Welcome to Digital Health Briefing, the newsletter providing the latest news, data, and insight on how digital technology is disrupting the healthcare ecosystem, produced by Business Insider Intelligence.
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FRENCH STARTUP INSURER TARGETS GAPS LEFT BY LARGER INSURERS: Alan, a French health insurance startup, raised $28 million in its most recent funding round, according to TechCrunch. The company offers software-as-a-service insurance with a one-size-fits-all approach to pricing. Alan plans to use the funding to grow its staff from 22 to 80 by December 2018. Alan has aims to reach €100 million ($124 million) in recurring as soon as possible.
For the moment, Alan is targeting smaller companies in France. This is partly because smaller companies are underserved by big insurance companies, and partly because it’s easier to convince smaller companies to switch insurers. The service covers 850 companies in France, amounting to around 7,000 employees. Alan plans to expand beyond France to take advantage of additional opportunities in Europe.
A key to the insurer’s growth is its simple, transparent interface and one-size fits all pricing model:
- The cost of covering an employee and their family with Alan is the same no matter what type of company. However, it does rise for older employees.
- The online dashboard — available on the web and mobile app — allows users to control and view all their health expenses.
- Moreover, Alan allows its customers to integrate life insurance coverage from CNP Assurances into the same interface — CNP Assurances is one of Alan’s investors.
Rising healthcare coverage costs is making service-based insurers, such as Alan, or Oscar Health and Clover Health in the US, very attractive to employers. Globally, medical benefit costs are accelerating, estimated to have grown almost 8% in 2017, up from 7.3% in 2016, according to Willis Towers Watson. And while growth is slower in Europe compared to the US, it’s still higher than overall inflation growth. Services that provide employers transparency in costs and offer an easy-to-use interface will continue to see growth at the expense of larger legacy insurers.
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GENOMICS PLATFORM WADES INTO CLINICAL TESTING: Helix, a personal genomics company, announced two partnerships last week that further expand the company’s offerings to include clinical services on top of its direct-to-consumer products, according to Genomeweb.
- PerkinElmer, a medtech company, offers a product that analyses 59 genes that deal with a range of issues, such as allergies to common anesthetics and the BRCA gene, which is associated with high risks for certain types of cancer.
- Northshore University Health System’s test looks for prostate cancer risks. The offering is already used within the health system for its patients.
Helix differentiates itself from most consumer genetic firms because it doesn’t develop actual tests. Rather, the firm developed a marketplace for other genomics companies to sell their services. After Helix collects and sequences a user’s DNA sample, it then stores that data so a user can share their data with genetic test companies. Users can pick different products, such as National Geographic’s genetic test, straight from the marketplace without the hassle of having to provide a whole new saliva sample.
For PerkinElmer and Northshore, Helix expands the reach of their respective tests. The marketplace, which currently includes 35 products, is expected to more than double its offerings by the end of 2018. Helix is likely hoping to capitalize on a significant opportunity — the global direct-to-consumer genetic testing market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20%, from $117 million in 2017 $611 million by 2026, according to Credence Research.
AUSTRALIA LAUNCHES DIGITAL HEALTH RESEARCH CENTER: Eighty organizations and 16 universities formed the Digital Health Cooperative Research Center (CRC) last week, with the aim of applying research and technology to improve healthcare, according to OpenGov. The CRC will investigate four primary areas: enabling information discovery and application, identifying and managing health risk, promoting better value, quality, access, and safety in health, and empowering consumers and incentivizing positive health behavior. The Australian government has committed AUD$55 million ($43 million) over seven years for the Digital Health CRC. The group represents a growing interest in digital health within Australia, in part driven by concern for the rising cost of healthcare. Health expenditures already account for 10% of the country’s GDP, with some concerned that this number will balloon along with the aging population. The Digital Health CRC believes it can save the Australian healthcare system around AUD$1.8 billion ($1.4 billion) per year.
IN OTHER NEWS:
- Surgeons from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have performed a double surgery on a cancer patient using the da Vinci Xi robotic console, according to Digital Health. The technology provides a much more precise surgery, resulting in less trauma to the patient. This can help improve patient recovery time.
- Banner Health will pay the US government $18 million to settle false claims allegations, according to The Department of Justice. Twelve of the health system’s hospitals based in either Arizona or Colorado knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare by admitting patients who could have been treated on a less costly outpatient basis.