A week of Digital Health Startup Launches, Contigo’s SUD play, and Pear’s Fire Sale
By Blake Madden
Will you be at ViVE? Because I’ll be at ViVE. See you there!
Also, on Thursday I’ll be diving into MedPAC’s 2023 report to Congress with notable observations so…reading a several-hundred-page report should be fun.
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Contigo, Lionrock form innovative new partnership to combat SUD
Premier Health’s Contigo Health announced a really interesting partnership with virtual substance use disorder (SUD) provider Lionrock. The partnership creates a center of excellence aimed at removing the stigma of SUD. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Contigo’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Slotkin, who broke down the major points:
- Lionrock is a specialized telehealth provider of SUD treatment and will handle the virtual aspects of the partnership.
- For patients with more complex needs, Lionrock hands off patients to Hazelden Betty Ford, which will handle the facility-based inpatient and outpatient SUD treatment.
- Alongside the two, Premier & Contigo will coordinate the patient’s care through its team of expert nurses and care navigators.
- Some other notable tidbits: 24/7 care available after patient self-referral, care continues 12 months post-program admission, and integration with patients’ existing carrier plans
“This program brings employees the best care across the treatment continuum and for a year after program admission. Industry-leading virtual care from Lionrock Recovery, the best in-person and inpatient care from Hazelden Betty Ford, and all seamlessly orchestrated by Contigo Health’s expert nurses and care navigation,” he told me.
Madden’s Musing: It goes without saying that all aspects of behavioral health need a revamp. This partnership is one of the first forged in a hybrid model. It’ll be much more effective at matching up patients with the modality that they need – rather than dumping SUD patients in an acute setting which is so often the case today.
Pear Therapeutics’ potential sale and a setback to digital therapeutics
On March 17, Pear Therapeutics announced in an SEC filing that it’s exploring strategic options, including a sale of the company. Along with the announcement, Pear withdrew its financial guidance for both 2022 and 2023.
Madden’s Musing: The announcement is a blow for digital therapeutics, but it’s not like this development came out of nowhere. Pear’s cash burn was astronomical, and the writing was on the wall once the markets turned. It shouldn’t surprise you at all that in December 2021, Pear went public via SPAC at a $1.6B valuation, raising $175M. In around 14 months, Pear has lost 98% of its value. That’s only a slightly better return than FTX (literal fraud) or Silicon Valley Bank (widespread panic and bank run).
Bad jokes aside, it really is a bummer. Digital therapeutics, while speculative, hold promise and Pear has a solid pipeline. It’s a classic healthcare case study in the sense that even if you have the product, implementation and getting someone to pay for it is a whole ‘nother (expensive) ballgame. Perhaps Pear can find a way to slow its burn and head to the private markets.
Partnerships and Strategy Updates:
Surgery Partners partnered with Growth Ortho in Austin at its Lakeway ambulatory surgery center. (Growth Ortho)
ChristianaCare launched a virtual primary care services to consumers available in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. (Beckers)
Select Medical and Lutheran Health Network (CHS) formed a joint venture on inpatient rehab and LTACH services. (Press Release)
Providence partnered with Luna on outpatient physical therapy services. (Press Release)
Babylon launched new digital first programs across diabetes, hypertension, low back pain, prenatal care, anxiety, and depression. (Press Release)
Finance and M&A Updates:
Atlantic Health System acquired Thompson Healthcare & Sports Medicine, which is a consortium of 75 MSK providers across 11 locations in central and southern NJ. (Atlantic)
Pfizer acquired Seagen for $43 billion. I’m not a drugs guy but include the big deals because dang…what a price tag! (WSJ)
Digital Health and Startup Updates:
This more or less seems to be GC’s strategy:
- Gather some top execs who know the industry and know everyone in the industry
- Identify problems in healthcare acutely affecting health systems; partner with those health systems to develop programs
- Incubate startups based on these existing relationships and scale them across the partner portfolio
Zus Health raised $40M at a $190M valuation. Along with the raise, Zus Health also announced a partnership with Elation Health, an EMR specialized in primary care practices. (Fierce)
Hopper Health launched out of stealth this week. It’s a new provider of primary care and navigation services designed for neurodivergent adults. This is a massive population in sore need of support in our healthcare system, and I’m excited to keep tabs on Hopper in the coming years. (Fierce)
With much fanfare in health tech land, Nabla nabbed Dr. Jay Parkinson as its CMO and launched a new product Copilot – which seems to be a Google Chrome extension that helps doctors with transcription in telehealth consultations. Nabla also offers Nable Care Platform. Jay broke down the vision here:
- “The Nabla Care Platform is the foundation enabling online care. And because care happens all online, this unlocks a whole new world of automations and efficiencies. Imagine a video visit conversation that’s automatically transcribed in real time, where medically-trained ML models convert that conversation into a clinical note complete with structured medical data inserted into the EMR. Now imagine that transcription sent to the patient along with a patient-friendly summary of the plan and next steps. That’s Nabla Copilot.”
