You’re reading the web edition of STAT Health Tech, our guide to how tech is transforming the life sciences. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.
Super Bowl: Bengals lose, digital health wins!
Headspace got sultry. Cue Health got ultra techy. Hologic got real. But all three of this year’s Super Bowl ads by digital health companies went after the same core audience: women. Cue went after moms by emphasizing the convenience of its home diagnostic testing labs, while Hologic’s 30-second spot featuring Mary J. Blige pushed the benefits of mid-life screenings like mammograms. Headspace stood out for an ad in which John Legend offered to sleep with customers, a comedic pitch for a “sleepcast” the singer narrates for the company. Each spot cost about $6.5 million to air during this year’s game, which speaks to the rising fortunes of the digital health industry. What remains to be seen is whether these products will end up making a real difference for health.
Paying up to reach diabetes patients
Dexcom didn’t have a presence at this year’s game, but it’s still reaping returns from last year’s controversial Super Bowl ad featuring Nick Jonas, who has type 1 diabetes. In last week’s fourth quarter earnings call, the continuous glucose monitor manufacturer reported $2.45 billion in 2021 revenue, up 27% from the previous year. Dexcom CEO Kevin Sayer considers the ads a core part of the company’s growth: “We get reach in those offices, in all honesty, with the direct to consumer advertising,” Sayer told STAT. “When the patients walk in and say ‘I want a Dexcom,’ the percentages that you get one are quite high if the physician knows what it is.” While short-wear sensors from Dexcom and Abbott remain the big fish, competitor Senseonics just received its long-awaited approval for its six-month implantable CGM.
Can telehealth actually cut costs?
Telehealth proponents expected the pandemic to net them a windfall of convincing evidence that virtual care could increase quality and cut spending. But two years after health systems went virtual almost overnight, industry watchers are still disputing a key aspect that could determine telehealth’s fate: whether the option for virtual visits means patients will see doctors more often than they would in-person. In her latest story, Mohana dives deep on the evidence accumulated during the pandemic, and why it may not have the answers providers and payers want — yet. “These debates about the impact of telehealth on cost were always theoretical, and now is the time we actually really study what’s happening in real-world circumstances,” said RAND’s Lori Uscher-Pines.
AI as a Covid screening tool
Manual contact tracing during periods of rapid Covid-19 transmission has proved especially challenging. But a new study in Nature shows machine learning might be able to help. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that using a pair of algorithms helped to home in on students with an elevated risk of transmission. One algorithm was designed to predict individual risk, while the other predicted which pairs of students were most likely to be close contacts. The students selected for testing with the help of the algorithms were more likely to test positive than those chosen through a general surveillance program. The authors noted, however, that machine learning should be viewed as a supplement to manual contact tracing, not a replacement.
Signify Health snaps up a rival
- Signify Health, a maker of analytics software to support value-based care, bought rival Caravan Health for $250 million in cash and common stock. The combination, which includes $50 million in additional performance-based payments for Caravan, is designed to help the companies serve a broader range of advanced payment models.
- Akili Interactive filed its paperwork to go public in a planned SPAC merger. Mario dug into the filing to mine for insights into Akili’s revenue and the broader digital therapeutics business.
- The federal health department will distribute $55 million to help 29 health centers improve care for underserved populations by offering telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, and other digital tools.
- The chatbot company Memora Health raised $40 million in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz, AlleyCorp, and Transformation Capital. The company’s products are currently used by about 50 health care organizations.
- PriorAuthNow, a company focused on streamlining treatment approvals from insurers, raised $25 million in a financing round led by Insight Partners. Now we’ll see if it can get fax machines out of the process.
- Reliance Health, a digital provider that offers telemedicine, flat-fee health plans, and in- person care raised $40 million in a Series B round led by General Atlantic. The company began its operations in Lagos, Nigeria in 2015 and aims to serve emerging markets around the world.
- Variantyx, a genomic testing and analytics company, raised $41.5 million in a funding round led by New Era Capital Partners. The company plans to make a big push in precision oncology.
Moving up in sales & marketing
- Personal ECG maker AliveCor named Patricia Baran as senior vice president of healthcare for the Americas, leading business groups for employers, payors, and health systems after serving a similar role at Teladoc.
- Hinge Health co-founder Gabriel Mecklenburg has been named to the board of directors for Quit Genius, a digital clinic for substance addictions, joining Ginger co-founder Anmol Madan and Junaid Bajwa, chief medical scientist at Microsoft Research.
- Following Bright Health Group’s acquisition of telemedicine software provider Zipnosis last year, sales director Korey Keenan is moving to serve in the same role at Let’s Talk Interactive.
What we’re reading