Wire #34

  • athenahealth Acquisition: Private-equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman are acquiring EHR vendor athenahealth for $17b, marking the second time the company has changed hands in the past three years. The ownership change creates a healthy financial return for Elliott Investment Management (the activist hedge fund that acquired athenahealth for $5.7b in 2019), but Bain and H&F believe that the company has more room to grow beyond the 140k ambulatory care providers it already partners with.
  • SDOH Research: Since the best time to put out great research is while private equity firms are eyeing your company for an acquisition, athenahealth recently released a study that indicates how social determinants of health impact access to care. The study shows that 39% of patients in high-income (>$70k) zip codes schedule a wellness visit within 90 days of eligibility, vs. 33% in low-income zip codes (<$50k). Researchers point out that low-income individuals face greater challenges with coverage and taking time off work, and recommended proactive patient outreach to bridge the care gap.
  • Luma Series C: Luma Health raised a $130m Series C round ($160m total funding) to help develop its patient engagement platform that automates components of the healthcare journey such as scheduling, check-in, and appointment reminders. The large sum reflects the hot market for digital health startup investment (total digital health funding is on track to double to $30b this year), as well as the impressive growth of Luma itself, which has grown revenue 900% since its last funding round in 2018.
  • Behavioral Health Study: New data from Cigna’s Evernorth subsidiary found that outpatient mental care for conditions such as anxiety or depression can reduce a patient’s healthcare expenses by $1,377 per year. According to the report, which looked at data from 275k patients diagnosed with a behavioral health condition, only 32% received outpatient treatment, but those that did saw significantly fewer ED visits and hospitalizations over a two year period.
  • Forgoing Treatment: A new story in the Wall Street Journal highlights the issues that patients are having accessing care following the ending of emergency waivers for out-of-state telehealth visits. The Journal spoke with Jennifer Roman, a 27-year-old with a rare neurological condition that has been forgoing treatment after being told that her telehealth appointments would no longer be covered. Roman feels that the rare disease community has been “left behind to get worse,” while those that have opposed extending telehealth waivers worry that fraud in the industry would run rampant without more oversight.
  • Pear Breakthrough: Digital therapeutics company Pear’s reSET-A alcohol use disorder solution just received FDA Breakthrough Device designation, fast-tracking its regulatory path. reSET-A is a mobile app that helps patients uncover the causes of substance use and motivations for sobriety. Pear’s product pipeline includes therapeutics for substance use, opioid use, and insomnia, with the reSET-A designation arriving just in time for the company’s SPAC merger vote later this week.
  • Avodah Funding: Enterprise SaaS company Adovah recently raised $7m to advance its AvodahMed remote administration platform, which applies AI-driven data analytics to transform routine pre-visit intakes into a virtual medical practice that gives providers access to patient EHRs, group messaging, and workflow optimization. Although new stories seem to break every week about medical practice automation solutions, articles about healthcare labor shortages are just as popular, so expect more of each until supply catches up to demand.
  • Patient Portals Lead to Shorter Stays: Patients with an active portal account have shorter hospital stays, according to data from Epic’s Health Research Network. COVID-19 patients with an active portal had a 0.09 to 1.1 days shorter average length of stay, while heart patients saw 0.3 to 0.6 day shorter stays across all age groups. Engagement is one of the best predictors for hospital length of stay, so it makes sense that patients with an active portal are taking an active role in their treatment and seeing better outcomes.
  • LetsGetChecked + BioIQ: Virtual health company LetsGetChecked announced the acquisition of diagnostic testing company BioIQ for an undisclosed sum. BioIQ runs a national network of labs and aggregates testing solutions on a connected platform to help with the shift to value-based care. The acquisition will add BioIQ’s platform to LetsGetChecked’s suite of telehealth and pharmacy services, providing better access to at-home diagnostics while accelerating LetsGetChecked’s growth in health plan and employer markets.
  • Telehealth Drug Abuse: A survey of over 500 primary care physicians from Quest Diagnostics found that 67% of PCPs fear that telehealth hurt their ability to recognize signs of prescription medication abuse, with only 50% of respondents confident they could recognize misuse through virtual visits (vs. 91% in-person). Four in five PCPs said a lack of clinical medication testing during the pandemic put more people at risk for undetected abuse, and 69% reported needing more tools to be able to address health disparities in addiction management.
  • AAA HealthCONNECT: Ohio-based health system ProMedica and AAA announced plans for a joint venture called AAA HealthCONNECT that will serve as a “one-stop-shop” for people 55 and older to navigate the aging process. AAA HealthCONNECT will help coordinate services such as diet support, transportation, and healthcare, and it isn’t hard to see where combining ProMedica’s clinical solutions with AAA’s network of seniors could offer potential to both companies.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team