Amwell scores $194M, as telehealth business booms during coronavirus pandemic

This morning telehealth giant Amwell raised a whopping $194 million in a Series C funding. Allianz X and Takeda were among the participants this round. 

Amwell has a history of large funding rounds. In 2018 it raked it a cool $365.4 million in Series B funding, and in 2014 it raised $81 million.  

This latest funding news comes as telehealth gets its era in the spotlight, as providers and patients look for alternatives to in-person care due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“As we come out of covid there is going to be a newfound understanding of how digital plays a role in the fabric of healthcare. It is a new balance of physical vs digital,” Amwell President and CEO Dr. Roy Schoenberg, told MobiHealthNews last week. “With that comes that mature understanding that we are going to regularly care for our patients through telehealth. It is going to be part of the way our relationship happens.”

WHAT THEY DO 

Founded in 2006, Amwell is one of the largest telehealth companies in the U.S. Its offerings include virtual urgent care, pediatrics, telestroke, population health management, telepsychiatry and chronic disease management. 

It is able to work with health systems in order for them to create their own telehealth program that can integrate with the system’s EHR. Its markets also includes health plans, Medicare advantage plans, and employers. 

In mid-April, Amwell announced its new virtual-health offering geared towards small and medium physician practices with less than 100 providers.

Clinicians using the platform, dubbed Amwell Private Practice, will be able to begin scheduling virtual appointments for their existing patients. Amwell also noted that the tool is currently available to these practices through June 30, with fully waived per-provider fees.

WHAT IT’S FOR 

The company plans to use the new money to help expand its technology and services and help providers scale. 

“The past two months have accelerated telehealth by more than two years,” Ido Schoenberg, CEO of Amwell, said in a statement. “We intend to build upon this momentum to transform healthcare with digital care-delivery. Our strategic investors are providers, insurers, consumer gateways and healthcare innovators. Each of these partners play[s] a key role in creating a more interconnected digital healthcare ecosystem, where our mission is to deliver greater access to more affordable, high quality care.”

THE LARGER TREND 

It’s no secret that during the coronavirus pandemic rates of telehealth usage have skyrocketed. Teladoc, one of Amwell’s biggest competitors, announced a major spike in demand in its first quarter. In its April earnings call it disclosed that its year-over-year revenue grew 41%, from $128.6 million in 2019 to $180.8 million in 2020. It also reported that total visits grew by 92%.

“You have a perfect storm that says we need to fend all people’s healthcare concerns somewhere else,” Schoenberg said. “So, telehealth sort of stepped in to become the aggregator or the destination where people went to. … That translated in a matter of days or maybe a week. … Somewhere in the middle of March to what we see today which is a sustained about thirty-fold increase in volume. This is not 30%, this is not 300%, this is 3,000% of growth and increase in telehealth.”

 

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Experts share what you need to know about COVID-19 as states reopen

As governments begin easing restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, public health and infectious disease experts from The University of Toledo are offering insight into what you need to know about the novel coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to protect others.

The virus is still here. We have to act accordingly.

While the number of newly confirmed cases in many states—including Ohio and Michigan—appears to have peaked, the virus hasn’t gone away or become less dangerous.

“We all yearn for the way life was in the pre-pandemic days, and we are going to get there, but this is going to be the situation for a while,” said Dr. Brian Fink, an epidemiologist and professor of public health. “We have to respect that and continue taking the same precautions.”

Though it’s tempting to see businesses reopening and leisure activities resuming and think the threat of the virus is behind us, Fink said the reality is the novel coronavirus is still spreading across the United States.

Take steps to protect your own health and the health of others.

“People do still need to be careful,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, an associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “One of the worst things that people could do at this point is go out and resume their normal behavior. We would certainly have a resurgence.”

Diligent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth, staying home if you’re sick, and social distancing should all continue, UToledo experts said. Individuals who are older or high-risk because of underlying health conditions should be more careful.

Fink said there are simple things you can do. For example, when shopping, avoid picking up an item and then putting it back, and keep your distance from other shoppers. It’s also important, he said, to make decisions based not only on your own risk, but the risk of those around you.

