Digital health platform Xealth strikes partnership with another big health IT vendor


Xealth, a startup working to solve some of the logistical challenges faced by digital health companies, struck a partnership with Cerner. The Seattle-based company makes it easier to prescribe digital health tools and integrate them with health record systems.

The partnership is intended to make it easier for patients and their health teams to keep track of engagement with digital health tools and the effect on patients’ health.

“In order for digital health to have lasting impact, it needs to show value and ease for both the care team and patient,” Xealth CEO and Co-Founder Mike McSherry said in a news release. “We strongly believe that technology should nurture deeper patient-provider relationships and facilitate information sharing across systems and the care settings. It is exciting to work with Cerner to simplify meaningful digital health for its health partners.”

Cerner and venture capital firm LRVHealth also invested $6 million into Xealth. Last year, the company raised $14 million in series A funding, with investors including Providence Ventures and the Cleveland Clinic.

David Bradshaw, senior vice president of consumer and employer solutions for Cerner, said the partnership would give patients the opportunity to participate in their own treatment plans.

“Patients want greater access to their health information and are motivated to help care teams find the most appropriate road to recovery,” he said in a news release.

Xealth had already been integrated into Epic, and with this partnership, it will be tied into the two most widely used EHRs. The company is integrated with more than 30 different digital health solutions, ranging from diabetes management platforms such as Omada and Glooko, to Resmed’s connected sleep apnea machines, and patient engagement platforms like Twistle.

One of the startup’s clients, Providence St. Joseph Health, used Twistle in combination with Xealth’s platform to monitor patients with Covid-19 symptoms at home. It helped them keep track of patients’ temperature and oxygen saturation by providing an easy form for them to record their metrics.

Photo credit: a-image, Getty Images


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CVS builds out digital health program with five more companies


Last year, CVS Caremark launched a program to make it easier for health plans to implement digital health tools. Since then, it has steadily added a stream of companies to its new Point Solution Management Service, including Livongo, Hinge Health and Hello Heart.

On Wednesday, CVS added another five companies, focused on weight loss and mental health. They include:

  • Daylight, an app to help users manage worry and anxiety
  • Vida, a startup that offers personalized health coaching and therapy
  • Naturally Slim, an online weight loss program
  • Weight Watchers, which has built out its own digital plans
  • And Kurbo, a program designed by Weight Watchers to help children and teens make healthy lifestyle choices.

CVS Caremark CMO Sree Chaguturu shared more about his long-term vision for the program.

“There’s been an explosion of investment and development in digital health applications and solutions,” he said. “But there have been a couple of challenges: how do you know which ones have an impact and are high quality? How do you pay for them? … Those pain points are what we’re trying to address in Point Solution Management.”

Through this model, Chaguturu said health plans can pay for digital health solutions based on how many of their members use a service as opposed to a flat access fee.

Caremark also vets the solutions by looking more closely at their clinical claims and supporting data, as well as conducting a security and business review of each solution.

“We don’t see these solutions as replacing clinical care but as an adjunct and supportive to help patients in self-management,” he said.

Pharmacy benefit managers have recently begun taking a closer look at digital health companies as an adjuvant to traditional medicines. Last year, Express Scripts launched its first digital health formulary, with solutions from Livongo, Omada Health, Propeller and SilverCloud.

Whether these programs will create more widespread use of digital health tools remains to be seen, but it’s a promising first step to help bridge some of the practical gaps toward adoption.

Photo credit:  exdez, Getty Images


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How four healthcare executives are planning for the future of digital health


digital health smartphone

Before the pandemic, many health systems had started to devote more resources to digital health. In the last year alone, Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente hired their first ever chief digital officers.

Since the first Covid-19 cases were reported in the U.S., that role has undoubtedly changed. Technology became an integral part of many health systems’ response to the pandemic – and served as a lifeline to continue to see patients.

At MedCity INVEST, four healthcare executives shared how they responded to Covid-19, and what they see as the future of digital health.

The panelists included:

  • Prat Vemana, Kaiser Permanente’s first chief digital officer
  • Roberta Schwartz, Houston Methodist’s chief innovation officer
  • Eric Spaulding, director of digital customer experience at Highmark Health
  • Aaron Martin, chief digital and innovation officer for Providence St. Joseph Health and managing general partner of Providence Ventures

Innovaccer’s CTO Mike Sutten and MedCity News Editor-In-Chief Arundhati Parmar moderated the panel. Here are some highlights from the discussion:  


Q: What were some of your learnings from your response to the pandemic?

