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Key Takeaways | What the Money Thinks: Investing in Innovative Care Delivery

During this session, digital health investors and finance experts discussed the trends they are watching in today’s market. The group also shared ideas on how companies can stand out from their competitors in the bid for limited investor dollars, and the role of venture capital and venture capital-backed companies in solving today’s healthcare challenges.

Session panelists:

  • Bill Evans, Founder and General Partner, Rock Health
  • Anna Fagin, Principal, Town Hall Ventures
  • Adam Heller, Managing Director, Healthcare Investment Banking, Ziegler Healthcare Investment Banking
  • Fazeela Abdul Rashid, Partner, Revolution Growth
  • Moderator: Dale Van Demark, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery

Top takeaways included:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital health, and while digital healthcare delivery is here to stay, some correction in the market is expected. While the healthcare system was moving towards digital health due to technological advances, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated patients’ and providers’ wiliness to utilize technology. This increased utilization has provided tangible evidence that digital health solutions have real efficacy, clinical quality, and can help lower costs and bring better, more efficient outcomes. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic distorted the market, as providers had no choice but to supply care virtually, and there was abundant capital for startups. As the pandemic unwinds and the market tightens, the panelists expect to see correction in the market.
  2. In this constrained capital market, successful digital health companies are those that can demonstrate they are self-sustaining, able to be a long-term solution and can add value. Investment funds have been funneled towards operating and managing portfolio companies, with fewer new investments as a result. With this in mind, new entrepreneurs in the digital health ecosystem need to demonstrate that they can make a core, clear difference, adding true efficiency to the healthcare system and demonstrating where their value resides.
  3. Digital health tools can address inequities in the health care system—but not every solution addressing inequity is venture-backable. There is a tremendous opportunity for digital health tools to address inequity if founders and investors are willing to ask hard questions and commit to addressing inequity as part of their goals. Returns can be equipped by mission, rather than acting in conflict with the mission. However, not every business that can affect outcomes is designed for scale and is venture-backable. The panelists agreed that it is okay that not everything is venture-backable—there are many ways to fund a business and many issues in the healthcare system that require different stakeholders.
  4. For ventures that are looking for capital right now, focus on finding the right partners and demonstrating value. The panelists recognized that it is a difficult time for ventures that are looking for funding, but urged companies not to give up if they have something unique and visionary. Even in this market, the panelists agreed that finding the right partner is key—the relationship must work in both directions and align with the venture’s vision. The panelists also advised that successful ventures that will be those that can achieve early, [...]

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Key Takeaways | Playing the Long Game: Investor Outlook on Late-Stage Funding

During this session, panelists discussed what strategic and late-stage investors are looking for in today’s market, offered practical tips on how to make organizations attractive to investors, and described innovative funding arrangements for use during tough times.

Session panelists:

  • Julie Ebert, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank
  • Adam Kaye, Managing Director, Sixth Street
  • Noah Lewis, Managing Partner, Ardan Equity
  • Irem Rami, Principal, Norwest Venture Partners
  • Moderator: Thaddeus E. Chase, Jr., Partner, McDermott Will & Emery

Top takeaways included:

  1. The days of funding growth at all costs are over, particularly for late-stage businesses. Investors are looking for strong unit economics at the gross-margin level, proven return on investment, customer retention and product-market fit.
  2. Consolidation and other M&A activities may be the best plays for late-stage companies in this market. Investors are skeptical of soaring valuations and customers have been overwhelmed with point solutions over the last few years. Strategic and other late-stage investors are focused on consolidation opportunities.
  3. Companies should build for profitability, not for exit opportunities. For example, instead of launching with a national sales strategy, companies should focus on proving return on investment (ROI) in one or two markets before expanding, noting, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”
  4. Although investment activity has been slower over the past year, investments are expected to pick up again during the next 12 to 24 months. The panelists were most bullish on life sciences, followed by payor solutions, then provider solutions.

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Three Digital Health Trends Affecting Investors in 2021

Private equity deal volume hit a low in the first half of 2020 as the pandemic slowed the US and global economies. But toward the end of the year, deals began picking back up, particularly in the digital health space.

COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to shift from in-person to virtual care, and technology was the vehicle to make that switch possible. Investors noticed, and more deals focused on companies specializing in telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other technology platforms that facilitate communication among specialists.

Expect this trend to continue in 2021, and keep these three factors in mind when evaluating the digital health landscape.

Easing of Laws and Regulations Surrounding Telehealth and Digital Health

Both telehealth and digital health are highly regulated, as every state has laws and regulations that govern how care is provided virtually and how those services are billed. In response to the pandemic, we’ve seen flexibility with these laws and regulations, and the Biden administration has signaled that it might make some flexibilities permanent.

Investment opportunities will likely increase as a result of the Biden administration’s willingness to lower some of the longstanding barriers to coverage and payment for virtual services, including telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other related services. That’s a positive sign for firms looking at healthcare through the lens of a technology solution.

Reallocation of Resources Due to Vaccine Rollout

Since the onset of the pandemic, labs have conducted a huge volume of testing and have had to ramp up personnel and other resources. Plus, the vast majority of COVID-19 tests must be ordered by a physician or nurse, further straining available resources.

While testing will likely continue in some capacity for a long time, the number of tests will presumably decline steadily as more people are vaccinated. That means capacity will open up, both for healthcare providers who were ordering the tests and for lab companies that were performing them. As a result, firms should begin asking themselves:

  • Where are there opportunities to shift focus and resources previously devoted to testing?
  • What other conditions lend themselves to at-home testing?
  • Where can companies shift efforts that were previously focused on reviewing orders?

Addressing Mental Health and the Other Epidemic

COVID-19 obviously emerged as the foremost health emergency of the past year. But it’s important to remember that the United States is still in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic.

On top of that, COVID-19 has been hard on many people’s mental health. In response, many employers have made mental health a higher priority, and that trend is likely to continue, even as employees return to the workplace. In 2021, investors are likely to continue to emphasize digital health tools and service offerings that are focused on mindfulness and behavior health.

To learn more from Lisa and other thought leaders about the healthcare investing landscape heading into 2021, you can view a recording of The Deal’s webinar here.

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Digital Health: An Improving Environment for Investors

The integration of technology into health care delivery is exploding throughout the health industry landscape. Commentators speculating on the implications of the information revolution’s penetration of the health care industry envision delivery models rivaling those imagined by celebrated science fiction authors, and claim that the integration of information technology into even the most basic health care delivery functions can reduce cost, increase access, improve quality and, in some instances, fundamentally change the way health care is delivered.

These visions are difficult to refute in the abstract; the technology exists or is being developed to achieve what just a few years ago seemed the idle speculation of futurists. But delivering this vision in an industry as regulated as health care is significantly harder than it may seem. While digital health models have existed for many years, the regulatory and reimbursement environment have stifled their evolution into fully integrated components of the health care delivery system.


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