care.ai Raises $27M for Ambient Monitoring

“Non-clinical workflow” companies continue to lead the pack in terms of digital health funding, and ambient monitoring startup care.ai just added $27M to the segment’s Q4 total following its latest raise.

care.ai’s Smart Care Facility Platform uses ambient sensors spread within care facilities to monitor patients and their caregivers, informing real-time clinical and operational insights.

  • The platform records data such as patient bed exits and falls, while also reducing manual tracking in EHRs by enabling contactless check-ins and screenings.
  • The ambient nature of the solution means that patients aren’t required to wear any RPM device for it to be effective, removing a big source of friction for many virtual nursing or virtual sitting programs.

The fresh funding will help care.ai expand to more hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities, building on the 1,500 locations already using its technology.

  • care.ai points to the continued prevalence of staff shortages and burnout as key demand drivers for its solutions, which aims to improve the lives of overworked staff by automating away manual workflows.
  • Other products from GE, ADT Health, or even Amazon’s Alexa fall detection feature compete at least somewhat within the same arena, but care.ai is focused on creating the first truly care site-agnostic solution to the problem of ambient patient monitoring.

The Takeaway
care.ai is setting out to automate away the manual processes causing higher burnout and operational costs for the organizations attempting to deliver optimal care. It’s a tough promise to live up to, but the company’s leadership has done it before. care.ai founder and CEO Chakri Toleti sold his previous patient engagement startup HealthGrid to Allscripts for $60M, and prior to that was putting his motion sensor expertise to work while filming what look to be some pretty epic Bollywood action movies.

The Biggest Company in the World

Venture capital giant Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) got right to the point in a recent blog post that made a huge splash across health tech social media: “We think the biggest company in the world will be a consumer health tech company.”

a16z lays out two paths that could let a healthcare company leapfrog over massive consumer icons like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon to become the world’s most valuable company (Fun fact: the $4T US healthcare market is 5x the size of the global advertising industry).

Path 1 involves creating a vertically integrated “payvidor” that grows to own most care. Picture a company that looks something like if “UnitedHealth Group and Apple had a baby,” with the business model of UHG but the sleek consumer experience of Apple.

  • a16z believes that these companies will need to become big enough to cover most specialties, and also own a health plan that encourages patients to stay within the same care ecosystem (similar to Apple’s tech lineup).
  • Combining both components is essential so that the reimbursement arm can serve as a distribution channel for the care delivery services.

Path 2 centers around building a horizontal marketplace similar to Amazon where healthcare services are aggregated alongside trusted reviews and comparison data. 

  • According to a16z, the key to success for healthcare marketplaces is to serve as an acquisition channel for established players, in addition to being their own acquisition channel.
  • These companies will need to crack the code on how to direct patients to relevant services, while also leveraging the traditional healthcare system for both provider listings and patients.

The Takeaway

Some of the biggest companies in the world are consumer companies that were built in relatively small industries, and the US healthcare market is so big that it can support plenty of success stories with both vertical and horizontal models. That said, packaging something as complicated as healthcare into a consumer experience as simple as Amazon isn’t exactly an easy task, which is why a16z believes that the biggest company in the world will be the one that pulls it off.

DispatchHealth Lands $330M for In-Home Care

It looks like 2022 isn’t finished with the megarounds quite yet, with DispatchHealth hauling in $330M in a mix of debt and equity funding to build out its suite of in-home services.

DispatchHealth launched in 2013 to bring urgent care into patient homes, but has since expanded its offerings to cover a wide range of high-acuity needs.

  • The company partners with health systems, payors, and employers to provide in-home resources that help keep patients out of the hospital, such as mobile medical teams and Advanced Care hospital-at-home solutions.
  • These services are integrated within its Last Mile Care Technology Platform, which tracks care patterns to optimize utilization, forecast equipment requirements, and triage patients to outside resources when necessary.

The latest round lifts DispatchHealth’s total funding to over $730M as it shifts its focus to building out its high-acuity ecosystem in the 50+ markets it already serves – reportedly covering 75% of Medicare Advantage members in the US.

  • It’s easy to imagine that DispatchHealth is probably high on the list of acquisition targets for companies like UnitedHealth Group or CVS that are actively looking to round out their care delivery strategies with in-home assets.
  • That makes it interesting to see that UHG subsidiary Optum Ventures led the recent funding, with Humana and Blue Shield of California also participating.

The Takeaway

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and a slowdown in private funding, DispatchHealth’s nine-figure raise shows that investors still have an appetite for startups with a solid track record of improving outcomes. We’ve been covering plenty of stories about hospital overcrowding and struggling margins, and DispatchHealth is making it clear that it believes the home is the right setting to tackle both issues at the same time.

HLTH 2022 Recap and Major Announcements

HLTH 2022 is officially a wrap, and we’re sending lots of good energy to the vendors currently breaking down their booths after spending a full week in Vegas.

Hats off to HLTH for putting together a stellar 9,000 person event with awesome attendees, a great speaking track, and the best lunch menu in the industry.