Vemana: Both how consumers adapted to telehealth and virtual care accelerated quite a bit. Earlier, we used to promote telehealth, it was an initiative. Now, it’s here. But the other side is also important from a care team perspective — how they were able to embrace it and adapt.

… The second piece I would say Covid-19 has accelerated is collaboration among different parties. Every conversation required a steering committee and a discussion and whatnot. When I think about what Covid-19 has done, people are learning more toward speed and execution and the ability to have progress over perfection.

Schwartz: I remember in the room we gathered all of our folks who were involved in the Center for Innovation, as well as our IT partners. I just put it out on the table and said, “Tell us every technology that we have that can be turned toward Covid.”

What we realized was all of the ingredients we had sitting out there could pivot just a little bit to help us with the crisis that we had.

… I think what all of us didn’t realize was how quickly adoption could happen. How quickly you could go from 5% to 80% (of visits) on telemedicine. The question that all of us have is when that dust settles, what is the level that’s here to stay for good? What has fundamentally shifted in a period of eight weeks?

Q:   Aaron, (Providence) already had a pretty strong digital presence, so what’s next?

Martin: A few things. One is, I don’t things can stick or accelerate without health systems moving to risk. … We’re on track to do probably 5 million virtual visits this year. That’s a massive number. The problem is, it’s still loaded with friction for both the patient and the provider. So that’s one block of work we’ve got to do.

… We did some math and we said these providers are going to have to do anywhere between three or four video visits an hour to just maintain their income on a fee-for-service RPU basis. And that is just inhuman. We should not have primary care physicians doing fee-for-service work and we’ve got to get to capitation very quickly.

I think that’s actually the core issue. You’ll see us be very aggressive in that space. And also in taking all of the friction out of the process for online scheduling and virtual visits.


Q: What are your thoughts on how to deal with patient privacy at this time when there’s so much collaboration happening?

Spaulding: A lot of it from the customer side is making sure we’re incredibly explicit in what they’re signing up for, whether it’s a bot, making sure every single point of digital interaction they know how to revoke consent, that’s a huge part of it.

The other thing is really working and partnering with our legal and privacy team to look at legislation that’s coming out… being able to do the due diligence to say when do we reasonably expect that this is something that will affect us, and let’s get started now.

Sutten: I think there’s was lot of talk about how the regulation on interoperability will kind of open security (breaches), but in fact, it reduces them. The move to APIs is inherently more secure than batch ASCII files, rarely which even have password protection on them. I think the cloud is inherently more secure, if you think about the amount of people — whether it’s Microsoft, Google or Amazon — that are protecting the perimeter and protecting the services within it.

By the way, we’re now asking members and patients if they would like their data shared, and we’ve never gone to that level before.

These interviews have been edited for content and clarity.

Photo credit: Andrey Suslov, Getty Images


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UnitedHealth creates its own digital health program for type 2 diabetes


As Livongo, Omada Health, and other well-established digital health programs continue to grow, another company is pushing into the crowded marketplace for diabetes management.

The new entrant: UnitedHealth Group.

The insurer is rolling out a new digital health program for patients with Type 2 diabetes to more than 230,000 of its members across 27 states. Called Level2, it was developed internally by UnitedHealth Group Research and Development. The program combines connected wearables with coaching to give participants more information about their health and help them manage blood sugar levels.

Users are equipped with Dexcom’s continuous glucose monitor and a Fitbit activity tracker, and receive app-based alerts. They also receive one-on-one coaching, and can get a specialist consultation through video chat. The program is free, and participants are incentivized with rewards.

Earlier this year, Livongo announced a partnership with DexCom to sync data from its connected glucose monitors with its platform.

United tested the concept in a pilot with 790 members two years ago, starting with its Medicare Advantage plans. Some of them saw a clinically meaningful reduction in A1C levels within three months, though United didn’t share the full results from the pilot. It said participants with the most significantly elevated A1C levels were able to reduce blood sugars by more than 1% on average, and that participants were able to eliminate the need for 450 prescriptions by improving their health.

