As digital health companies mature, they’re bundling together more services for employers. One example: the massive merger between Grand Rounds and Doctor on Demand in March brought together patient navigation and telehealth.
Since then, the combined company has bought Included Health, a startup focused on connecting LGBTQ+ people to affirming, in-network providers. It’s also taking on Included Health’s name for the entire business.
“This idea of inclusion and making sure healthcare works for everyone was a big part of what we were trying to do,” Doctor on Demand President Robin Glass told MedCity News in a phone interview. “There’s been a lot of subtraction in healthcare, a lot of taking things away, breaking up the healthcare system into these fragmented pieces, and it’s resulted in something that all of us can relate to which is that it’s just really hard to get the healthcare you need. … We’re saying we’re going to bring healthcare back together and we’re going to bring it around you as a patient.”
A big part of the integration between the three companies is making sure people can access the service from a number of points. For example, it could be anything from asking basic questions about where to go for care, or how much that care would cost, to parents calling when their kid is sick in the middle of the night, or starting therapy.
All three work with employers to offer their services as a covered benefit. So far, companies’ response to the merger has been, “very strong, better than I would have predicted,” Glass said.
In the last year-and-a-half, benefit managers have been looking for resources to support their employees’ physical and mental health.
“It’s been a lot for companies. They are ready for an offering like ours where all of that is included,” she said. “They don’t necessarily have to partner with 10 different vendors to offer something to their employee population.”
Taking on the competition
Other digital health companies have also taken note of this, bringing together more services to better compete. It started last year with the $18.5 billion merger between Livongo and Teladoc, and has since manifested in a string of competitors looking to round out their services.
Glass said Included Health has three ingredients that set it apart from the rest: its technology, that it employs clinicians rather than hiring them as contractors, and its health outcomes.
For instance, she said, if a patient engages with the platform in multiple different ways, all of that data is stitched together so that person doesn’t have to explain themself every time they interact with the company.
“There are multiple companies out there stitching together some version of a digital health platform,” she said. “A lot of them are not integrating the offering in the same way that we are so we have all the data in one place.”
So far, Included Health has touted a 35% reduction in costs for members with at least one virtual primary care visit, and a 63% reduction in PHQ-9 depression scores for behavioral health patients.
Going forward, Glass hopes to see more of an emphasis on outcomes.
“There are a lot of digital health companies out there,” she said. “Everyone’s using similar words to talk about themselves. but rubber is going to meet the road when we talk about the outcomes of what we offer.”
Some of the combined company’s next steps will be to expand more into specialty care, and integrate with more brick-and-mortar care settings. Glass also hinted at plans to bring care into people’s homes.
The company is also building on the work Included Health did to bring better care to LGBTQ+ patients, and extend that model to other communities. Glass said the company is working with six large employers on a project to better understand disparities Black patients face in the current healthcare system, with plans to build a clinical offering that addresses this.
“The notion of really serving individuals in a way that feels personalized and customized to their lived experience will continue to be a big area of focus for us,” she said.
Photo credit: mucahiddin, Getty Images
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