Health, Wellness & Biotech M&A

Welltok CEO Predicts Next Wave Of Digital Health M&A

Illustration of swiping smartphone for diagnosis-nursing shortage

Bob Fabbio believes digital health is ripe for M&A.

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The CEO at Denver-based Welltok, a data-driven, enterprise SaaS company enabling health care entities to connect consumers with personalized health improvement resources, has more than 30 years of experience in launching and running operating category-creating companies, including eRelevance and WhiteGlove Health.

He spoke to me about which areas of digital health may be next and what it means for the health care industry as well as his own company.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that digital health is white hot in the market, largely driven by COVID and the acceleration of organizations embracing digital resources that cater to consumers,” Fabbio said. “Consumers have gotten more sophisticated and that is only going to continue. I believe we are in the embryonic stages of the health care industry in catering to the consumer.”

He predicts one of the first areas to see consolidation is among the plethora of digital health products that broadly cater to wellness and managing population health.

“There will be more unification in that area because there are a lot of what I call ‘point solutions,’ which are pieces and parts of this and that, rather than products having a full comprehensive view,” Fabbio added.

He also expects telemedicine to have some unification now that it is acceptable for physicians to provide care over the phone or video. There was previously some friction about whether the insurance companies would pay a claim on telemedicine and if it was medically correct to treat patients that way.

In addition, he expects to see growth in the area of new devices coming online to monitor individuals. This is where he says Welltok will have an advantage.

“We have one of, if not the largest databases in health care today, including 275 million U.S. lives, thousands of data points on each individual and thousands of variables for what people might do in the future,” Fabbio said. “When you combine that with some predictive analytics, you can identify people who will, for example, leave a health care plan, will suffer anxiety related to the pandemic, and who won’t take their medications. Then we can bring the right resources to them.”

Fabbio also predicts that when there is a hot trend and path to liquidity, as well as lots of money involved, companies will position themselves in ways to take advantage, including going public.

Indeed, earlier this year, experts forecasted that digital health startups are likely to see continued opportunity, investment and initial public offerings in 2021 as people examine the way health care is delivered.

On the investment front, venture capitalists handed out record investment dollars to digital health startups in 2020: $14.2 billion globally and $9.2 billion domestically, according to Crunchbase data. Investments in 2021 are expected to rival 2020.

Already in 2021, 55 known investments totaling $1.3 billion have been made. Leading the pack is Hinge Health, a patient-centered digital clinic that treats chronic musculoskeletal conditions such as back and joint pain, which raised $300 million in Series D funding in early January.

As for those who might enter the public markets, the most recent example is health care insurance provider Oscar Health, which began trading on March 3. It’s shares closed Tuesday at $34.73.

Ann DeWitt, a general partner at The Engine, which invests in health care companies, and Priyanka Mitra, a principal at M12, which invests in software-related companies, predicted earlier this year that more digital companies will go public.

DeWitt told me at the time that any company raising a Series A round or later is ripe for an IPO. She was looking at Pear Therapeutics, which is focused on drug discovery and announced an $80 million Series D round in December led by SoftBank Vision Fund, as well as health care testing company Everlywell, which raised $75 million in secondary market funding in January.

Meanwhile, Mitra is predicting AI-based health care platform Babylon Health, valued at $2 billion post-money, and Devoted Health, also valued at $2 billion, which provide seniors with health care plans, to seek out the public markets. More of Mitra’s potential IPO candidates included Zocdoc, Tempus, Grand Rounds, Cityblock Health, Renew Health and Honor.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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