“Connected devices such as continuous glucose monitors and activity trackers may be game changers for the approximately 30 million people2 nationwide living with type 2 diabetes. By expanding this innovative new therapy to more members across the country, we are empowering people with actionable information and personalized support,” said Dr. Amy Meister, who worked with UnitedHealthcare’s research and development division before becoming CEO of Level2.

The company is making the program available to fully insured health plans in several states to start. Later this year, United plans to make Level2 available to its self-funded plans.

In the future, United hinted that it might expand the platform “to support people with other conditions beyond type 2 diabetes. Other digital health companies that started with diabetes programs have expanded to other indications. For example, Omada also has programs for hypertension, behavioral health, and more recently added physical therapy to its repertoire with its acquisition of Physera.

Photo credit: screenshot from Level2 website


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How to Plan a Virtual Hen Do: Digital Hen Party Ideas


My fiancé and I were meant to be having a dream Italian wedding in just a matter of weeks — until the global coronavirus pandemic happened and changed those plans. Now, the weeks that should have been spent getting excited for the big day have instead been filled with stressful emails and phone calls rearranging dates and requesting refunds — all while working from home and attempting to manage a toddler. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted.

In this situation it’s easy to throw yourself a pity party, and I must admit that I was having one and dwelling on the negative, until one morning I decided that enough was enough. My friends all want to celebrate with me, so why not lift people’s spirits with a virtual hen party? That way, everyone can enjoy a fun, boozy night in the comfort of their own living rooms, without having to worry about getting home or the expense of a weekend city break.

In this period of time where so much is unknown, organising a hen party provides a great distraction; and not only has the planning helped boost my mood but it’s also helped to raise my friends’ and family’s spirits. After all, who doesn’t love a hen do?

I had always planned to do a London-based event, but now it was time to get a little more creative and give some of the most popular hen do activities an isolation twist. After a few hours of home-based hen research, I realised we could pretty much re-create the whole day with the help of a few digital hacks.

As fitness is one of my passions, my original plan was to drag my bridal party (some of them kicking and screaming) to my favourite Psycle barre class, followed by a boozy cocktail masterclass, a carb-infused meal, and a few hours of power ballad karaoke. For that Instagram-able snap at the postparty hotel sleepover, I had already stocked up on holographic sheet masks from my favourite London beauty emporium, John Bell & Croyden, and purchased silk pyjamas from Yolke’s sample sale.

After firing off some WhatsApp messages to my hen planner, we created the ultimate lockdown party. If you’re in two minds about planning your own virtual hen do, take my advice and go for it — not only will the laughs be needed more than ever but the memories you create will never be forgotten. Here are my hen dos and hen don’ts for organising the perfect virtual party.

1. Pick a Colour Theme For All Virtual Guests

I didn’t want to go down the mildly cringey route of getting personalised hen party tops made, so instead I chose a colour theme for all guests to wear. That way, they could pick out something from their wardrobe, and everyone could interpret the theme in their own way, whether that’s with something as simple as a statement red lip, or a full monochromatic look for maximum impact.

2. Create a Unique Hashtag For the Day

If you and your hens are active on Instagram, then creating a unique hashtag is a fun way to get a behind-the-scenes look into how everyone prepares for your online party. It’s also a great way to preserve all those memories in one place that might otherwise get missed on a video call.

3. Try a Virtual Barre Class Via Zoom or IGTV

Fitness has always been my passion, and my love for exercise has only grown in isolation. I know some of my hen party aren’t as passionate about fitness as I am, but I knew that the moment they felt the energy from the heads of barre at Psycle, Maria and Rod, they wouldn’t look back. Barre classes are great for all fitness levels as they’re low-impact and don’t involve a huge number of props; or if they do, then you can create your own makeshift props using household items. We all tuned in wearing our best Lycra and pulsed and planked to the beat.

4. Send a Special Gift to the Bride-To-Be

Though it’s difficult to find the perfect gift with shops closed and online deliveries delayed, my hen party were kind and organised enough to send me a care package filled with a few of my favourite things — with a bridal twist. First, a pair of Varley leggings that both feed my fitness habit and fit with the white bridal theme, a bottle of my favourite champagne from Fortnum & Mason (if you know, you know), and the Spring Flowers DIY Tin from Biscuiteers, which contains prebaked flower biscuits and everything you need to ice them, in tribute to my love of flowers and gardening.

There are still plenty of delivery services out there to pull together a great hamper for your hen; just make sure you plan as far in advance as possible to avoid hefty postage fees.

