The news that shaped digital health in 2019
For our final wrap up of the decade, we’re bringing you a look at the news that shaped 2019. Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday—we’ll see you in January!
1. The digital health IPO drought (finally) came to a close
After three years of quiet on the IPO front, six digital health companies went public in 2019—starting with Change Healthcare in June; a July jubilee of Phreesia, Livongo, and Health Catalyst; and Peloton and Progyny following suit. Mega deals and capital concentration defined the year’s funding, with investment in behavioral health and women’s health companies on the rise.
2. With growth comes growing pains
The path to success and scale in healthcare isn’t an easy one. Clover Health cut tech staff to beef up its healthcare expertise, Ubiome filed for bankruptcy after investigations into its billing practices, Nurx was found to have cut corners in the name of growth, PatientsLikeMe was forced into a fire sale (and picked up by UnitedHealth Group), and Proteus’ funding qualms became a tough pill to swallow.
Direct-to-consumer telemedicine companies seemingly took digital health by storm this year—and the industry is still weighing “whether this convenience comes at the cost of lower-quality care.”
3. Big tech made a big splash—but still hasn’t conquered health
While Apple hasn’t made a move so drastic as acquiring Epic, the consumer tech titan continued to make headway on its strategy to democratize health information. We saw (mixed) results from the Apple Heart Study, the launch of new clinical studies using the Apple Watch, and an acquisition of Tueo Health for good measure.
Amazon’s joint venture with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway got a name—Haven—and details emerged about its plans to scale to the broader insurance market. A year after purchasing PillPack, the tech giant ran into a prescription data wall and got its first vote of confidence from an insurer. Along the way, Amazon bought Health Navigator, Alexa learned some new healthcare skills, and AWS became a virtual medical scribe.
Alphabet’s Google Health continued to gather its gaggle of health executives, scooping up Rob Califf, Karen DeSalvo, and others. As Google searches for ways to put AI to use in healthcare, it found itself at the center of a few patient data sharing controversies. The company also announced plans to purchase Fitbit for $2.1B—further stoking privacy and antitrust flames.
+ Google offered a peek at its new EHR documentation tool, while Microsoft’s HealthVault shut down in November.
4. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for pharma and digital health
Here are the pharma stories you clicked on most:
Why Bringing Tech Into Pharma Is So Hard
Building Pharma And Digital Therapeutic Alliances
Buzzy AI Startup Inks Drug Discovery Deal With Gilead
Verily Teams Up With Big Pharma On Clinical Trials
Novartis Cuts Commercialization Partnership With Pear
5. A look ahead to 2020
The outset of a new decade holds new promise for our sector—interoperability and information blocking rules will play out, CPT code changes will allow docs to bill for e-visits and remote patient monitoring, and Express Scripts’ digital health formulary will set the stage for widespread adoption of tools from companies like Omada, Livongo, and Propeller Health. We’ll also be watching what retailers have in store as Best Buy’s CEO eyes healthcare and CVS Health continues to roll out its HealthHUBs.
Rock Health made a slew of investments in impactful startups in 2019—and we look forward to meeting even more founders with bold ideas to change healthcare.
See you next year!