Oscar Health Raises $400 Million Private Equity Investment

Tech savvy insurance startup Oscar Health has closed a massive $400 million private equity investment based on a $2.7 billion valuation. The company added a full $1 billion to its value since September 2015, when it closed a $32 million investment from Google Capital on a $1.7 billion valuation. The new round was led by Fidelity, but included a laundry list of secondary investors including returning investors Google Capital, General Catalyst, Founders Fund, Lakestar, Khosla Ventures, and Thrive Capital. In total, Oscar has now raised $725 million since its 2013 launch.

Oscar launched offering insurance plans in New York during the 2013-2014 enrollment period. The company markets itself as a tech savvy option and targets a younger, generally healthier population. To attract these clients, Oscar offers free telehealth visits, free activity trackers, and no co-pay for preventative care visits and generic medications. Since launching, Oscar has expanded its territory to include California, New Jersey, and Texas. Oscar CEO Mario Schlosser notes that expanding into a new state costs the company around $20 million but confirms that the company plans to enter three to four new states per year to drive up its physical footprint and overall enrollment numbers.

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Crisis Text Line Releases De-Identified Dataset From 13 Million Conversations

New York-based startup Crisis Text Line announces that it will release a massive dataset containing de-identified text message conversations between its crisis counselors and users. The new dataset is comprised of 13 million text messages from users in crisis, representing one of the largest single sources of information on mental health and crisis available, rivaled only by a CDC survey on the same topic published every two years. Access to the text messages will be made freely available to researchers working across a multitude of fields to help improve understanding about mental health issues and the events that precipitate a crisis.

Crisis Text Line Releases De-Identified Dataset From 13 Million Conversations

Crisis Text Line is a spinoff from DoSomething.org, an organization focused on helping organize public service projects. While working on a teen outreach project within DoSomething, then CEO Nancy Lublin realized that while there were dozens of resources available to teens in crisis, there were no national text-based outreach programs aimed at anonymously connecting teens with crisis councilors over text. In response, Lublin handed over the reigns of DoSomething and launched Crisis Text Line to address the problem. Lublin piloted the service in Chicago and El Paso, TX and within four months crisis counselors had received texts from teens living in every area code in the country. Because the team was still in pilot mode, they did no marketing to promote the service. Early growth was entirely attributed to word of mouth among teens. In the two years since its launch, counselors have exchanged 13 million texts with users.

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Opternative Raises $6 Million Series A For Remote Eye Exams

Chicago-based digital health startup Opternative announces that it has raised a $6 million Series A funding round led by fellow Chicago business Jump Capital. The round also included participation from returning investors Corazon Capital and Tribeca Venture Partners, and adds NextGen Venture Partners and Pritzker Group Venture Capital as new investors. The fresh funds brings Opternative’s total disclosed funding to $9 million since its 2013 launch.

Opternative Raises $6 Million Series A For Remote Eye Exams

Opternative is building a business around the concept of moving traditional eye exams online. The market for online health services has substantiated itself over the last several years as telehealth vendors have carved out a new market in offering supplemental care options to patients willing to pay out of pocket for the added convenience of being seen without having to make an appointment or go to a doctor’s office. The world of eye care has only partially kept up with the expanded use of the Internet in care delivery. Over the last decade, online eyeglasses retailers like Zenni Optical, 1-800-Contacts, and $39 Dollar Glasses have established a strong online market, but these online shoppers were still required to go to a local ophthalmologist to get an eye exam and lens prescription. Opternative hopes to change this by offering online eye exams and prescriptions.

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IBM Watson Acquires Truven Health Analytics For $2.6 Billion

IBM announces that it will acquire Truven Health Analytics for $2.6 billion. Truven was previously owned by Veritas Capital, a private equity firm that acquired the company from Thomson Reuters in 2012 for $1.25 billion, renaming it Truven Health Analytics in the process. The deal will bring IBM new health-focused datasets, a staff of data scientists with healthcare experience, and 8,500 clients, including hospitals, health plans, employers, and life sciences companies. The acquisition marks the IBM Watson business unit’s fourth major acquisition since its 2015 formation. IBM has so far acquired Phytel, a population health management software vendor; Explorys, a health-focused data analytics vendor; Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging vendor; and now Truven. After the current deal closes, IBM will have spent over $4 billion seeding its Watson business unit with acquired companies.

IBM has largely approached its Watson project as one that it intends to build from the ground up. Engineers have been working on the analytical capabilities of the Watson supercomputer since work began on the project in 2007. In recent years, IBM has worked to find a home for Watson in a number of industries, but healthcare remains its primary focus. The technology became the underpinning of an entire business unit, and dozens of multi-year partnerships with prestigious hospitals were soon announced. These deals brought engineers together with clinicians to expose Watson to more medical data, and to train it to interpret the data correctly.