5. Mix Up Some Bespoke Cocktails

I challenged my hens to create an innovative cocktail with whatever ingredients they had in the house in 10 minutes — then drink them and describe them to me so I could give out a prize for the most creative concoction. There were frozen Whispering Angel cocktails, whiskey sours, and even a boozy Coke float. If you need some inspiration then head to Instagram, where Soho House revealed the recipe to their famous Picante cocktail and Aperol recently demonstrated how to make the perfect spritz.

6. Cook a Wedding Day Destination-Inspired Dish

As my wedding was due to take place in Italy, I thought it was only fitting to choose an Italian-themed dish for my guests and I to make during the cookalong portion of my virtual hen do. I choose something simple that all my guests could rustle up at home with limited ingredients. Now that the supermarkets are suffering shortages of the basics, my go-to dish of creamy pesto pasta made the cut. All you need is basil, olive oil, garlic, avocado, salt, and pepper. This recipe also works for vegetarians and vegans, too, plus you can use any type of pasta you have in your store cupboard. Choose something that has links to you, or your hen do destination, and make sure its easy enough for your guests to re-create and have fun with.

7. Hold the Great Hen-Do Bake Off

I wasn’t a keen baker before lockdown, but like most of the country, I have now developed some serious skills, and I’m making new baked creations on the daily. My initial idea was to task all my guests to bake a wedding cake in an hour — a fun way to find out what they could come up with in such a short time — but given the current flour shortage, that wasn’t going to be doable.

I decided to get my guests to join in with a baking class that I’ve been enjoying every week during lockdown. Livia’s live Friday baking classes on Instagram are easy to follow and don’t require mountains of ingredients or a tonne of flour. We made the double chocolate chip cookies (made with porridge oats, coconut sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup, cacao powder, and chocolate chips — or leftover Easter egg, which a lot of my hen party used). These were truly delicious, and it’s fun to see everyone’s creations via WhatsApp when they were fresh from the oven.

8. Pamper Yourselves With an At-Home Facial

My initial plan was to post out my favourite Oh K! Holographic Sheet Masks (£10 each) to my guests, but many of the masks didn’t arrive in time, so I had to come up with a plan B for a DIY face mask from products you have in your kitchen. Sarah Carr, a facialist for Liz Earle, says that her tried-and-tested DIY mask made from natural bio yogurt and olive oil is “the best natural mask for boosting skin’s radiance and reduces redness and inflammation.”

9. Get Your Partner Involved With a Quiz

With answers from your fiancé, who doesn’t love a good quiz? We opted for a “Mr and Mrs Quiz” where everyone had to guess the answers to multiple choice questions like, “What did Eamonn say Kirsty’s most annoying habit was?” Get your fiancé to prerecord their answers and play them to everyone at the end — the perfect way to get your partner-to-be involved, too.

10. Enjoy a Karaoke Singalong Via House Party

A good singalong after a cocktail or two is such a mood booster, and as I found out, this is one activity that’s supereasy to organise. Simply get each guest to select a song, and pull together your karaoke playlist ahead on Spotify. And for the serious Karaoke pros out there, the Lucky Voice group who have venues across London have introduced the ultimate home karaoke kit.

11. Follow a Nail Art Tutorial For At-Home Manicures

Not only is the lockdown manicure trending big time on Instagram right now, but adding at-home manicures into your virtual hen do is also another way to incorporate your colour theme into the experience. Get inspired with some simple seasonal nail art designs to follow, and once you’re all finished, you can reveal your mani masterpieces on Zoom.

12. Wind Down With a Face Gym Session

Master the art of a DIY face massage by organising a digital group session with a FaceGym trainer. You’ll not only spend time with your bridal party but the session will also guide you through techniques to firm up your facial muscles (hello, cheekbones!), and promote lymphatic drainage.


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CVS Caremark adds five companies to digital health platform


Livongo, Hinge Health, and a handful of other digital health companies will join CVS Health’s platform for PBM clients. CVS announced it would add five companies to its Point Solutions Management Service, a service it launched last year to make it easier for CVS Caremark clients to contract with third-party apps and monitor their performance.

“Plan sponsors increasingly see the value in health care point solutions for improving workforce productivity, satisfaction and overall well-being, however with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to identify trusted solutions that best meet the needs of their members,” CVS Caremark CMO Dr. Sree Chaguturu said in a news release

He added that the company had analyzed pharmacy and medical claims, and conducted an evaluation of each solution to ensure each of the recommended apps are safe and effective.