Intermountain Healthcare’s venture arm launched a company called Culmination Bio, which appears to be an intelligence platform (Intermountain)
- Commercial partners, including leading technology and biopharmaceutical companies, and healthcare institutions, along with the millions of patients treated by these organizations, will partner with Culmination in an ever-expanding effort to make novel medical discoveries and advances in precision medicine.
Google Health’s latest health AI language learning model has made impressive progress. This is actually insane: “Recently, our next iteration, Med-PaLM 2, consistently performed at an “expert” doctor level on medical exam questions, scoring 85%. This is an 18% improvement from Med-PaLM’s previous performance and far surpasses similar AI models.” (Google)
PointClickCare acquired Patient Pattern. They’ll now go by PointClickCarePatientPattern (kidding)(Press Release)
Clever Care raised $41M in a Series C led by Google Ventures (now known as the hip and cool ‘GV’) to continue its growth and focus on holistic healthcare, which includes Eastern benefits & aspects. (Fierce)
ABA infrastructure and data company SpectrumAi raised $20M in a Series A led by CVS Health Ventures. (BHB)
A new Redesign Health company launched this week. Iron Health emerged from stealth with $4.5M in funding to support OB/GYNs as a virtual extension of women’s health practices. The launch extends the recent wins we’ve seen in the women’s health space with Tia-Cedars partnership and Kindbody’s $100M raise. (Fierce)
MedArrive announced an awesome partnership with women’s health co Ouma. Through the partnership, MedArrive will fill in a pressing need for Medicaid moms who are erroneously labeled as ‘non-compliant’ when in reality they’re at a job or don’t have the transportation. This partnership aims to fix part of the maternity care problem by providing Ouma’s care directly to the home. (Press Release)
Policy and Payment Updates:
This was a good overview of what states are doing to unwind the Medicaid redetermination mess. According to KFF, most states are planning to spread renewals over 12 to 14 months. An estimated 15 to 18 million people are expected to lose Medicaid throughout 2023, which has the potential to send shockwaves throughout healthcare. It’s up to short-staffed states and managed care organizations with Medicaid exposure (Centene, Molina, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Elevance, etc.) to re-enroll these individuals into the right programs from the point when redeterminations kick off. Like much else in healthcare, it’s gonna be a mess. (KFF)
The state of Florida is now supervising Bright Health’s finances – Bright can’t spend more than 10k on anything without Florida’s approval. Y I K E S. (Beckers)
Hospitals are suing HHS over what they claim are unpaid, overdue disproportionate share payments. (Beckers)
Costs, Data, and Other Updates:
The state of California partnered with nonprofit generic drug manufacturer CivicaRx to produce $30 insulin through its new CalRx program. (California)
Connecticut regulators are looking into the VillageMD-Starling deal I touched on last week. Apparently wasn’t cleared by state regulators? Idk that seems like it’d be an important step. Guess we’ll see how it unfolds! (Hartford)
Whitepapers and Resources
Guidehouse published a survey of health system exec operating expectations over the course of 2023. (Guidehouse)
McDermott Will & Emery wrote a useful summary of the current state of healthcare private equity (MW&E)
FTI Consulting wrote a nice overview on the evolution of primary care delivery. (FTI)
- This March Madness has been…absolute madness. Shout out to Fairleigh Dickinson playing their dang hearts out. And then Princeton in the Sweet 16! Amazingly, the Hospitalogy group holds 2 brackets currently sitting in the 99.6 percentile. Yall are insane. I will say that I started out in the 7th percentile and have crept up to the 63rd…as long as Texas keeps winning!
- For my Hospitalogy golfers, I have to ask you for your opinion on the golf ball rollback debate. I’m inclined to disagree with rolling back the professional golf ball on distance. I want to play the same game that the pros do, and that’s the beauty of golf as opposed to other sports. I understand the arguments for rolling the ball back, too though.
Hospitalogy Top Reads
Zach Miller wrapped up his great 4-part anthology series looking at learning differences. (Post-Op)
If you missed it: On Thursday, I wrote about the new normal for hospitals in 2023 and the health tech spaces poised to succeed. (Hospitalogy)
You can also check out my full archive of content here! (Access the Archive)
That’s it for this week! Join 20,000+ executives and investors from leading healthcare organizations including VillageMD, Privia, and HCA Healthcare, health systems including Providence, Ascension, and Atrium, as well as leading digital health firms like Cityblock, Oak Street Health, and Turquoise Health by subscribing here!