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Amazon takes another stab at telehealth
Just three months after it was revealed it would be shutting down its telehealth business Amazon CareAmazon is announcing another foray into digital health: Amazon Clinic. The model looks a lot like existing direct-to-consumer telehealth repositories Hymns swear Calmwhich allows patients to message a third-party remote service provider about 20 health concerns — including common DTC targets such as acne, allergies and hair loss — and potentially receive prescriptions that can be filled through Amazon Pharmacy or another pharmacy. The company said the service will launch in 32 states to begin with and won’t accept insurance for visits, my colleague Katie Palmer tells us.
Maven scores $90 million in funding drought
The installation of women’s and family health technology that closely followed Maven Clinic raised a $90 million Series E this week in a led round General Catalyst – a bid to protect maternal health in a post-spawn world, writes our Jayne Williamson-Lee. The round, which brings its total funding to $300 million and puts its value at $1.35 billion, is also notable as health tech funding has slowed overall as employers scale back investments in virtual services amid economic uncertainty . But “regardless of what’s happening in the financial markets, the state of the maternal health crisis in the United States is more dire than ever,” GC said. Holly Maloney said. Read more.
Speaking of General Catalyst…
…The company announced plans to add 10 new health systems to its network of strategic partners, including Banner Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centeroath Hackensack Meridian Health. This partnership could encourage health systems to “work with startups, scale existing products and even work on new technologies,” the company said. As my colleague Mario Aguilar points out, the announcement resonates Andreessen Horowitzrecent collaboration with Bassett Health Network. It will be interesting to watch how VCs use these partnerships to accelerate the development of their portfolio companies – and to attract the best companies and partners to the stable.
Listened to HLTH
Mario here, interrupting Mohana’s regular newsletter with a few selections from my conversations on HLTH convention in Las Vegas so far. More to come later this week.
- “It’s about depth”: 7wireVentures partner Alyssa Jaffee told me as I reflected on the recently announced partnerships between venture firms and health system partners, such as those mentioned above. She noted that while such relationships aren’t always announced in press releases, it’s a big part of what good VCs — like 7wire, naturally — do. But she went on to say that it’s important that such support goes deeper than just email pitches and that investors have the strength of relationships to close a deal. (When I met Jaffee, she was just wrapping up a conversation with CVS Health…)
- “It’s too thin”: Firefly heath CEO Fay Rotenberg told me why leading healthcare companies are failing to deliver care and cost savings. Firefly — which recently expanded from a virtual offering sold to employers to a healthy health plan, along with a navigation service — said it wouldn’t work without a core service layer that creates trust and consistent communication. “If someone is motivated enough to look for a navigator, that means they’re already in trouble,” she said. And while she believes the health plan offerings are most interesting to small employers, she said large employers have taken an interest, and more will be announced soon.
- “Because they are regional and smaller, they are more in tune with the needs of their members”: free spira’s new CEO Joe Perekupka explained why small regional health plans are a key short-term growth opportunity. Freespira, which makes an FDA-cleared combination of medical devices and software to help people manage PTSD, recently entered into a pilot project with Point32Health. Freespira finds itself among digital pharma companies facing reimbursement hurdles, and Perekupka said it’s likely to remain that way until CMS begins recognizing the products. That said, Freespira was lucky: Although much has been made of it recently Highmark Health Deciding to cover prescription digital therapy, Freespira has had a good relationship with the payer for many years.
- “Our goal for 2023 is to really get into California, Arizona and Texas and really learn there and expand nationally”: Kristina Saffran, CEO of Equip Health, told me about the company’s plans to expand its Medicaid relationships. Equip, which provides virtual family therapy for people with eating disorders, has built commercial contracts for payers across the country and is just beginning to wade into Medicaid. But it faces challenges, including the misconception that eating disorders don’t affect people with lower incomes.
How a federal rule could block online check-ins
Health technology companies taking advantage of pandemic flexibility that allows prescriptions for controlled substances online without in-person tests may soon get a reality check if regulators reinstate a decades-old ban on the practice. The public health emergency allowed some of these young companies – such as Whole swear Mindbloom— to reach more patients across the country. But it’s not clear how long the public health emergency will last, and businesses tell me and Katie Palmer they are scrambling to prepare if the ban is reinstated or lifted.
The regulatory uncertainty isn’t ideal for their businesses, nor for patients, they say. Some are thinking of building clinics or flying doctors into certain states to perform in-person tests for virtual prescriptions.
“There’s a lot of operational pressure on us to be constantly preparing for the significant changes that we would need to make,” said Emily Behar, director of clinical operations at Ophelia, which offers online pharmacotherapy for opioid use disorder. She said the company could make changes, but “really the biggest burden is on the patient” — especially if they now have to travel or wait to make an appointment before getting the medication they need.
If you need a regulatory refresher, these companies are talking about a 2008 law called the Ryan Haight Act, named after an 18-year-old man who overdosed after getting a prescription for Vicodin online without an in-person visit. Read our story here.
Look into Google’s search pilots
The tech giant has long positioned its search technology as a potential boon for the healthcare industry. And now that claim is being tested with a pair of pilots at health systems far away from the Mountain View campus. A small Wisconsin hospital and an Alabama health system are among the first to try to integrate Care Studio Google search tools into their medical record systems, which both rely on Meditech software. The goal, writes my colleague Casey Ross, is to make it easier for caregivers to collect patient information stored in disparate systems and formats. Read more.
What we are reading
- Uganda plans to 3D print human tissue in space, Quartz
- Amazon plans to lay off thousands of workers, The New York Times