CVS is adding five companies to its platform, including:

  • Hinge Health, a digital health startup that helps users with back pain, joint pain or other musculoskeletal conditions to receive virtual coaching. Users receive a wearable sensor that allows coaches to guide users through exercises and ensure they’re doing them properly. The company recently raised $90 million in funding.
  • Hello Heart, a startup that helps users understand and improve their heart health. They are sent a connected blood pressure monitor that syncs with an app to give users blood pressure readings, and sends them medication reminders and alerts during exercise for out-of-range hypertension.
  • Livongo, a digital health startup for diabetes management that went public last year. Livongo sends users scales, blood glucometers and blood pressure monitors that connect with its app. It also offers health coaching for its user. The company currently offers solutions for management of diabetes, hypertension and weight management, as well as diabetes prevention.
  • Torchlight, a caregiver support solution to help families handle the financial, social, health and legal complexities of caring for a loved one. It provides users with advice and helps them connect to experts across the U.S.
  • Whil, a mindfulness and meditation app. The company offers users 5-minute daily sessions and more than 250 mini-courses. It also has recorded video and audio sessions with tips and exercises to help employees improve their health and happiness.

CVS said it plans to add more digital health solutions in the future, including in weight loss, women’s health, mental health, and other categories.

Photo credit: CVS Health


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Israeli digital therapeutics company raises $21.3M for U.S. expansion


DarioHealth makes a glucometer that can be plugged into smartphones with a compatible app. The company plans to bring its solution to more insurance plans after raising funding through a private placement.


Digital therapeutics company DarioHealth raised $21.3 million in a private placement, the company announced on Friday. The Israel-based company hopes to use that cash to bring its smartphone-based blood glucometer to more health plans.

DarioHealth CEO Erez Raphael said the U.S. is his company’s biggest market. DarioHealth originally gained 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for its blood glucose monitoring system in 2015. About the size of a flash drive, it can be plugged into a smartphone’s headphone jack, where it syncs with DarioHealth’s app. The company also launched a blood pressure monitoring system in July.

“We are helping users understand better how to treat themselves based on the data that we are capturing on our platform,” Raphael said.

The publicly-traded company has a market cap of $33 million. Its stock traded at $6.09 per share at market open on Friday, down from $13.99 one year ago.

DarioHealth currently has more than 40,000 users on its platform, which it plans to build out. In 2018, the company added coaching into its platform as part of a monthly membership. DarioHealth has built out partnerships with major retailers, such as Walmart and Best Buy. It now hopes payers will become a part of that strategy.

“This is something we’re going to grow drastically in 2020. We’re going to sell it to payers,” Raphael said. “The whole market is transforming from just buying a medical device to buying a clinical solution, a full membership that is performance based and value based.”

With the new funding, Raphael hopes to get DarioHealth’s product to as many insurers as possible. He also plans to develop solutions for additional chronic conditions, though he did not specify which ones. The company raised the additional funds through a private placement of convertible preferred stock.

“We expect this will help us ramp up our sales drastically and put our solution into the hands of as many users as possible,” he said.

Of course, DarioHealth isn’t the only company working in this space. Emerging competitor Livongo, which went public in July, built its own device to monitor blood glucose levels and blood pressure. Other companies are also clamoring for insurers’ attention — and dollars.

Raphael sees the competition as a bake-off of sorts: consumers will pick the best device.

“The way we see this evolving, the company that has the best device and the best software will win,” he said. “Long story short, we think the best user experience leads to the best engagement, and the best engagement leads to the best clinical outcome.”


Photo credit: DarioHealth


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Express Scripts’ new formulary offers critical support for digital health startups


Omada Health’s platform helps patients with hypertension and diabetes manage their conditions. The company was selected for Express Scripts’ first digital health formulary.


Express Scripts unveiled the details of its first digital health formulary on Thursday. The program, first announced by Cigna’s pharmacy benefit manager in May, gives the bustling field of health apps, digital therapeutics and remote monitoring devices a better chance at adoption.

It will also serve as a critical support to digital health startups, several of which have raised large funding rounds but struggle to gain the trust of insurers—and patients.

