Weekly Health Tech Reads | 4/3

Optum acquired LHC Group, Hims & Hers is partnering with Carbon, & more

There has been lots of dialogue in the HTN community recently on the state of mental health innovation and specifically Cerebral's role in the landscape. Given all of the conversations, we're going to host Cerebral's CMO, David Mou, on April 7th to go in depth on Cerebral and mental health innovation.

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News:

  • Optum made a notable acquisition this week, acquiring home health, hospice, and personal care services provider LHC Group for $5.2 billion. LHC has a rather interesting model, forming joint ventures with health systems in local markets to operate their home health business in a more profitable manner. This article does a nice job describing the LHC model, highlighting the challenges that many health systems face in getting their home health businesses to profitability. LHC has over 80 of these joint ventures with health systems, providing care in 37 states and the District of Columbia. It's another shrewd move by UHG as they continue down the path of buying every strategically interesting asset possible to manage value-based care contracts, while avoiding acquiring hospitals themselves. All of a sudden, UHG now owns a huge part of the home health market across the country, which will only help Optum Care down the path of taking on more global risk contracts. It's worth noting LHC will be relatively standalone here - in the merger documents it looks like LHC will be retaining its own brand, and not shifting EMRs, among other things. It makes you wonder how well integrated all these Optum assets are, and frankly, whether they even need to be in order to make money in value based care. Meanwhile, if you're a health system leadership team that chose to partner with LHC, you've got a potentially uncomfortable new partner in your business moving forward.
    Link / Slack (h/t Geoff Matous)
  • Hims & Hers announced it is partnering with Carbon Health in California. It sounds like Hims & Hers will be able to refer its virtual care patients located in California for physical care at Carbon. An integration like this makes some sense between the parties, although it begs the question what happens next. Notably, it doesn't appear this partnership is part of Carbon Health Connect, the platform just rolled out with John Muir Health, Prime Healthcare, and Stanford Healthcare, as Carbon Health Connect is mentioned nowhere in the press release. Why not? That effort by Carbon already appeared to be rather scattershot in its implementation, and this move makes it seem even more-so. Regardless, it seems like Hims & Hers is embracing being the national digital front door (via a more consumer-esque touchpoint) for “local/regional” health system partners, while local providers (in this case Carbon) get a referral partner that helps drive new patients it otherwise would not have seen. As with the other Carbon Health Connect deals, it'd be very interesting to see any economics of the deal here - I'd guess in this case its just a friendly referral handoff at the moment with no dollars trading hands. If that's the case, at some point presumably it'll invite the same referral concerns providers have always had in terms of getting their patients back.
    Link / Slack (h/t Sam Moore)
  • Berkshire and Warburg invested in revenue cycle management company Ensemble Health Partners. Ensemble has now entered the private equity merry-go-round, as it is passing hands from Golden Gate Capital. Golden Gate bought a 51% majority stake in Ensemble from health system Bon Secours in 2019 for $1.2 billion. It appears this deal is continuing to reap solid returns for Bon Secours.
    Link.
  • The AHA is arguing that the FTC and DOJ should continue to allow health system mergers because there aren't any issues there, but instead regulators should shift their merger scrutiny away from health system mergers to insurer transactions. Shocking.
    Link / Slack (h/t Martin Cech)
  • Eight Sleep acquired Span Health to provide digital health sleep services.
    Link / Slack (h/t Mikhail Pozin)

Funding:

  • Brightline Health, a startup working to address the pediatric behavioral health crisis, raised $105 million. Brightline appears to be growing quickly, as this is its second round in just over 6 months, valuing the company at $705M. Brightline currently has 85 providers, which it expects to triple by year end, and it is targeting treating 30,000 patients by the end of 2022. It'll be interesting to watch how Brightline grows into this valuation over time - at a $705 million valuation across 30,000 patients by the end of 2022, Brightline is being valued at roughly $23,500 per patient.
    Link / Slack (h/t Vivien Ho)
  • Brightside Health, a virtual mental health startup, raised $50 million.
    Link / Slack (h/t Guy Friedman)
  • AmplifyMD, a virtual referral platform that connects critical access hospitals with specialists, raised $23 million. It seems the key critical element of success for a platform like AmplifyMD is getting high quality specialists on the platform, so it'll be interesting watching how they do signing up providers / hospitals moving forward.
    Link / Slack.
  • Reema Health (a Minneapolis based startup!!!) raised $8 million to grow its technology platform to help community health workers manage Medicaid populations. It's a very cool model following in the footsteps of Cityblock innovating in the Medicaid space.
    Link / Slack
  • Oliva, a UK-based workplace mental health start-up, raised $5 million.
    Link / Slack (h/t Rik Renard)
  • Valar labs raised $4 million to use AI for cancer care.
    Link / Slack (h/t Vivien Ho)
  • Nurse-1-1 raised $2.3 million to provide patient navigation support.
    Link.
  • eConsult platform AristaMD raised funding led by BCBS Kansas City's fund.
    Link.

Opinions:

  • Interesting interview with Olive's CEO discussing their model. Olive is up to 200 enterprise customers spanning health systems, insurers, and other healthcare companies. It's a really straightforward business to be in as highlighted by some of the examples given in the article - i.e. MemorialCare uses Olive to improve call center scheduling, increasing revenue by $2 million and reducing call times by 20%. In a world where health systems are struggling to hire people, solutions like Olive make even more sense. I'm still not sure how much the AI / machine learning actually makes an impact here versus helping healthcare organizations run better operations processes, but clearly it's having an impact and seems like there's a lot of opportunity.
    Link / Slack (h/t Carm Huntress)
  • Last week we spent time talking with Thompson Aderinkomi, the CEO of Minneapolis-based(!!!!) in home primary care provider Nice Healthcare. Nice has a lot of opportunity to grow targeting smaller employers in smaller cities that has been largely ignored by the startup ecosystem. It serves as a reminder of how much opportunity remains in front of us innovating in primary care.
    Link
  • The NYT shared a good read on the notion of "medical gaslighting" and how women and people of color are more likely to have symptoms dismissed by providers. Articles like this serve as a reminder of how much progress we all still need to make in delivering high quality care for everyone.
    Link (paywalled)
  • This is a good, quick overview of the differences between Medicare Advantage and Medicare FFS benefits from the Commonwealth Fund.
    Link / Slack (h/t Lois Drapin)
  • Sean Doolan wrote a piece suggesting that winners in health tech innovation over the next few years will be technologies that help make life easier on physicians, not commoditize or replace them. Some interesting dialogue in the Slack on this one.
    Link / Slack (h/t Brendan Keeler)
  • This is an interesting perspective from a provider, Paulius Mui, on why virtual care will be the future in primary care, leveraging thinking from Jay Parkinson. As the chart below reminds us, it always comes back to financial incentives.
    Link.

Data:

  • The Commonwealth Fund took a look at four efforts to control healthcare spending, both by employer coalitions and state governments. It's a good read on the various efforts covered, with some thoughts on how we might move more strategies like those forward.
    Link.
  • KFF released its March Economic tracking poll, which unsurprisingly highlighted inflation and basic living expense worries, including healthcare out of pocket costs, particularly drugs. It also highlights some interesting stats around American's lack of knowledge around the No Surprises Act and the growing concerns around our elderly and assisted living care.
    Link.
  • KFF also released an update on the American Rescue Plan Act's option to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage that 28 states have taken advantage of.
    Link.

Featured Jobs:

  • Athenahealth, an EHR and services provider for physician practices, is hiring a Director of Experience Design. Link.
  • Genentech, a biotech company focused on developing medicines for serious and life-threatening diseases, is hiring a Digital Engagement Lead. Link.
  • Hinge Health, a digital clinic for musculoskeletal conditions, is hiring a Health Economist. Link.
  • Nice Healthcare, an in-home primary care startup, is hiring a VP of Operations. Link.
  • One Medical, a tech-enabled primary care clinic, is hiring a Sr. Director of Product Mgmt, Growth & Services. Link.

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