It can be tough to keep up with the latest news in the virtual care space. Wheel's Virtual Care News is a monthly newsletter for stakeholders in the digital health industry. As a subscriber, you'll receive timely information on trending news, regulatory updates, engaging conversations, and key innovations emerging in the space.
This month’s Virtual Care News features innovation opportunities in the digital health space. From tapping the $728 billion Medicaid market to pharma’s digital health investment for clinical trials and drug discovery. The demand for employer-provided obesity care benefits is soaring, healthcare leaders say AI strategy is critical, details of the CONNECT Act, and more innovations in healthcare.
Trends & Insights
Unwinding the opportunity: Medicaid’s digital health moment
The end of the PHE has created a new opportunity for digital health innovation in Medicaid. Digital health adoption among Medicaid enrollees (92 million Americans) surged during the PHE reaching 80% (the same as the general population adoption rate.) With the end of the PHE, many Medicaid enrollees are at risk of losing coverage. This could lead to a churn in Medicaid programs, creating opportunities for digital health innovation especially in preventive interventions and specialized care. According to the report, the 3 most promising areas are extending provider capacity, optimizing enrollee engagement, and strategizing with data-driven insights.
Employers face soaring demand for obesity care benefits
A recent survey found that 44% of people with obesity would change jobs to gain coverage for treatment, and more than half of workers would stay at a job they didn't like to retain that coverage. The high cost and lack of coverage for GLP-1 medications continues to be a challenge, even with last year's AGA coverage recommendation of weight loss drugs for those with BMI over 30 (about 42% of people in the U.S.) All of which points to why digital health is leading the charge for obesity care solutions, a market estimated to grow to as much as $54 billion by 2030, and why employers are racing to partner with digital health companies to meet the demand.
First Opinions & Engaging Conversations
Pharma injecting life into digital health amidst funding downturn
Physician and venture investment partner, Sunny Kumar, says pharma companies are enthusiastically investing in digital health solutions to improve patient engagement, clinical trials, and drug development. Some of the most promising digital health areas for pharma include remote patient monitoring, virtual clinical trials, and drug discovery. But remember, measurable ROI and clinical validation is key. “Investors are scrutinizing data behind company claims and demanding greater evidence of efficacy and benefit before funding a promising company.”
The AI-powered future of healthcare is 'right now': What CEOs think of AI
Five healthcare CEOs give their thoughts on AI and the consensus is that AI should be a critical part of healthcare strategy. “Healthcare leaders should run not walk to AI in healthcare,” said Mayo Clinic's CEO Gianrico Farrugia, MD, "A better, AI-powered future of healthcare is not ten or even five years down the road — it is right now, and it is the responsibility of all in healthcare to make this a reality for our patients." All 5 acknowledge the need to be intentional about biases and security, but that the benefits far exceed the risks.
Policy & Regulatory Updates
Connect for Health Act has strong bi-partisan support
A bipartisan group of legislators has reintroduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act – first introduced in 2016 – to expand opportunities and coverage for telehealth through Medicare. The bill would:
- Permanently remove all geographic restrictions on telehealth services and expand originating sites to include the home and other sites.
- Permanently allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services.
- Allow more eligible healthcare professionals to use telehealth services.
- Remove unnecessary in-person visit requirements for telemental health services.
- Allow for the waiver of telehealth restrictions during public health emergencies.
- Require more published data to learn more about how telehealth is being used, how it impacts quality of care, and how it can be improved to support patients and healthcare providers.
Cue Health receives first-ever de novo authorization for at-home COVID-19 test
Cue Health has received FDA de novo authorization for its Cue COVID-19 Molecular Test, making it the first company to receive such authorization for a home-use COVID-19 test. The test delivers results in 20 minutes to connected mobile smart devices and has demonstrated overall accuracy of 98%, detecting all known COVID-19 variants of concern. The test also integrates into Cue Care, the company's test-to-treatment service. This authorization is a significant milestone for Cue Health and for the home-use testing industry as a whole. It opens up the possibility for more people to have access to accurate and timely COVID-19 testing at home, which could help to reduce the spread of the virus.
Growth & Innovation
Bayer launched new digital health venture
Bayer has launched a new business unit focused on developing precision health products across its range of everyday health categories. The new unit, called the Precision Health Business Unit, will be led by Aquil Harjivan, R&D head of digital health for Bayer's consumer health division. The unit will focus on developing digital solutions to help customers better understand their individual health needs and enable them to manage chronic conditions and make informed choices about their health.
Healthcare Dive >
Google unveiled AI platform for analyzing medical data
Google has unveiled PaLM 2, a new AI platform for analyzing medical data. PaLM 2 is capable of describing X-rays and answering patient questions about their medical conditions. It was trained on a massive dataset of medical data, including X-rays, medical reports and patient questions. It can also generate reports that summarize the findings of medical tests.
Funding updates and innovative collaborations from the last month.
DexCare closes $75M in Series C funding.
Aledade raises $260M in series F financing.
Thirty Madison buys assets from bankrupt The Pill Club.
UnitedHealth outbids Option Care for home health firm Amedisys for $3 billion deal
Wheel Welcomes New VP of Care Operations
We’re excited to welcome Sandy Rigley as our new Vice President of Care Operations. Sandy has an expansive healthcare background and has led operations at OptumHealth, Advocate Physician Partners, MDLIVE, and most recently, Carbon Health. “Sandy’s deep knowledge of the virtual care industry and her results-oriented outlook on operations management makes her the perfect fit for the role,” said CEO, Michelle Davey.