Express Scripts picked 15 programs from hundreds of submissions to include in its first release starting in January, 2020. They were evaluated based on three criteria:  clinical research, usability and financial value.

The selected solutions address a wide variety of common chronic health conditions, from diabetes, hypertension and asthma to anxiety and depression. They will integrate with Express Scripts’ pharmacy benefit, and patients will be able to receive support from the PBM’s pharmacists.

“It’s our job to find the right digital health solutions for our clients and patients, and then make sure patients use these solutions effectively,” Mark Bini, chief patient experience officer for Express Scripts, said in a news release.  “With the Express Scripts Digital Health Formulary, we’ve created more than just a list of approved programs or a vendor management process. We built a foundation for the future of care and pharmacy that will deliver better access, affordability, and health.”

The new formulary will make it much easier for employers to include digital health offerings in their plans, said Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health. It will also give the selected companies a foothold in one of the largest PBMs, which manages prescription plans for more than 80 million members.

“The ability to lean on (Express Scripts) to serve as a conduit is pretty instrumental,” Duffy told MedCity News. “A big headwind for early companies commercializing digital health offerings is finding a way to gain access to employers.”

In particular, the new formulary will help digital health companies get a foothold in mid-sized companies, most of which don’t have the resources to choose and manage these tools.

For example, a 10,000-person employer would primarily work with the company’s health plan and PBM to come up with a benefits plan. Once they start adding additional services to that plan, they have to figure out how to integrate the different pieces, budget for them and perhaps add another internal partner to manage them.

“It adds a lot of administrative burden and complexity to add more to that world,” Duffy said.

San Francisco-based Omada Health will be included on the formulary for its diabetes prevention, diabetes management and hypertension management programs. The company has already enrolled more than 300,000 participants in its programs, and works with several major health plans.

“As we’re starting to see PBMs get into digital health space, we feel really confident about how we’re going to show up in this channel, and the value we can provide to these employers,” Duffy said.

On the behavioral health side, Boston-based SilverCloud Health will serve as one of Express Scripts’ providers. SilverCloud’s platform offers programs for anxiety and depression, two of the most common mental health conditions. It also offers access to online coaches, intended to help offset long wait times for mental health services.  The company has delivered treatment to 300,000 users to date.

“The solution will help Express Scripts execute on its mission of creating a better healthcare system by providing greater choice, predictability, affordability and improved outcomes,” SilverCloud CEO Ken Cahill said in a news release. “It also adds another effective tool for the company to utilize in its digital formulary, creating personalized solutions that make a meaningful difference for those covered by an Express Scripts plan and ultimately helping its members to live better, healthier lives.”

The full list of programs on the formulary includes:

  • Livongo for diabetes and hypertension
  • Omada Health for diabetes and hypertension
  • LifeScan’s OneTouch Reveal Plus for diabetes management
  • Propeller Health for managing asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Learn to Live Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression, anxiety and insomnia
  • SilverCloud Health Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression, anxiety and insomnia

Photo credit: Omada Health


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For investors, digital health data outweighs algorithms


Investors present at the SoCalBio Digital Health conference. From left to right: Luke Hayes, managing director of Torrent Ventures; Kwame Ulmer, venture partner with Wavemaker Sixty-Three Health; Richard Well, partner wih Mount Wilson Ventures; John Shen, founder of Sunstone Management; Yiwen Li, director of strategy and business development for NantHealth.


Venture capital firms first look for useful and unique data when they invest in digital health companies. At the SoCalBio Digital Health Conference, representatives of six Southern California-based firms agreed that having access to good data outweighs even the most sophisticated algorithms.

Both technology and health care firms are investing in companies using AI to solve health care’s most costly problems, said Milo Bissin, director of life science and health care for Silicon Valley Bank. The amount of investment in health tech companies has grown significantly in the last five years, from $3.47 billion in 2015 to $6.28 billion as of September 2019.

While investors are interested in their solutions, companies first need to start with a strong foundation of data.

“Whenever I talk to companies that have AI or machine learning in their strategy, I tend to focus first and foremost on what is your data acquisition strategy?” said Kevin Zhang, a partner with Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures.

That includes talking to founders about where they source their data, and what information they can bring to the table to create a unique dataset.

“Since we see so many companies that claim to have an aspect of machine learning, AI or deep learning… the ones that tend to be interesting to use are the ones that have approached the market in such a way that they have unique data,” said Richard Weil, a partner with Pasadena-based Mount Wilson Ventures.