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Microsoft Partners With Novartis To Develop A Kinect-Based MS Assessment

Microsoft announces a new strategic partnership with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to co-develop a Kinect-based assessment tool that could be used to track patient symptoms and quantify whether certain multiple sclerosis treatments were having a positive effect. Novartis has been working on developing more consistent methods of measuring disease progress in MS patients for years, with little to show for its efforts thus far. The disease is well known for the unpredictable way that it progresses in patients. Two similar patients can often have entirely different experiences with the condition, with one losing mobility in a matter of years, while the other goes on to live a normal life with few debilitating symptoms.

Microsoft Partners With Novartis To Develop A Kinect-Based MS Assessment

Because MS often progresses over decades, doctors have developed a series of tests to objectively measure each patient’s symptoms and disease progress. Called the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite, the test is administered by a trained evaluator and attempts to objectively score a patient’s symptoms as they walk and perform various tasks using both their dominant and non-dominant hand. The test has been used with a fair degree of reliability by research organizations conducting clinical trials on MS thus far.

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Researchers Use Inter-rater Reliability Calculations To Propose mHealth App Review Standards

The digital health industry has largely balked at the idea of embracing a set of vendor neutral mobile health app standards, despite an overwhelming body of evidence showing that app stores are currently littered with clinically questionable health and wellness apps. The first attempt to introduce a neutral review process came from Happtique, a startup focused on creating a formulary of clinically vetted mobile health apps that doctors could trust and prescribe to patients. The startup ultimately failed for several reasons. First, it attempted to monetize by charging app developers to have their products reviewed, something most developers were not interested in paying money for, especially considering that Happtique was a new startup and its seal of approval carried no weight in the market. Second, Happtique’s own validation process was grossly inadequate. After publishing its long awaited formulary, the apps it had approved were almost immediately scrutinized by the digital health industry for a lack of security and clinically questionable content.

Researchers Use Inter-rater Reliability Calculations To Propose mHealth App Review Standards

Since Happtique’s fall, other organizations have stepped in to bring credibility to app stores. In England, the NHS is building its own app formulary that it hopes will help local doctors and patients steer clear of untrustworthy apps. Others in the industry question the need for ratings at all, such as Paul Sonnier, a digital health strategist who notes, “I continue to be amazed at the patronizing stance of those in the medical establishment who feel it’s their duty to say which apps are good or bad. They’re not rating gyms, fitness classes, or even personal fitness trainers, for example, so why the fixation with consumer digital health apps?”

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Ransomware Finds A Home In Healthcare

PwC named cybersecurity one if the top 10 issues facing the healthcare industry in 2016. These warnings stemmed from a series of high profile hacks in 2015 that led to hundreds of millions of patient records becoming exposed to cybercriminals. By the end of 2015, healthcare had the dubious distinction of being named the leading non-government source of data breaches, accounting for 22 percent of all data breaches during the year. According to a 10Fold Communications report, the top seven cyberattacks of 2015 alone resulted in the exposure of 193 million patient records.

Ransomware Finds A Home In Healthcare

While the year was a bad one for data security, 2015 headlines on the topic focused on the rise of hackers stealing patient information from massive databases, such as the January 2015 theft of 78 million patient records from insurer Anthem. Those kinds of attacks are expected to continue, but a new form of cyberattacks – ransomware attacks – is also making its presence known in healthcare.

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Apparel Companies Converge On The Fitness App Market

Asics announces that it has acquired fitness app Runkeeper for an undisclosed sum. The announcement was made by Runkeeper founder Jason Jacobs in a press release on Medium.  Run Keeper reports that data extracted from its Shoe Tracker feature, a component of its app that allows users to log the mileage of their running shoes, shows that Asics brand running shoes are by far the most popular brand in use by its users, suggesting that the two companies have a significant consumer overlap that will help strengthen brand loyalty.

Apparel Companies Converge On The Fitness App Market

The deal makes sense for both Runkeeper and Asics. The fitness app market has seen a great deal of exit activity lately as sports apparel companies race to build compelling digital health ecosystems. Nike walked away from its FuelBand fitness tracker line to focus its efforts more directly on building a digital platform for its apparel customers. Under Armour followed suit with a massive investment in several major fitness apps, including MyFitnessPal, which it acquired for $475 million, and Endomondo, which it acquired for $85 million. Adidas has also made its move in the digital health space, snapping up Runtastic and its 40 million active users for $275 million. While Asics declined to report the purchase price for Runkeeper, the app also boasts 40 million active users, just slightly less than MyFitnessPal’s 45 million active users at the time of its acquisition and on par with Runtastic’s user base, so the going rate for a digital health property like Runkeeper has been established and should be well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, making this a major exit in the market.

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