Wed. May 18th, 2022
Uber Health's new chief medical officer wants to sharpen its message

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What will Uber’s new CMO do?

Nearly four years after it launched into the medical transport business, Uber Health this week appointed Michael Cantor as its first chief medical officer. The first thing on his mind is helping to streamline communications with the health care organizations that do business with the company.

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“I think it’s really helping the team sharpen the messaging so that when we talk with health plans, we talk to the provider organizations, it’s really clear what the value is of this service and what we’re focused on accomplishing in the near term,” he told STAT.

As conversations in health care go, Uber Health’s pitch is downright intuitive: Many people, especially people who are elderly, low-income, or very sick, have trouble getting to their medical appointments, so why not use the company’s logistics prowess to fill the gap and prevent costly complications from missed care? Uber Health has seen some traction for its solution, which allows care coordinators to book rides for patients. It has some 3,000 customers so far, and it claimed 71% growth in bookings from the fourth quarter of 2020 to Q4 2021. Last week, it announced a partnership with CVS Health as part of an effort to help address health disparities.

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Cantor, a geriatrician by training, will also be charged with making sure that all the technical pieces of Uber Health’s services fit the clinical needs of providers and riders. Before Uber he spent years working at insurers including upstart Bright Health and UnitedHealthcare, as well as at home health care company CareCentrix, and he said he aims to make “sure that we got the messaging right and that the great services that Uber Health is providing [are] understandable to the clinicians or the health plan folks on the other side of the table.”

Health systems scrap FaceTime for longer-term telehealth solutions

Hospitals and clinics that transitioned to virtual care almost overnight in 2020 are now ditching the myriad solutions they leaned on in the short-term — including consumer apps like FaceTime — in favor of much more comprehensive, expensive systems that can host scheduling, health records, and video and audio visits in one place.

They’re eager to simplify the experience for patients, but also hoping to integrate all their health IT into one single platform, executives tell STAT. And what they decide to buy could hint at the companies poised to win out in a multi-billion dollar virtual care market.

Some health systems, like Cleveland Clinic, have opted for Zoom visits, which link up to Epic’s patient portal MyChart. “ “We’re always asking ourselves: Does it make sense for us to do this on our own, or should we be partnering with one of these companies?” said Steven Shook, who leads virtual care for Cleveland Clinic.

…The rush to consolidate has led to some volatility for companies like Amwell, which have long sought to be health systems’ one-stop shop for telehealth, said CEO Roy Schoenberg. “It introduces significantly more movement of customers, inbound and outbound,” Schoenberg said. Mohana has the full story.

Not ready to quit smoking? Researchers think a game can change that

Most clinical trials for smoking interventions focus on people who’ve already said they’re ready to quit. But researchers say there’s a missed opportunity to engage people who say they aren’t there yet  — and a game might be the way to do it.

A recent clinical trial finds that people who said they weren’t ready to quit smoking were twice as likely to do so if they played a 3-week smoking abstinence game called Take a Break while also taking nicotine replacement therapy, compared to a group only on  nicotine replacement therapy. The three-week game included motivational messages, quizzes, goal-setting,and  apps for managing cravings. The study suggests that skill-building games could be an effective way to engage people who aren’t ready to quit, researchers wrote.

Akili plays the game

AKILI WANTS TO REACH A FAR BROADER MARKET WITH ITS TECH. ANOTHER INFUSION OF CASH COULD HELP.  (AKILI) 

Akili Interactive, which makes a video game to treat children with ADHD, plans to go public in a merger with Social Capital Suvretta Holdings Corp, a SPAC run by venture capitalist and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. The total value of the company, including investment, will be about $1 billion. Akili didn’t disclose any revenue or financial projections because it’s only just started to commercialize its treatment, EndeavorRx, which earned FDA clearance in 2020. The deal highlights the abundant optimism of SPAC founders who are willing to bet big on companies that have barely started making money.

CEO Eddie Martucci told Mario that the company will now have enough money to invest in marketing EndeavorRx and developing its broader pipeline. It anticipates the U.S. market for its ADHD treatment could be worth over $500 million by the end of the decade and that the total addressable market for its treatments for its technology across new indications and populations could reach 15 million people. (See the slide above for more of Akili’s calculus.) Lawton R. Burns, a professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, warns that such projections don’t reflect a company’s realistic potential. “You really ought to look at those numbers with a lot of skepticism,” he said. Mario has the whole story.

In other deals news:

  • Psychiatric care startup Talkiatry raised $17 million from Left Lane Capital to complete its $37 million Series A fundraising round. It also added Samson Walla, formerly of Uber, as vice president of operations.
  • Infermedica, which specializes in AI tools to evaluate patient symptoms, announced a $30 million Series B round led by One Peak Partners.

Former FDA leader turns startup advisor

Since departing FDA last year, former deputy commissioner Anand Shah has joined the boards of four startups, including his new role at digital therapeutics company Big Health, where he will advise the company on clinical and regulatory matters. Read Mario’s full interview with Shah here.

In other personnel news:

  • Maven Clinic, which provides virtual health care for women, appointed Alex Peahl as its first visiting scientist. Peahl is a professor and researcher at the University of Michigan’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  • Risa Greendlinger joined Freespira, which makes a digital treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, as a senior vice president of employer sales. Previously she was SVP of employer strategies at DTx company Happify Health.
  • Mandy Cohen, formerly North Carolina’s HHS Secretary, joined Aledade to lead its new health care services unit.

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