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HLTH Gives Digital Health Providers a Forum to Explore Growth

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   November 14, 2022

As the HLTH conference kicks into gear this week in Las Vegas, Thirty Madison President Michelle Carnahan explains how direct-to-consumer digital health companies are thriving, and how they may help create 'a different type of center of excellence.'

The popularity and growth of HLTH, taking place this week at The Venetian in Las Vegas, and CES 2023, which takes over Sin City for a week in January, point to the incredible growth of consumer-facing technology and healthcare. And the innovation arena is filled with companies that are using today's technology to deliver healthcare services directly to the consumer.

These companies, offering everything from primary care services to specialty and niche care, have changed not only how consumers look for an access care, but how healthcare organizations and payers are operating.

Among the companies standing out in this DTC market is Thirty Madison, which recently bolstered its platform through the acquisition of Nurx. It now offers a wide array of specialty healthcare services, including dermatology, allergy care, migraine treatment, hair loss, and sexual and reproductive health.

And while some view these companies as competitors to traditional healthcare providers and point out the deficiencies in direct-to-consumer care, Thirty Madison President Michelle Carnahan believes they serve a valuable role in healthcare delivery, filling in gaps and improving access to care and outcomes.

"We're offering a solution to what we've defined as healthcare's biggest opportunities," she says. "We've built a platform around a range of conditions and a continuum of severity. This is what we could call tailored healthcare."

Carnahan was scheduled to take part in a HLTH panel titled "The Vertical re-imagination of Health & Wellness" at 11 a.m. PST Monday at The Venetian.

Companies like Thirty Madison, Ro, Hims & Hers, and Maven operate on the strategy that they offer specialized services that fall outside the typical boundaries of a primary care practice, clinic or hospital. And while a lot of their marketing and outreach is focused on DTC channels, there is considerable value in partnering with health systems and payers to become a preferred provider.

"The one-stop shops in this space don’t really work," Carnahan says. "The thing we need to remember is that we aren't selling paper towels."

Thirty Madison, she says, set out to target chronic health concerns that are easy to diagnose, treat, and monitor—and which could be done in a virtual setting just as easily, if not easier than, a brick-and-mortar location like a doctor's office. They started with hair loss, then moved on to more complicated health issues like migraines.

"We scaled up slowly," she says. "It allowed us to test that care model carefully."

[See also: ATA Urges Clinicians to Take Charge, Own Virtual Care Innovation.]

DTC digital health companies usually market directly to the consumer, but they can also partner with health plans—often being included in a digital health formulary, or roster of preferred providers—and businesses with an eye on improving employee health and wellness.

Carnahan says companies like Thirty Madison aren't necessarily competing with primary care providers or health systems, but offer specialized, niche services that appeal to consumers.

"We don't want to exist in a vacuum in healthcare," she says. "We're out to set a new standard of care on behalf of the patient."

Carnahan says DTC digital health companies should partner more often with health systems, creating "a different type of center of excellence."

"We're firmly rooted in evidence-based medicine," she says. "Click-and-mortar would be our next step."

And that may be where health systems fit into the healthcare landscape of the future, operating alongside and in partnerships with DTC digital health companies that give consumers the option to seek virtual care or head over to the doctor's office, clinic or hospital. Such partnerships would also give DTC digital health companies some stability at a time when the market is so crowded.

Carnahan notes that the pandemic helped to elevate digital health, giving consumers more options to seek healthcare at home while allowing health systems to separate in-person services from virtual care. In addition, new players are entering the market, like Amazon and Google, offering new channels for DTC digital health to reach consumers.

"Scale is starting to mean something now," she says.

Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

HLTH, taking place this week in Las Vegas, is shining a spotlight on digital health as a key component to the changing healthcare landscape.

That landscape includes a wave of direct-to-consumer digital health companies that enable consumers to shop for healthcare services from home.

Michelle Carnahan, of Thirty Madison, says these companies can and should partner with health systems to effect healthcare transformation.


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