised $26 million from Optum Ventures and others. Link.
  • Conversa Health raised $12 million for a digital health chat platform for providers. Link.
  • careMESH raised $5 million to build a platform enabling communication between providers. Link.
  • UniteUs, a social determinants of health platform, acquired Staple Health, a predictive analytics company also in the social determinant space. Link.
  • Rosy launched a new telehealth service for women with low sexual desire. Link.

Opinions:

  • Here’s a good read on Indie.vc’s model, featuring a bit on one of the healthcare companies they’ve invested in, Minneapolis (!!!) based Nice Healthcare. Nice, an in-home urgent care model, is earning 50% margins (gross margin? the article doesn’t clarify) on $5 million of revenue per year. Seems like a… nice business. Sorry, sorry I couldn’t help myself. Link.
  • Two interesting reads on other Substack newsletters this week. In addition to making me think about the respective topics, they also made me feel like I need to up my game with a catchier name for my newsletter:
  • The Case Load featured an interesting deep dive on Sesame, a startup building a marketplace where patients can see transparent prices for medical procedures and book the procedure at that price. The post makes some good points about the nature of marketplaces for healthcare and how individuals ‘shop’ for care. It also looks at why providers might sign up for the marketplace. I suspect the first reason listed - that providers want access to more patients - is the main selling point. Link.
  • The Waiting Room by Nikita Singareddy featured a brief history of how we ended up with high deductible health plans. Link.
  • This is a nice overview of the substance abuse disorder space, highlighting a number of interesting startups that are playing in the space as well as the approaches they’re taking in trying to make an impact. Link.
  • As Kevin Wang shared over on the Slack channel, this is a interesting read in Health Affairs on a potential modification to high deductible health plans to make them more palatable for individuals by implementing value based insurance principles into the high deductible plan. Link.
  • This is an interesting read on a company called Brightline, a digital therapy platform attempting to help kids cope with mental health issues brought on by COVID-19. Link.

Data:

  • Interesting survey results as to how DPC practices are weathering COVID-19, and perhaps not surprisingly it seems like they are doing better than fee-for-service care delivery. Only 6 out of 10 DPC practices have seen a decrease in membership, with a typical decrease of 10%. Link.
  • Tenet hosted an investor call on COVID-19 impacts, sharing that as of early June they’re getting close to pre-COVID levels. Hospital admissions are at 90% of pre-COVID levels, hospital surgeries are at 95% Link.
  • It seems Tenet isn’t the only company confident that volume is coming back on line, as a Bain survey of surgeons suggests that 3 of 4 elective procedures will return by September. Link.