Of course, finding good-quality health data can be difficult. Information pulled from electronic medical record systems can be a jumbled mess of unstructured text. Cleaning that data is time-consuming: After acquiring an oncology electronic medical records system, one biotechnology company hired 600 people just to clean and annotate those medical records so they could make use of them, Zhang said.

For companies that don’t currently have access to a high-quality dataset, get creative, suggested Luke Hayes, managing director of newly-formed firm Torrent Ventures. For example, one company Torrent worked with licensed a dataset from a nonprofit organization.

“We are more concerned with the quality of the underlying dataset than the technique used to analyze it,” Hayes said.

Other companies have turned this challenge into an opportunity. Yiwen Li, director of strategy and business development for Culver City-based NantHealth, said her company had invested in a firm that pulls data out of medical devices into electronic medical record systems.

“It sounds very simple,” she said. “We work with so many different medical devices and EMRs. … A lot of the data are still stuck in the medical devices.”

Prior to that, physicians had to write or copy the information manually from the medical device into the health record system.

“It’s incredibly useful,” she added. “Before AI, we have a lot of things to do.”


Photo credit: Elise Reuter 


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5 ways the INVEST Digital Health conference in Minneapolis will focus on healthcare innovation


It’s been an exciting year in digital health. From the initial public offerings by Livongo, Health Catalyst, Change Healthcare, and Phreesia; Allscripts acquisition of ZappRx; and UnitedHealthcare’s acquisition of PatientsLikeMe, there has been much in the way of exits and activity. The MedCity INVEST Digital Health conference in Minneapolis September 17, will advance the conversation around innovation in digital health in a few different ways.

Business models 

The rise of Apple and Google’s presence in healthcare and retailers such as CVS Health, Best Buy and Amazon, along with the push to make healthcare more patient-centric has broadened the spectrum beyond simply direct-to-consumer and business-to-business. Are people more willing to pay for healthcare services they want out of their own pocket? Don McDaniel, Canton & Co. CEO will moderate a panel discussion on the merits of different business models in the healthcare space. The discussion will include Jeff Fritz, CEO of Revel Health; Melissa Kjolsing, CEO and co-founder of Recovree; and Dr. Saurin Patel, CEO and founder of Vital Health Links.

Click here to Register today



Payers and what they are willing to cover can play a critical role in the success or failure of digital health companies. Payers have shown a willingness to collaborate with digital health companies. Adoption can be a slow journey fraught with twists and turns. Digital health companies will share their insights based on what they’ve learned from these experiences including Dr. Michael Abramoff, founder and CEO of IDx; Stephen Clark, U.S. commercial lead for; and Joseph Smith president and CEO of Reflexion Health. Marcus Schabacker, ECRI Institute CEO, will moderate.

Dealflow in 2019

A look at the investment activity in digital health will address questions such as whether a digital health bubble exists and if so, when will it pop. Panelists will share their perspectives on what some of the hot technologies. They include Aly Lovett, a partner with Radian Capital; Tom Shehab, a managing partner with Arboretum Ventures; and Blake Wu, NEA principal. Doug Lehrman, founder and  CEO of Junction Health Partners, will moderate.

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare

The interest in automating labor-intensive tasks in healthcare, improving the ability to intervene earlier to avoid adverse event and the hope of reducing the cost of drug development have led to a wide interest in the potential of integrating artificial intelligence tools into healthcare. A panel will discuss opportunities and challenges posed by the data underpinning AI tools. Panelists include Mark Foley, a director of translational informatics at the Mayo Clinic; Matthew Versaggi,  UnitedHealth Group’s senior director of AI and cognitive technology; and Kurt Waltenbaugh, Carrot Health CEO. Lemhi Ventures Managing Director Jodi Hubler will moderate.


MedCity is known for spotlighting healthcare entrepreneurs, including those seeking to improve chronic disease management, care coordination, clinical decision support. Among the startups pitching at INVEST Digital Health are Sonaris, which has developed AI-guided ultrasound designed to be used by non-skilled users in clinics for vital screening tests. Care Angel developed a virtual nurse assistant to engage, monitor and manage large, at-risk populations with complex and chronic conditions. Click this link for a list of the companies taking part. Check back for updates.

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Photo: Natalie Mis, Getty Images


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