The digital health sector has gotten a bit of an ego check since the white hot market at the start of the pandemic. Rising interest rates and a minor banking crisis continue to put a damper on startups’ ability to raise capital, but a mid-year prediction roundup from some of healthcare’s top dealmakers gives a good preview of what might come next as the market cools.
Dudley Baker, Canaccord Genuity. Notable moves: Privia Health IPO, Doximity IPO
- Since 2020, many startups have sprung up to provide specialized behavioral health and chronic condition management benefits to employers, but the surge in valuations made many of them too expensive to acquire. These companies could have a hard time raising more capital on their own, so Baker expects them to seek out mergers of equals instead.
Claire Pearson, Barclays. Notable moves: Cricket’s merger with InterWell and Fresenius
- Pearson sees four areas ripe for M&A centered around new tech capabilities and scale: women’s health, orthopedics, cardiology, and kidney care. Pearson pointed to Cricket’s merger with InterWell and Fresenius as an example of what works in each of these sectors – it combined contracting, providers, and technology under one roof.
Fletcher Gregory, General Atlantic. Notable investments: Included Health, Vida Health
- Employers weary from working with too many vendors have begun narrowing their focus to companies that can deliver outcomes and lower costs. To make the cut, Gregory predicts that digital health startups working on a single problem are going to have to improve their clinical models in ways that they likely can’t do without combining.
Seth Kneller, TripleTree. Notable moves: KKR’s acquisition of Therapy Brands.
- Kneller favors companies that are addressing the labor crisis by helping hospitals and health systems become more efficient. Companies using AI to take over tasks like clinical documentation and administrative work look especially attractive to acquirers, but only if they can prove cost reductions for hospitals.
Karl Palasz, William Blair. Notable moves: Fortive’s acquisition of Provation
- Companies that employ behavioral health providers to deliver virtual care have struggled to live up to expectations due to a lack of differentiation and the clinician shortage. Palasz has his eye on companies that provide software to niche behavioral health practices, such as substance-use recovery or autism.
Pending any major economic catastrophe, it seems like the general consensus is that the tide could start turning for digital health M&A within the next few months. Although the IPO market will probably stay limited, the partnerships that are forming now are setting the stage for more M&A in the back half of the year as companies look to combine so they can better weather the tough funding environment.