Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (28 May 2021)

Trends in physician-industry engagement; Grand Rounds get inclusive; Noom and Akili swallow big investments; Medtronic sweetens diabetes biz; Amazon’s rumoured etail-to-retail aspirations.

The doctor will see you now: physician-industry engagement at 12-month high 

Just as in-person interaction between physicians and their patients have improved since the pandemic took hold a year ago, physicians are also opening up to more face-to-face meetings with industry sales reps and medical science liaisons. The latest edition of our physician-pharma industry engagement survey, fielded to nearly 1000 physicians, found a significant jump in the volume of face-to-face interactions between physicians and industry pharma sales reps at the end of April compared to results from our May 2020 survey. Driving this increase are oncologists, who had the highest average number of face-to-face, as well as remote, interactions with industry reps. However, these levels are still not close to what were seen prior to the pandemic - when do our respondents expect normality to resume?

For more details of our results, see Physician Views: Doctors ramp up face-to-face engagement with industry and Physician Views: Oncologists remain most engaged with industry - remotely and in-person

Grand Rounds Health/Doctor On Demand spots whole-care growth in LGBTQ+ 

M&A deal of the week goes to the acquisition of Included Health by integrated virtual care provider, Grand Rounds Health and Doctor On Demand, who have themselves just merged. Included Health was the first to provide a comprehensive health resource for the LGBTQ+ community where significant health disparities exist due to discrimination. The company’s clients include several Fortune 100 employers and it has established market leadership in LGBTQ+ healthcare navigation. For our analysis on why this was an astute move by Grand Rounds Health/Doctor On Demand, see Wider Views: Grand Rounds Health, Doctor On Demand take inclusivity tact to differentiate.

Noom, Akili see coffers balloon

Noom’s $540 million growth equity round was this week’s biggest fundraise, as the company best known for its digital weight management programme reached a near $4 billion-valuation. It welcomed new financial backers including Silver Lake, who led the round and brings its long experience as a Silicon Valley investor in consumer-oriented tech. Noom’s other new investors, Oak HC/FT and Novo, also have expertise and the right connections to help the firm accelerate its expansion beyond obesity [see related analysis, Wider View: Noom supersizes as heavyweight investors come on board]. Following close on Noom’s heels is Akili Interactive Labs, who added $160 million in new capital to its coffers. The company is also looking to move into new indications for its game-based digital therapeutic platform, while continuing to widen the reach of its flagship product EndeavorRx for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

Medtronic sweetens diabetes offering - and top-line

Medtronic looks to be turning around its diabetes business, as it reported 14% increase in fiscal fourth quarter revenue at $647 million. The growth was driven by its MiniMed 780g insulin pump system recently introduced  in international markets, and its MiniMed 770G system in the US. Continuous glucose monitoring sales also improved, and this performance could be further buoyed by its latest generation Guardian 4 sensor which was just CE-marked this week. 

Is Amazon Pharmacy heading to the brick-and-mortar market?

Shares of retail pharmacy giants Rite Aid and Walgreens took a knock from speculation that Amazon might be mulling a move into their terrain. A Business Insider report noted that the e-tail giant, which has an online Amazon Pharmacy business, is in discussions about establishing a physical pharmacy presence in the US. There has been no confirmation, but analysts believe that being a relative newcomer to the healthcare space, Amazon will still be playing catch-up to the likes of Rite Aid for some years. 

Other top healthtech news and insights:

One To Watch: Docbot’s “spellcheck for colonoscopies” gets more Khosla backing

Physician Views: How prevalent is mental health in a post-COVID digital cancer care strategy?

PicnicHealth, Komodo combine data to support research for complex illnesses

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