If you weren’t able to make it in person, we’ve got you covered with a roundup of some of the biggest announcements that were showcased in the exhibit hall.

  • 98point6’s new OEM platform tailored for health systems signed Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System as its first partner, licensing the virtual care solution within its hybrid ambulatory care platform, Indigo Health.
  • Awell and Healthie are partnering to enable care organizations to build clinical workflows in Awell’s low-code platform and easily integrate them into Healthie’s API to automate routine clinical tasks and synchronize data between systems.
  • Carenostics joined Bayer G4A’s portfolio of Digital Health Partnerships, providing the AI startup with a €200k convertible loan and coaching from industry experts to help enable earlier clinical intervention through machine learning on EHR data.
  • Google and Epic are partnering to create a new offering that’ll allow Epic hospitals to run their EHR on Google Cloud, with New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health set to be among the first users.
  • General Catalyst tripled its health system partner roster with 10 new logos that it will work with to co-build startups: Banner Health, Cincinnati Children’s, Hackensack Meridian Health, Health First, MetroHealth, OhioHealth, MUSC, UC Davis Health, UC Irvine Health, and Universal Health Services.
  • Health Gorilla was selected by MEDITECH as the technology platform for Traverse Exchange Canada, a new interoperability network designed to enable the seamless flow of health information between participating organizations across Canada.
  • Hello Heart added Dot-to-Dot capabilities to its digital heart health program, leveraging AI to help people draw connections between their lifestyle choices, such as minutes walked or medication adherence, and their heart health.
  • Included Health, the digital health powerhouse formed by the merger of Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds, launched an All-Included Health hybrid care service to provide primary, specialty, and behavioral care with personalized care teams.
  • Maven Clinic entered the unicorn club with a $90M Series E raise that’ll help the virtual maternity and family health clinic expand its parenting, pediatrics, and menopause platform beyond the 175 countries it already serves.
  • Nomi Health unveiled its Connect fintech platform to power real-time healthcare payments, enabling health plans and third-party administrators to drastically speed up their processes while cutting down on administrative waste.
  • Roche unified its digital health portfolio under the navify brand, providing a range of solutions that help provide evidence about optimizing operational processes and clinical decision making.
  • SonderMind acquired neuroscience company Total Brain to enable patients to better understand their mental state outside of therapy while helping therapists implement measurement-based care techniques.

Welcome to all of our new readers that we met at HLTH, and stay tuned for deeper dives into many of these announcements in next week’s Digital Health Wire.

2022 Digital Health M&A Trends

One of the best reads of last week was Rock Health’s deep dive into the digital health M&A trends that have defined 2022 as the funding bubble lets some air out.

While big ticket acquisitions have taken up most of the spotlight, Rock Health makes the case that declining valuations, customer overwhelm, and an unfriendly IPO market are setting us up for a widespread upswing in M&A activity.

This year’s 144 M&A moves have been shaped in part by supply-side dynamics (harsh fundraising conditions make M&A look more appealing than a down round or shaky IPO), but the report lays out four acquirer archetypes that are likely to drive the next wave.

  • Consolidation for inorganic growth – Lets startups grow their customer base while building confidence from investors looking for growth. This approach is particularly useful as purse strings tighten and customer acquisition costs climb.
  • Enhancing core operations – These acquisitions ideally offset their cost with the internal efficiencies gained in areas such as data integration or analytics. Provider orgs are leaning into this approach, logging 11 transactions Q1-Q3 2022 (3x 2021’s total).
  • Buy-and-build – Acquiring complementary features that enable the acquirer to move along the care delivery value chain or into adjacent categories. Examples include Quest Diagnostics’ acquisition of Pack Health (pushed Quest beyond lab testing into patient engagement / condition management) and Advocate Aurora’s acquisition of MobileHelp (propelled the health system into in-home care).
  • Disruptive innovation – Transforms an acquirer’s existing services and positions them to create a new business model or drastically differentiate in the market (Ex. Amazon acquiring One Medical). Rock Health predicts that the most likely targets will have strong clinical evidence and user bases, but may be struggling with their business model.

The Takeaway

Rock Health makes a pretty convincing argument that digital health M&A is poised for an active year ahead, but also wraps up the report with a warning that acquisition announcements are rarely the end of the story.

“Successful M&A approaches are determined by important choices (e.g. how best to integrate tech stacks as well as cultures and operations, what to keep and where to cut bait, workforce strategy, etc.)… but assessing these frameworks alongside financial, cultural, and operational aspects of M&A is necessary to help organizations—both acquirer and target—maximize impact.”

VillageMD Acquires Summit Health for $8.9B

Sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s fire, and that was definitely the case with the recent rumors suggesting that VillageMD was getting set to acquire Summit Health.

Walgreens-backed VillageMD locked in the acquisition of Summit for the cool sum of $8.9B, immediately establishing it as one of the largest primary care providers in the country.

Summit Health was formed in 2019 by the merger of multi-specialty Summit Medical Group and urgent-care center operator CityMD, and has since doubled in size to 370 locations and 2,800 providers.

