Apologies for publishing our annual recap of the JP Morgan Healthcare conference late but the writer of this post came down with a nasty cold. . . . might have come from all those hands shaken out in San Fran!
This month we attended the JP Morgan Healthcare conference—one of the biggest events of the year for the health care industry. It’s an unusual chance to get 20,000 industry leaders from the healthcare sector together to talk about what they’ve got in the works and where they see the future of healthcare going.
We love JPM as it is a great time to reflect on our work. And we thought we would share with you (as we did last year) our top take-aways from JPM 2014:
1. Healthcare IT and tech-enabled services have stepped out of the biotech shadow
For the first time in ten years of attending the conference, opportunities in digital health seemed to generate as much VC/investor interest as life sciences. The Wall Street Journal had a great blog about this trend (http://on.wsj.com/1js33My). And the data supports it as well: last year $2.7 billion was invested in digital health and healthcare services – up 39% over the previous year – making it one of the highest growth sectors for venture investment.
2. And the winner of the “The “buzz phrase” of the conference award was . . . drum roll please . . .
POPULATION HEALTH MANAGEMENT!
By an overwhelming tally, we heard the phrase “population health management” uttered 43 times by different people we met with. PHM is a hot space these days given the move to coordinated care. But with over 100 companies claiming to have some sort of PHM product, a clear winner has yet to emerge.
Btw, the runners-up for “buzz phrase of the conference” were (in no particular order): analytics, care coordination, and patient engagement.
3. The new strategics
In BVP’s 25 years of investing in health IT and services, Hearst Corporation never made our list of potential acquirers. But last year, Hearst made a statement with the acquisition of HomeCareHomebase (at a price tag rumored to be north of $600m) and its acquisitions of Milliman Care Guidelines and Zynx Health. Hearst is not alone. IBM, Salesforce, Roper, and many others have ventured into healthcare this past year, not to mention the likes of Qualcomm and Google which boast very active venture funds focused on digital health.
4. Best of breed flourishes but when will consolidation come?
BVP believes SaaS solutions have the power to transform verticals with industry specific software solutions. Healthcare is no exception (see our previous blogpost here – http://bit.ly/1eJzt0V). In many ways, it feels like 2013 was the year for “best of breed” SaaS software in healthcare with investments announced in DocuTap, Modernizing Medicine, Sigmacare, CareCloud, etc.
The acquisition of HomeCareHomebase was the first big win but many other companies (PointClickCare, Kinnser, and so on) paint a rosy picture for the future. Our own portfolio company, DocuTAP, the leading HCIT solution for urgent care providers, had a very impressive year. And we at BVP are hungry to make more vertical healthcare software investments in 2014 and beyond. (If you might be a candidate, call us!)
We are in the early innings of the healthcare IT revolution but it will be interesting to see whether it is at JPM 2015, 2016 or 2020 that talk of consolidation of these best of breed solutions becomes the “buzz phrase of the conference”.
5. Show me the money!
JPM is a great time to meet with strategics in the sector. BVP met with a large number of the leading HCIT vendors. We were surprised to hear that many of these vendors are focusing much more on revenue cycle initiatives than we expected. The reason: the drive towards meaningful use (thanks HITECH act!) has led to high adoption rates of EMRs over the past five years. As a result, the EMR market is now more about replacement than greenfield sales which, by definition, is harder – especially now that incentives are fading away! So where do the HCIT vendors turn to for growth? Upselling RCM services to their installed base. To quote Puff Daddy: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby!”
6. Athena: the anti-Epic
Epic is one of the most amazing businesses in America and the most powerful private HCIT company in existence, hands down. Judy Faulkner has built something truly impressive–with one exception: Epic has the characteristics of a “closed system” (i.e., it has been difficult for developers to write applications on top of its platform without their blessing).
BVP believes deeply in the trend of “developer democratization” (see here for more on our views – http://bit.ly/1aOFuZE). In this important regard, Athena is the anti-Epic in the market. What they are doing to “open up” their platform to developers is a huge step forward for the industry and, over the long term, a very strategic move for the company (see more here – http://bit.ly/1auM3mv). Kudos to @Jonathan_Bush and his team for the leading the HCIT industry into the 21st century.
7. The cloud is coming. Slowly.
Speaking of 21st century technology design principles . . .
It’s astonishing to us that so many of the large healthcare IT vendors we met with still provide “on premise” software solutions. Historically, this was blamed on a lack of customer demand for cloud solutions, specifically among large health systems fearful of PHI. But, now that there is greater comfort with the cloud, strategics are working to re-architect their platforms. We’re hearing that this process is slower and even more painful than they’d anticipated. While it’s a reminder that IT in healthcare is typically a half to a full decade behind other modernized industries, VCs like us see it as an opportunity for innovative, venture stage cloud companies to disrupt the industry in a much needed way! (If you fit the bill, call us!)
8. 2014 could be a bellwether year for HCIT IPOs**
2013 featured the successful IPOs of two HCIT companies – Veeva (still valued at ~$4B despite trading down) and BenefitFocus (valued currently at ~$1.8B). 2014 could be another strong year with rumors of potential IPOs for Castlight, PointClickCare, ZocDoc, and others.
**caveat emptor: if the bull markets hold of course!
9. Finally, let’s end with some fun stats from our week in SF:
# of meetings over the course of 5 days – 65 (An average of 13 meetings per day!)
# of hand shaken – 945 between the two of us – thank you to our friends (Mo and Christine) at NEA for supplying enough Purell to keep the hands sanitized. Unfortunately, one of us was a bit too casual with the regimen!
# of cups of coffee – significantly more than the surgeon general recommends
# of times an entrepreneur drank prosecco while pitching us . . . at 1pm in the afternoon!: 1 – Hey, if it helped with their nerves, then good for them! It was a first for the both of us, but made for a fun meeting. If you are curious what we were drinking, Ambar had water and I ordered a latte.
On that note, here’s a digital toast to a great 2014!