Amwell snaps up 2 digital health startups in $320M longitudinal, behavioral care bid – Healthcare Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Amwell is acquiring two digital health startups for a combined $320 million, adding longitudinal and behavioral care capabilities in a bid to boost offerings for its payer and provider clients in the increasingly competitive telehealth space, while expanding its global reach.
  • The Boston-based telemedicine giant is buying SilverCloud Health, which offers digital cognitive behavioral health programs, and Conversa Health, a text-based telehealth platform provider, in two transactions expected to close in the third quarter of this year.
  • The combined company will look to create new patient engagement programs looking to balance in-person and digital care, Amwell said, focusing in the areas of virtual care automation and patient companionship in its longitudinal care, behavioral health and other specialty and chronic care segments.

Dive Insight:

The addition of the digital mental health program and the automated virtual health provider is meant to expand Amwell’s ability to provide patient care between physician visits through interactive offerings, the Boston-based virtual care giant said Wednesday.

The acquisitions, which will be funded through a mixture of stock and cash, will also expand Amwell’s client base.

SilverCloud, which offers a range of behavioral health programs, is used by more than 300 organizations worldwide, including integrated giant Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth’s health services arm Optum and the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.

Similarly, Conversa clients include a range of systems, including Northwell Health, UCSF Health and UNC Health, which use its automated text-based conversations to support a variety of clinical needs, including pre-admission patient education to chronic care management to post-acute monitoring.

Currently, Amwell provides virtual care to more than 2,000 hospitals and 55 health plan partners. Adding SilverCloud specifically will help Amwell accelerate its global growth plans within the UK and Ireland, the vendor said.

Amwell estimates Conversa and SilverCloud will bring in an additional $15 million in revenue this year, and expects that to double in 2022.

To put that in context, the vendor brought in $245.3 million in revenue in 2020, so the snap-ups won’t result in a huge immediate boost for Amwell’s topline, but could be valuable strategic positioning for the future, analysts said.

Historic levels of consolidation in the red-hot digital health sector spurred by COVID-19 tailwinds are likely to only increase in the near term, even as tech behemoths like Amazon and Microsoft have aggressively entered the space. The market is highly fragmented, so providers are turning to M&A to become a one-stop​ shop for their clients and differentiate themselves from competitors.

And “for startups, this is a great opportunity to exit given the attractive valuations today,” Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting, said.

Amwell historically is less bullish on M&A than some of its peers, especially when compared to the largest U.S. vendor, Teladoc. Amwell has undergone just two major acquisitions since it was founded in 2006 — behavioral health provider Aligned Telehealth in 2019 and virtual care platform Avizia in 2018, both for undisclosed amounts — while Teladoc had two major acquisitions, of chronic care manager Livongo for $18.5 billion and provider-focused vendor InTouch Health for $150 million, last year alone.

Despite record levels of deals, investor interest and exits, even the biggest and oldest players in telehealth have yet to be profitable. And there’s significant uncertainty in the space as data shows telehealth visits flagged from historic levels in 2020 as COVID-19 cases fell early in the year.

However, McKinsey data suggests telehealth utilization has stabilized at 38 times pre-pandemic levels, and an eventual $250 billion of the country’s annual healthcare spend could be digitized if favorable trends persist. Additionally, a recent jump in COVID-19 infections due to the highly infectious delta variant could result in an upswing in telehealth visits, especially as some hospitals once again delay in-person elective procedures due to the threat.

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