Babylon Accelerates US Expansion With Higi Acquisition

Babylon Health finalized its acquisition of Higi, which manufactures Smart Health Station kiosks frequently found in pharmacies and grocery stores.

Babylon became a strategic investor in Higi in mid-2020 before it began integrating its symptom-checking and care navigation solutions into the company’s kiosks, a pilot test that appears to have been successful. 

  • Babylon helps patients through two primary services: Babylon 360 (AI-enabled value-based care) and Babylon Cloud Services (cloud-based data analytics suite). The company’s AI platform is designed to improve provider decisions surrounding triage and symptom assessment, while also helping patients navigate their care journeys.
  • Higi’s network of over 10k FDA-cleared kiosks can be found within five miles of 73% of the US population, providing screenings for blood pressure, weight, and body mass index. The company pairs these stations with at-home devices and a nationwide clinical network to assist healthcare organizations with remote monitoring.
  • The acquisition follows Babylon’s $200M funding round in October, which was led by sustainability-focused firm AlbaCore to help the company provide care to under-served populations. The new capital was earmarked for expanding Babylon’s US member base and value-based care applications, and the Higi acquisition checks both boxes.

The Takeaway

Meeting consumers where they are has been one of the biggest digital health trends following the onset of the pandemic, and acquiring Higi’s large kiosk network is an on-theme way to kick off Babylon’s US expansion. Babylon can now extend its care platform to millions of existing Higi customers, while gaining a foothold in retail healthcare to serve as a new entry point to its care ecosystem.

Oxygen Saturation Monitoring for COVID-19 Patients

A new study published in Sage Digital Health found that at-home oxygen saturation monitoring helps identify early signs of clinical deterioration in COVID-19 patients, enabling them to seek appropriate care before the disease escalates.

  • Methods – Stanford researchers recruited 49 patients with a recently positive COVID-19 test in the outpatient setting, preferentially selecting for those with underlying comorbidities. Participants were mailed pulse oximeters and enrolled in a symptom-monitoring app (AIRx), which provided a daily questionnaire for clinicians to review.
  • Results – Of the six patients who required hospitalization, five sought care as a result of low pulse oximeter readings. Nearly all patients found the pulse oximeter useful, with 96% of those who did not require hospitalization reporting that the device gave them the confidence to stay at home. 
  • Impact – Keeping COVID-positive patients at home has the potential to reduce the spread of disease while preventing unnecessary strain on the healthcare system. The researchers recommend targeting this intervention at patients with a high risk for deterioration given the difficulty of obtaining and mailing pulse oximeters.

The Takeaway
While there have been several studies on the effectiveness of remote patient monitoring for COVID-19, few have assessed the patient experience. Although this study is limited by its small sample size and selection bias, the high levels of engagement and patient satisfaction suggest that pulse oximeters could be a simple intervention for COVID-19 monitoring if implemented on a larger scale.

Nomi Raises $110M for Direct Healthcare

Direct healthcare provider Nomi Health recently closed a $110M Series A round to help advance the company’s mission of addressing care gaps, a huge sum for a company that got its start in 2019.

  • Nomi currently serves 30k daily patients across 10 states, providing care for those that prefer not to go through traditional payor / provider channels.
  • The company deploys mobile care units to locations such as universities and local businesses to deliver on-site services including vaccinations, COVID testing, and preventative screenings.
  • The direct healthcare model allows Nomi to bypass many of the operational inefficiencies faced by larger incumbents, lowering overall expenses for recently added offerings such as COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatment.
  • The latest funding will help Nomi deliver more services to “care deserts” such as rural areas and prisons, while also expanding its direct healthcare acquisition business. 

The Takeaway

Nomi’s Series A makes it the 63rd company to raise over $100M this year, although the size of the round is more in line with a Series C for a company further along in its life cycle. 

The funding total not only reflects the boiling hot state of broader digital health investment, but also the size of the market that Nomi has set its sights on.

Expect some acquisition news from Nomi in the near term – $110M is a large war chest, and when they’re done picking up vans, they’ll likely add some competitors to their Christmas list.

Solv Expands Into Lab Testing

Appointment-booking solution provider Solv is expanding into the lab testing space with the introduction of its new Test Finder service aimed at helping consumers discover and schedule local health tests.