“It’s difficult. We all want to see our friends and family,” he said. “We just have to be patient. If we’re patient and we follow the guidelines as best as possible, we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later, even though that’s going to take time,” Fink said.

Wearing a cloth face covering does make a difference. Wear one if you’re around others.

The shifting guidance from public health officials on mask usage has caused confusion and pushback, but Hanrahan encourages people to wear a simple mask or cloth face covering when around other people.

“Two things are happening. The person wearing the mask is reducing the amount of stuff they’re putting in the environment, and they’re also reducing the amount they breath in,” she said. “It’s not going to prevent everything, but there is some protection.”

Hanrahan said face coverings, combined with continued social distancing and new measures being implemented by businesses, such as clear barriers at cash registers and limits on the number of people allowed in one place at one time, will reduce the overall risk.

Fink said its important people recognize things such as mask recommendations or requirements are being done for the benefit of everyone, not to target specific individuals.

“I always tell my students there are going to be people in the population who aren’t going to be happy. We’re seeing that,” Fink said. “But we’re putting these guidelines in place for the health and well-being of everyone.”

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable, but no one is immune to the illness.

As physicians and researchers learn more about COVID-19, there are also some troubling discoveries. Along with older Americans and those who have diabetes, compromised immune systems and chronic lung diseases, Hanrahan said doctors are finding people with morbid obesity and high blood pressure are at high risk of complications.

“Hypertension alone would not necessarily be thought of as a potential problem with a viral infection, but it actually is,” she said. “For people who have those conditions or other underlying medical conditions, they really need to think about whether it makes sense for them to go to the grocery store or be around a lot of other people.”

Additionally, there are an increasing number of reports of children developing a severe inflammatory response linked to COVID-19, even when they weren’t previously sick.

“COVID-19 is not just affecting people who are at high risk for complications,” Hanrahan said.

Scientists and physicians have learned a lot about the virus, but we’re still a long way from having routine treatments or a vaccine.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was completely unknown before it began spreading among people early this year. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research both in how the virus spreads and potential ways to treat or prevent it.

“We have learned a lot about this virus,” Hanrahan said. “Most of the spread really is by droplets, typically within a few feet of the person. The social isolation part, keeping six feet of distance, that does actually make a difference.”

Doctors also have a better idea how to manage the virus, and hundreds of drugs are being examined to potentially fight COVID-19 and its effects. Some, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, are showing promising early results. Progress also is being made in vaccine development.

However, while there is reason for hope, Hanrahan said it will take time to get any of these therapeutics in the quantities needed. Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, anticipates making a million courses of that drug globally by December.

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Data shows virus death risk twice as high for black Britons

Almost all ethnic minorities in Britain are at greater risk of dying with the coronavirus, and black men and black women are nearly twice as likely to die than white individuals, according to an analysis by the national statistics agency.

The Office of National Statistics looked at the virus-related deaths in England and Wales from March 2 to April 10. Since ethnicity and race are not recorded on death certificates, researchers linked the mortality information to 2011 census data.

The analysis found that along with black Britons, people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicity have a significantly heightened risk of COVID-19-related death compared with those who identified themselves as white.

After adjusting for factors such as age, social-economic background, health and disability, the study showed that black people were 1.9 times more likely to die with the coronavirus than whites in Britain, while Bangladeshi and Pakistani men were 1.8 times more likely to die than white males.

The Office of National Statistics said ethnic Chinese and those of mixed ethnicity have risks for virus-related deaths similar to white people.

The office said that a substantial part of the variation among ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality can be explained by socioeconomic factors, noting that “other causes are still to be identified.”

The report’s authors said their model did not include some potentially relevant social-economic characteristics, such as employment. Bangladeshi and Pakistani individuals are more likely to work in public transit than any other ethnic group, and are therefore at higher risk of infection, they said.

The findings echoed data from England’s National Health Service and other studies. The British Medical Association says 90% of the doctors who died after becoming infected with the coronavirus belonged to ethnic minority groups.

In a statement issued Thursday, the medical association agreed with the statistics office that the analysis left “an unexplained part of the difference in mortality rates that needs more detailed investigation.

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