Wire #58

  • UHG’s Change Acquisition Block: The DOJ recently filed a suit to block UnitedHealth Group’s Optum subsidiary from acquiring Change Healthcare, alleging that the acquisition would significantly reduce competition by giving UHG a 75% share of the healthcare claims processing market. While UHG called the DOJ’s argument “deeply flawed” and committed to fighting the case, the suit suggests that the Biden administration is following through on its plans to scrutinize healthcare deals more closely, meaning that a demonstrable consumer benefit will be an essential component of future merger proposals.
  • Is Telehealth a True Substitute? An insightful new report from Trilliant Health makes the case that telehealth’s increased usage during the pandemic might not be as durable as many expected, and was likely due to “forced adoption” rather than consumer preference. Trilliant posits that “the majority of patients prefer in-person care” when given a choice, likening its usage drop off to Peloton’s decline in home workouts once spin classes at local gyms began to reopen. The one exception was behavioral health, which was the only clinical application to continue growing as overall telehealth use declined in 2021, representing a truly preferred clinical substitute.
  • Telehealth $20B in 5 Years: Bloomberg Intelligence predicts that the US telehealth sector could generate $20B in revenue by 2027 (vs. $5.5B currently), driven by an expected 30% annual growth from top telehealth providers. The analysis anticipates that 15% of total outpatient visits will be conducted virtually in 3 to 5 years following increased awareness of virtual care options during the pandemic, although if Trilliant’s research proves correct (see above), behavioral health solutions will have to pull a lot of that weight.
  • Current Health + Zoom: Current Health announced a new integration with Zoom to allow health systems and their patients to launch the video conferencing service directly from its care-at-home platform. Zoom was selected in part due to its ability to improve access to care by providing strong audio/video quality at low bandwidths, as well as its integrated multi-party sessions and live interpretive services.
  • Maternal Mortality: According to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics, maternal mortality increased sharply during the first year of the pandemic. In 2020, the number of US mothers who died during pregnancy rose 14% to 23.8 deaths / 100k live births, while even larger mortality spikes were seen among Hispanic women (+44%) and black women (+26%). Although some of the increase can be attributed to COVID-related complications, access to coverage appears to be playing a larger role, with most Medicaid plans lacking postpartum care coverage and putting low-income mothers at higher risk.
  • FemTec Launches Awesome Woman: Women’s health company FemTec announced the launch of its direct-to-consumer brand Awesome Woman, offering unlimited telehealth access and reproductive health services in a $99/mo model similar to subscription box pioneer Birchbox, which the company acquired late last year. The Awesome Woman platform sets itself apart by leveraging AI to translate a woman’s historical healthcare and genomics data into personalized product recommendations.
  • Publicizing the Patient Experience: A recent AJR study suggests that posting patient survey results online might encourage physicians to prioritize the patient experience. The researchers analyzed 71,885 Brigham and Women’s Hospital patient surveys that were distributed after outpatient procedures, finding that experience scores (95.7 to 96.3) increased during the 19 months after BWH began posting scores online. Increases were particularly strong among radiologists (94.2 to 97.1).
  • OhMD Venture Funding: Patient communication company OhMD recently closed its latest venture round ($3.3M total funding) to help develop its choice-based communication platform for patients and providers. The choice-based approach to patient-provider conversations improves engagement by eliminating much of the complexity required for patients to describe their symptoms and needs themselves. The product isn’t overly complicated, and its simplicity is resonating with patients, with a 4.9 out of 5 star rating and over 10k 5 star reviews on the App Store, making it one of the top rated medical apps.
  • More Nurses Consider Leaving: A recent McKinsey survey found that 32% of registered nurses are considering leaving their current role, up from 22% at this time last year. Only 29% of RNs who intend to leave their jobs are planning to continue direct patient care in some form, while 35% are aiming to transition to non-direct patient care roles. For RNs likely to leave, more safety and greater schedule flexibility were their top priorities, while meaningful work and caring teammates were the top factors impacting those intending to stay in their current roles.
  • Xealth’s Force Integration: Force Therapeutics and Xealth are partnering to bring remote postoperative recovery management into clinicians’ EHR workflows. The Force platform delivers digital education content for patients recovering from surgery at home, and the new integration allows providers to monitor patient postoperative care plan data directly from the EHR to determine whether they are progressing as expected.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team