  • Test Finder currently includes 25 lab test services such as blood panels, drug testing, and STD testing. Solv reported that the service will expand in the coming months based on the search volume recorded for early users.
  • Lab tests used to require physician orders, but regulation changes have allowed direct access to many tests for consumers. Solv stated that it hopes its new service will help to address the problem of patients deferring testing to avoid an in-person visit.
  • Solv raised a $45m Series C round in September, and has been busy putting the funding to work. So far this year, the company has added EHR integrations to its suite of apps, as well as advanced patient management features and in-app test results. 
  • Testing services have seen a boom since the beginning of the pandemic, and not just for COVID-specific tests. DTC healthcare company Ro recently acquired Workpath to enable in-home blood draws, while Cue Health announced that it plans to use the proceeds from its November IPO to expand its on-demand test offerings.

The Takeaway

Patient expectations of on-demand healthcare are rising quickly, and Solv’s app-based solutions center around creating a smooth experience on familiar mobile technology. The expansion from appointment booking to lab testing is a natural move for the company, giving providers more ways to reach their patients, while giving consumers an easy way to find local services.

Lightbeam Health Solutions Acquires CareSignal

There’s been a lot of talk in the digital health space about the potential of wearables to improve remote patient monitoring. However, with most companies focusing their attention on introducing new devices to the home, Lightbeam Health Solutions is setting itself apart by adding a “Deviceless RPM” service through the acquisition of CareSignal.

  • Lightbeam offers end-to-end population health solutions for payors and providers looking to manage risk. The company generates patient cohorts for over 42m lives to bring health data “into the light” and provides proactive insights that ensure patients receive the right care at the right time.
  • CareSignal’s Deviceless RPM service uses a combination of automated text messages and IVR calls to gather self-reported patient data for over 30 conditions, identifying actionable moments for care delivery while allowing value-based organizations to sustainably scale care teams without sacrificing engagement.
  • The acquisition makes sense for Lightbeam on many levels. Integrating scalable patient monitoring and engagement into the company’s core population health offering improves the cohort creation at the center of the service, while also allowing risk-bearing partners to manage chronic conditions in a cost-effective manner.

The Takeaway

The success of chronic condition management solutions involves not only the improvement of patient outcomes, but also the ability to demonstrate a meaningful return on investment within a reasonable time horizon.

Lightbeam is addressing both of these metrics by acquiring CareSignal, and doing so at a time when healthcare personnel bandwidth is in great need of relief.

Papa Raises $150M for “Family-on-Demand”

“Family-on-demand” platform Papa recently raised a $150m Series D round ($241m total funding) to extend the reach of its solution that provides companionship to older adults and other vulnerable populations. 

This funding pushes Papa into “unicorn” status with a $1.4b valuation, highlighting the continued investor enthusiasm for products that address social determinants of health such as loneliness and isolation. 

  • Papa connects seniors with “Papa Pals” to provide companionship or assistance with daily tasks such as transportation and housework, with the backend of the platform handling everything from logistics to compensation.
  • Standard visits last an average of three hours, enough time to not only drive someone to a grocery store or doctor’s office, but also enough to help them unload bags or keep them company in a waiting room.
  • Papa Pals are matched to requests through the Papa app and serve as a friendly middleground between an on-demand service worker, such as an Uber driver, and a traditional caregiver, which usually focus on functions such as mobility and hygiene.
  • Papa’s services are offered as a covered benefit through employers and health plans rather than as a direct-to-consumer offering. According to Papa, lonely people have been shown to use the hospital 60% more due to mental health and behavioral stressors.

The Takeaway

Against a backdrop of pandemic-related isolation, Papa is addressing the care gap for seniors who don’t require a full-time caregiver but still need companionship or assistance, and its climbing valuation shows that VCs see big potential for this type of care.

Teladoc Announces Q3 Earnings & Primary Care Plans

Teladoc recently announced its financial results for the third quarter of 2021, providing investors with an update on the company’s earnings, as well as giving insight into the future direction of its Primary360 virtual-first primary care offering.

  • Financial highlights included year-over-year revenue growth of 81% to $522m, driven by strength in its BetterHealth mental health unit, and a 37% increase in total visits as a result of steady adoption for Teladoc’s direct-to-consumer offerings.
  • Teladoc revealed on its investor call that it plans to begin taking on financial risk with its Primary360 solution in the future. The company is aiming to generate savings with its virtual-first program and will take on risk where it can have the most impact.
  • CEO Jason Gorevic said that the rollout of risk taking for Primary360 would develop in tiers, “from first clinical measures, to then risk corridors to, ultimately, full capitation.”
  • Primary360 was only recently made available to payors nationwide, but Teladoc stated that it is beginning talks with hospitals about white-labeling the service for them to use as their own digital front door.

