The digital health diagnosis at JP Morgan Conference

The JP Morgan Health Conference was a great week in regards to meetings in the digital health and biotech ecosystem. As mentioned in Modern Healthcare, it’s the week where one can make enough contacts to hold over for a year! Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like for the rest of the quarter. 

Spent some of mine at the adjacent Startup Health Festival, side events, corporate meetings and receptions. A two day festival, it was a great atmosphere – a mixture of startups at various stages, corporates, VCs and industry leaders. 

The theme was moonshot which is very timely and it was pretty clear. Google Health’s VP David Feinberg reinforced on the main stage that theme in a talk where he discussed the formation of Google Health, a trinity of Deepmind, Google Brain, Nest Home (health features). He spent some time talking about the positive relationship between creatinine and cardiac rehabilitation, partnering with the VA and correcting the misinformation around the Ascension Health project. 

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Meanwhile in the connect lounge, I moved swiftly from each 20 minutes meeting (think musical chairs), from one founder/CEO to another with market traction from clinical products such as AI nursing assistants, diabetes prevention programs, remote monitoring and med device safety analytics. I soon realized how difficult it must be in a maturing digital health market for founders to show differentiation. 

There was a dearth of products targeting the operational side of healthcare (a dark horse) such as billing, claims and back end operations for payers and large health systems. On reflection, this made sense as the JP Morgan conference as a whole leans more pharma R&D drug discovery and biotech. As machine learning applications in health care solve pharma issues around clinical trials, personalized medicine and patient therapeutic interventions, the lines are beginning to blur with digital health and market access concerns. 

Examples of Integrated B2B Marketing in Digital Health

Digital health investments continues to grow. Funding reached an impressive $8.1B in 2018, an increase of 42% from 2017 according to a Rock Health year end report with average deal size at $21.9M.

While that is the case, what is particularly interesting is the new wave of partnerships involving traditional health care incumbents and digital health disruptors across the entire B2B2C health ecosystem.  This makes sense considering the time to market for digital health disruptors (new entrants) to launch, go to market and prove clinical validation. However it’s not always new entrants looking to tap into a large customer base (ie access to Insurance members), sometimes it is the opposite – incumbents (particularly Big Pharma) looking to tap into digital health subscribers and a formidable new marketing channel.

Below are three examples of such partnerships which essentially are integrated product marketing plays designed to tap into large consumer segments.

  1. Castlight Health (Digital Health Disruptor) and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (Insurer).  
    • According to this press release, Castlight Health and Anthem developed Engage which is an information portal for insurance members. First and foremost, it offers access to information on all of the doctors and hospitals  in a member’s network. In the offering is online guidance and support on health  care questions, after-hours health care support and advice on out of pocket costs for lab tests, procedures and prescription drugs. Engage launched in 2018 to Anthem’s ASO accounts (self insured large accounts) and already has over 20 large employers on the platform.
  2. American Well (Digital Health Disruptor) and Philips (Medical Devices)
    • Philips is leveraging American Well’s expertise in telehealth to offer consults to it’s product users. According to this press release, the relationship now in progress starts with offering the telehealth consults directly on Philips Avent uGrow parenting app which provides parents advice on monitoring their baby’s development for more than 12 million subscribers. Available on both ios and and android devices, a key feature of the partnership with Philips uGrow is letting parents share data  and receive personalized advice from/to healthcare professionals such as a pediatrician via American Well online or via mobile phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  3. 23andMe (Biotech Disruptor) and GlaxoSmithKline (Pharma)
    • Genetics-testing company 23andMe partnered with pharma company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to use subscribers DNA data to develop medical treatments according to this press releaseUnder the deal, GSK and 23andMe enters into a four-year collaboration under which GSK will become 23andMe’s exclusive collaborator for drug target discovery programs. The companies will use 23andMe’s database of more than 5 million customer genetics data to explore drug discovery and targets for development.