Rock Health’s COO talks digital health funding, M&As and ‘Teladongo’

At HIMSS’ recent Accelerate Health event, Rock Health Chief Operating Officer Megan Zweig gave participants some insights on how digital health has behaved during the pandemic and the resulting volatile economy.

Rock Health statistics point to a record-breaking year. “We’ve already surpassed $7.5 million in funding and are on track for this year to be the biggest funding year yet in terms of U.S.-based digital health companies,” Zweig told the audience.

The easing of federal regulations governing Medicare payments for telehealth visits and what platforms are used for telehealth appointments has been helpful in driving the funding, and the transition to digital health tools.

“We’ve seen unprecedented action from the government to build the regulatory framework and policies to make these solutions available,” Zweig said. “Some of these policies will expire at the end of the public health emergency declaration, but CMS is proposing that many of these will stay in place.”

One of the biggest growth industries during the pandemic has been telemedicine. One estimate shows that at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 69 percent of all medical visits were happening via telehealth. That number was around 0.1 or 0.2 percent last year.

There has been a decrease in telehealth usage as patients begin to use in-person appointments again, but industry experts say that telehealth visits are never going to return to zero. “It’s unclear what it will be, but it will certainly be much greater than what we have seen in the past. The degree of change in demand and transformation is rare in any industry. Investors have taken notice, including us,” Zweig said.

Rock Health data shows that by the end of the second quarter of 2020, $5.4 billion had been invested in digital health—and that was before the $18.5 billion “Teladongo” deal, in which Teladoc acquired chronic care management company Livongo.

That wasn’t the only big M&A deal of the year, with GRAIL’s re-acquisition by Illumina for $8 billion also nearing the top of the list.

Zweig also said that major retailers like Walmart and CVS are looking at models that utilize both their brick-and-mortar spaces and their consumer data, while other startups such as Hims integrate synchronous and asynchronous telemedicine with medication delivery. But there are still a lot more opportunities in the sector.

“We’re definitely moving from virtual care 1.0 to virtual care 2.0, and there will be many iterations of it,” Zweig said.

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