Primary360 Strategy

Since Primary360 integrates a wide range of Teladoc products, the service generates significantly higher revenue per member than the company’s general medical and mental health solutions. 

Most health plans lack the network and provider base required to develop a nationwide virtual primary care solution in-house, but as telehealth demand rises and pressures them to begin offering the service, many are turning to options like Primary360 to meet the need.

If Teladoc can successfully meet this demand while taking on risk, it will be able to capture a larger share of any savings it generates, further improving the economics of the service.

DHW Q&A: Micro-Fulfillment & Telehealth With NowRx

With Carry Breese
NowRx, CEO and Co-Founder

At a time when consumers are wary of traveling to crowded pharmacies to pick up their medications, NowRx is taking a new approach to solving medication nonadherence: same-day prescription delivery.

In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with NowRx CEO Carry Breese to discuss the company’s micro-fulfillment strategy for prescription delivery, recent moves into telehealth, and why equity crowdfunding could be the right fundraising path for many companies.

Can you tell us about NowRx and the company’s overall strategy?

We originally began as a direct-to-consumer pharmacy offering same-day delivery on prescription medication, but as we’ve evolved we’ve begun to look at ourselves more as a digital health platform. We still provide same-day pharmacy delivery, but we also couple that with a broad telehealth platform and virtual services.

The whole key with NowRx is to be a full replacement for traditional pharmacies. To do this, we use a micro-fulfillment strategy, which involves dispensing out of our own brick-and-mortar pharmacies, which are staffed with pharmacists, technicians, and local drivers. The proprietary tech inside our micro-fulfillment centers makes them extremely efficient and keeps costs down.

The philosophy of our company is to use technology to try and fix the bottlenecks in healthcare that produce bad patient experiences.

Earlier this year NowRx moved into telehealth, what was the motivation behind that transition?

The way we built the delivery pharmacy component is probably the best way to illustrate that answer. We’ve always looked at successful approaches to the healthcare industry as needing to integrate as many components as possible to provide a full experience.

Some companies have tried to do delivery pharmacy, but they were mainly just doing delivery logistics, acting as couriers between pharmacies and patients. We felt that model doesn’t give you enough control over what’s going on inside the pharmacy, and can lead to constraints with anything from physician communication to inventory management.

To solve this problem in the best way possible, you need to own the dispensing, have your own software systems, and directly address these constraints.

The entrance into telehealth was an extension of this thinking. Oftentimes it’s not only hard to get a prescription delivered, but also to get an appointment with a physician to write the prescription in the first place. Removing those barriers is key to our mission of providing great healthcare experiences, which is what made telehealth a natural extension for us.

How has the pandemic impacted remote care and your business?

There’s been a few distinct shifts during the pandemic. In the beginning, there was definitely a surge in demand for our services, and at the same time we had to institute all kinds of new safety controls: social distancing in the pharmacies, hygiene for the cars, contactless delivery. This was a huge operational strain, but since then it’s smoothed out quite a bit.

Although there was a significant boost in awareness for new ways to get medication, as well as an increase in demand, doctors began seeing patients less frequently. Patients pulled back on routine checkups and preventative visits, so overall, the pharmacy business saw a bit of a drop off in volume.

We expect that to alleviate as the pandemic wanes, and it’s also likely that we’ll see a strong rebound for new prescriptions driven by the backlog of doctor visits that have been postponed over the past couple of years.

Why did NowRx take a non-traditional approach to crowdfunding its $72 million Series C through SeedInvest and what are the plans for the funding?

Following the heightened demand over the past couple of years, we began looking to broaden our reach without sacrificing quality of service. As NowRx expands into new territories, we first launch a micro-fulfillment location, which requires a large up-front investment. The funding helps cushion that.

We were an early adopter of equity crowdfunding, and this will be our third round through SeedInvest. It works well for NowRx because people can easily grasp the concept. Delivery pharmacy makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.

Crowdfunding allows us to continue focusing on the customer experience while retaining more control over the direction of the company, as opposed to feeling pressure from a VC to grow at all costs. On top of that, it builds brand awareness. The retail investors become engaged ambassadors, even in territories where we don’t currently operate, and they help advocate for NowRx and our mission.

