Step on Through: Healthcare’s “Digital Doorway”

Much of the significant recent merger activity in the healthcare sector is focusing renewed attention on the role of the pharmacy and the continued “retailization” of healthcare. Last month Flare Capital announced an investment in Aspen Health which will enable pharmacists to practice to their fullest potential. Now we are excited to announce Flare’s newest portfolio company higi, a company which will further position the pharmacy and other retail settings as the “front door” to one’s healthcare journey.

Higi has built a robust national network of over 11,000 smart health stations (as well as a host of robust mobile applications), which are within five miles of nearly 80% of all Americans, and capture a wide array of biometric data including blood pressure, pulse, weight as well as survey and demographic data. They are located across 14 retail partners (pharmacies, supermarkets covering more than 50 banners) as well as on corporate campuses and in community centers. Each week there are more than one million sessions across the network or 1.7 sessions per second. Since 2012, there have been more than 271 million tests completed on the network. In 2017, there were nearly 42 million blood pressure readings. Capturing these data outside of the hospital goes a long way to closing critical gaps in care. As the Chief Medical Officer of a leading academic medical center recently observed, such a network will meaningfully reduce the nearly 40% missed readings in his hospitals which directly impact coding.

Two weeks ago, Amazon announced the acquisition of PillPack for the rumored price of $1 billion, which directly led to the cumulative loss of $15 billion of market value for the stocks of drug chains and distributors. This transaction also renewed speculation about the evolution of the healthcare retail setting, and what other services could be provided in those environments. Clearly as novel care models emerge in non-traditional settings, the role of the retailer will be a particularly powerful one.

Underlying many of these M&A transactions is the desire to own the consumers healthcare journey while capturing timely and actionable clinical data which will make the ability to manage that individual more relevant and impactful. Higi clearly addresses both of these dimensions (as do many of the other Flare Capital portfolio companies such as Iora Health, Somatus, Bright Health to name a few of our value-based portfolio companies). Higi will “meet you where you are” as the platform is integrated with over 80 devices and mobile application platforms including leading EMR and pharmacy systems.

As with the PillPack acquisition, a similar phenomenon played out last year when Amazon acquired Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and the supermarket index traded off significantly, only to recover within a few months. Interestingly, Amazon has recently introduced 10% discounts to all Amazon Prime members who shop at the 460 Whole Foods stores coupled with aggressive two-hour delivery services in certain cities. This is in addition to new stocking fees Amazon is charging suppliers holding out the promise to them to access a much deeper pool of online Amazon customers. Expect to see aggressive cross-promotional activities and more sophisticated customer segmentation of the PillPack membership base as well.

There were several other considerations which made the higi investment particularly attractive. Sessions are free to the consumer, easy to use, available 24 hours a day, and as a senior executive at a major retailer shared with me, the “stations don’t judge.” All of higi’s strategic partners benefit. Providers can extend their reach into the communities they serve and the higi network is integrated seamlessly into their clinical workflows. Payors enjoy a level of unrivaled member engagement and activation, while capturing precious clinical data, often for members who have significant chronic conditions with dynamic dosing requirements. Healthcare brands also can engage members at critical “point-of-decision” moments and can utilize the network for end-to-end communication strategies. Ultimately, higi becomes a powerful virtual primary care network, and one that has the potential to also move share of the healthcare wallet.

higi.pdf

Additionally, the higi network has the potential to better inform and manage many of the social determinants confronting consumers. Robust survey capabilities and associated incentive programs are managed on the network. The ability to connect patients to relevant social and clinical providers is very compelling.

Consumer-centric approaches tend to win out as people simply vote with their feet. The higi network is meant to meet the consumers “wherever they are” and quite often they are at their local pharmacy or supermarket. This “digital doorway” has the great potential to influence many of the subsequent healthcare steps taken for what has been a historically challenging population to consistently engage and manage.

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