  • The general idea behind combining the companies is that adding Summit’s specialty care operations to VillageMD’s value-based primary care business will allow Walgreens to better manage patient spend throughout their care journey. Capturing that extra revenue probably doesn’t hurt either.
  • The combined reach of the joint company now includes 4,100 providers (2,150 PCPs), 7M patients, and 125,000 full-risk Medicare Advantage lives – all backed by an expansive 680 location footprint.
  • The transaction was made possible through a $3.5B investment from Walgreens, which retained a 53% stake in VillageMD, as well as a minority investment from Cigna-subsidiary Evernorth.

With only so many high quality primary care assets available, it’s easy to see how VillageMD’s acquisition of Summit, not to mention Amazon’s acquisition of One Medical, might be making other would-be acquirers feel pretty motivated to get something done sooner rather than later.

  • CVS recently took some heat in the Q&A portion of its Q3 earnings call for its own primary care acquisition (or lack thereof), originally promised before the end of the year.
  • Although acquiring Signify gave CVS momentum within patient homes, negotiations to scoop up Cano Health apparently fell through, leaving CVS without a true beachhead in the primary care market.

The Takeaway

VillageMD is already Walgreens’ largest driver of revenue growth, and adding Summit’s huge physician base will only help with Walgreens’ transition from corner drugstore to bona-fide health services company. Other pillars of that strategy include specialty pharmacy company Shields Health Solutions and in-home care provider CareCentrix, meaning Walgreens is well on its way to being a major force in retail healthcare… assuming it can integrate all those moving pieces.

Headspace Launches Unified Mental Health Platform

Headspace Health just took a massive step forward in delivering on the promise of last year’s $3B merger with Ginger, rolling out a new unified product experience that combines the services of both companies into a comprehensive mental health platform.

The integrated experience brings together Headspace’s meditation and mindfulness offerings with Ginger’s on-demand coaching, therapy, and psychiatry solutions – all within the Headspace app.

The Headspace Health overhaul is set to debut in January 2023, which should be welcome news to the employers and employees that have been calling for more mental health support as the pandemic drags on.

For employees, the new experience provides seamless navigation between Headpace’s wellness content and Ginger’s clinical services.

  • An onboarding survey helps Headspace get to know its members and create personalized care plans, then ongoing check-ins help scale the level of support to individual needs.
  • A sample program might include meditation, a mindfulness walk, and a Sleepcast, with easy escalation to text-based behavioral health coaching or therapy if warranted.

For employers, the single platform approach is designed to eliminate administrative burden, while providing high-level insights for understanding their employees’ mental health needs.

  • Employers can access joint enrollment and engagement trends, such as the percent of members using both Headspace and Ginger simultaneously, as well as aggregate outcomes data for each product.
  • An included Employee Assistance Program bolts on work-life services, critical incident support, workplace training, and manager consultations.

The Takeaway
As we enter the fourth year of the pandemic, most employers are making mental healthcare a top strategic priority, but they’re also trying to avoid cobbling together point solutions to make it happen. The new Headspace Health experience sets out to be the end-to-end solution employers are calling for, although their biggest competitor seems to have gotten the same memo. Headspace will be up against Calm’s new clinical mental health product that was announced last month.

Healthjoy Lands $60M for Benefits Navigation

Employees love health benefits almost as much as they hate navigating them, which is why Healthjoy closed $60M in Series D funding to simplify the process. 

The new investment brings the company’s total funding to $108M as it looks to build its platform into the leading user experience for both employees and HR departments. 

Simplicity and engagement are how Healthjoy plans to accomplish this. Its app is designed to serve as a unified front door to employee benefits, and includes all the good stuff you’d assume would make that happen: 

  • An AI-assistant named JOY that helps triage users to relevant services 
  • A 24/7 concierge team to answer any questions
  • An “automated steerage” feature that guides members to lower cost solutions

Healthjoy’s stance is that a serious lack of awareness is what causes underutilization. Many HR departments have a robust network of services, but employees can’t use what they don’t know about.

  • By housing every benefit in an employer’s package under one roof (medical, dental, vision, wellness initiatives, etc.), then serving as the engagement layer, Healthjoy is aiming to make the entire experience more seamless for everyone involved.
  • Healthjoy combines its own user metrics with partner data to create comprehensive profiles of its members, allowing it to present them with relevant benefits and nudge them towards efficient options.
  • The company also partners with virtual care providers like Teladoc and other benefit administrators to expand the solutions available to its members. It counts the ability to integrate with, as opposed to compete with, outside platforms as a key differentiator.

The Takeaway
As the health benefits space becomes more complex at the same time as many employers are growing overwhelmed with point solutions, HealthJoy’s strategy of simplifying the experience as much as possible seems to make a lot of sense. If Healthjoy can execute on its plan to drive higher engagement by connecting all utilization data within a single ecosystem, then plenty of employers would probably welcome the help in the battle for talent.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team