How does NowRx view the competitive landscape and how does it plan to differentiate moving forward?

New entrants like Amazon, especially following the acquisition of PillPack, are cutting the delivery times for medication from around one week down to approximately two days. Our belief is that it’s essential to perfect same-day service. That’s what patients have grown accustomed to in pharmacy. That’s why there’s a pharmacy on every street corner.

Patients have been trained to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription order that they go and get filled later that same day. That’s where our offering is differentiated. The micro-fulfillment strategy allows us to provide highly responsive care, and even one hour delivery, if needed for things like pain medication and antibiotics that are time sensitive.

Consumers are pulling the market towards that same-day delivery end state. That’s why having proprietary software and quick-fill systems to eliminate causes of delay is such a differentiator for the customer experience.

How can remote care be improved and how does NowRx fit into this picture?

The key to success is focusing on improving care and health outcomes above all else. One of the things that people generally don’t think about when they hear “delivery pharmacy” is how it helps to solve the problem of people not taking their medications.

Medication nonadherence is a huge strain on the health system, and it has many different causes. A majority of the time, it’s due to one of three reasons. The first is time and inconvenience. The second is lack of transportation. The third is simply “forgetting” to pick up a prescription. NowRx addresses all three of these directly.

There are countless unnecessary hospitalizations and avoidable issues due to medication nonadherence, so that’s one of the biggest problems we’re trying to solve. There’s so much inefficiency in the healthcare system, and we’re excited about using new technology and delivery models to address it.

Best Buy Acquires Remote Care Company Current Health

Best Buy acquired care-at-home company Current Health, supporting the electronics retailer’s ongoing push into the healthcare market.

Although Best Buy is well-established as a consumer electronics store, the company has begun turning to new areas such as home fitness and healthcare to fuel growth beyond its core technology business.

  • Current Health is a care-at-home platform that combines remote patient monitoring (RPM) and patient engagement tools into a single solution aimed at addressing the infrastructure gaps that obstruct providers from delivering care in the home.
  • Best Buy is best known as an electronics retailer with over 1k stores and 100k employees throughout the US and Canada. As televisions grow more affordable and people begin holding onto their smartphones longer, Best Buy is leaning into new services to drive revenue growth. 
  • The acquisition allows Best Buy to leverage its expertise in consumer-friendly technology and supply chain logistics to streamline care delivery, building on past investments in senior care (GreatCall) and RPM (Critical Signal Technologies).

Industry Impact

At-home healthcare has seen a post-pandemic surge in adoption, allowing patients to receive treatment where they’re most comfortable while simultaneously reducing costs. This trend has accelerated the reliance on the technology that Best Buy offers, but also gives the company a new way to take advantage of its large physical reach.

Best Buy’s existing services like Geek Squad and In-Home Advisors send trained employees into customer homes to provide personalized technology solutions while gaining the hard earned trust of consumers. By expanding this trust to Current Health patients, Best Buy can deliver a high-touch customer experience at a scale difficult to achieve for most pure healthcare competitors.

Carbon Health Acquires RPM Company Alertive Healthcare

Carbon Health is extending its home-based care capabilities with the acquisition of remote patient monitoring (RPM) company Alertive Healthcare. 

The move highlights Carbon Health’s focus on having a greater impact outside of its physical clinics at a time when an increasing number of providers are adopting hybrid care models.

  • Alertive Healthcare offers a range of RPM tools and hardware for proactively managing patients across a variety of specialties (primary care, cardiology, neurology, nephrology). Alertive’s platform records patient data and sends alerts to providers to decrease the treatment time for chronic conditions.
  • Carbon Health provides an “omnichannel care” platform designed to meet patients where they are by delivering care through multiple avenues (in-person clinics, home-based care, and virtually with the Carbon Health app).
  • The acquisition allows Carbon Health to integrate Alertive Healthcare’s tools and services into its existing care delivery model. Carbon Health will provide Alertive’s connected devices and monitoring sensors to patients so that they can share vitals with providers. 

Industry Impact

Carbon Health is investing in hardware as a key pillar of its omnichannel care model. The company operates over 90 brick-and-mortar primary care clinics across 14 states, but has been expanding into new channels to meet its goal of becoming “the largest primary care provider in the US” with over 1.5k clinics by 2025. The Alertive Healthcare acquisition arrives shortly after Carbon Health bought remote glucose monitoring company Steady Health in June, which marked its first venture into home-based care.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team