Analysis: Covid-19 Vaccines Provide Shot In Arm For Digital Health

After already seeing a surge in interest during the mandatory lockdowns, digital health providers are getting a second dose of growth from the vaccine roll-out.

By Yiqin Shen, Rachel Stone and Kyle LaHucik with analytics by Philip Segal

Digital health firms are raising more capital and have a better shot at going public as the U.S. starts to dole out Covid-19 vaccines in larger volumes each day.

With multiple vaccine options available — two-dose mRNA options from Pfizer PFE -0.7% and Moderna and now Johnson & Johnson’s JNJ -0.3% single-dose vaccine — people want to know when they are eligible, how to schedule an appointment and which vaccine to take, while providers are keen to find tools to engage with patients. President Joseph Biden has said he wants all American adults eligible to receive the vaccine by May 1.

Digital health and patient engagement companies are stepping up, launching new services to facilitate the process.

Funding activity by these companies has spiked in the past 12 months, from to private capital raises to initial public offerings and mergers with special purpose acquisition companies to access more capital.

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Digital Healthcare Fundraising Activity

Since March 2020, at least 15 digital health companies have raised growth capital that mentioned Covid-19 themes or pandemic-related growth in their press releases as a rationale for the raise, according to Mergermarket data.

Vaccine coordination is setting the stage for broader adoption of digital health, said Jeff Arnold, CEO, chairman and co-founder of Sharecare. The Atlanta-based company is one of the larger players in the digital health market and plans to go public through a merger with SPAC Falcon Capital Acquisition.

Sharecare offers a platform called MyVaccine that enables users to schedule their vaccination, receive a QR code to show at their appointment and get a digital vaccine card to prove they have been given a dose. Users can also track any side effects through the platform.

Florida and Georgia residents are using Sharecare’s platform, and the company is in conversations with “many more states,” Arnold said. Health systems and employers like transportation companies and grocers could also use the platform to manage patient and employee vaccination programs, he added.

Another healthcare technology player that promotes vaccine scheduling is New York-based Zocdoc. The company is addressing the challenge of a siloed system of 1,400 different practice-management systems that healthcare providers use to run their back-end calendars.

Mount Sinai, New York City’s largest academic medical system, was the first to implement its vaccine scheduler, scheduling more than 100 bookings a minute. The City of Chicago is also using Zocdoc.

Francisco Partners injected $150 million into Zocdoc in February to speed up growth.

Covid-19 is a “wake-up” call for healthcare providers and hospitals to adopt and invest in “virtual first” approaches, according to Conversa Health CEO Murray Brozinsky, who cited the pandemic as a catalyst for enterprise software providers.

The Portland, Oregon-based virtual care communications platform provider experienced sixfold growth in the past year, Brozinsky said. Since the onset of the pandemic, it launched a series of programs for organizations like UCSF Health and Northwell to provide check-ins with quarantined patients, deliver lab results, as well as screen employees, patients, and visitors. Its latest vaccine program allows hospitals to monitor patients before and after receiving vaccines.

Chicago-based Upfront Healthcare offers a communication and content platform called Care Traffic Control that allows providers to proactively engage with patients. For example, it helped DuPage Medical Group launch a text and email vaccine education campaign, sending customized messages based on individuals’ ages, health conditions, and occupations.

“There is a big problem right now around the equitable distribution of the vaccines,” said CEO Ben Albert. Upfront addresses the issue by providing a machine learning platform to assist providers in identifying eligible individuals across patient bases.

Upfront secured $11.5 million in Series B funding in November, while Conversa upsized its Series B to $20 million in January.

Yiqin Shen (yiqin.shen@acuris.com) is a senior reporter with Mergermarket and Dealreporter based in New York, covering the healthcare sector.

Rachel Stone (rachel.stone@acuris.com), based in Charlottesville, Virginia, covers fintech and technology for Mergermarket and Dealreporter.

Kyle LaHucik (kyle.lahucik@acuris.com) covers technology, media, telecom and digital health companies out of Mergermarket’s Chicago office.

Philip Segal (philip.segal@acuris.com) is head analyst for Mergermarket – Americas.

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