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CEOs of CVS Health, Aetna say merger will offer new front door to healthcare

BY David Salazar

The heads of CVS Health and Aetna took to CNBC’s “The Squawk Box” Monday morning to outline how the two companies’ proposed $69 billion cash-and-stock merger will impact consumers. Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, said that its acquisition of the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer would create a new way for patients to access care — and plays to areas in which both companies were looking to bolster their positions.

“As [Aetna chairman and CEO] Mark [Bertolini] and I continued to have discussions in terms of ‘How can we do things more strategically?’ it was clear as CVS Health was moving to become more of a healthcare company and getting closer to payers, Mark had a similar strategy in terms of getting closer to the customer,” Merlo told CNBC. “It’s really the perfect time to bring these two companies together to create a new healthcare platform that can be easier to use and less expensive for consumers and really create a new front door to health in our country.”

Bertolini sees the merger as a way to offer a more tailored experience to Aetna's roughly 44.7 million members through Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health’s offerings from its roughly 9,700 retail pharmacy locations and roughly 1,100 MinuteClinic locations

Think of an idea where we have 10000 new front doors to the healthcare system, where people can walk in, they can ask for some help, get guided through the system,” Bertolini said. “We can make the insurance the back room of the operation, we can waive prior authorizations, we can waive copays as people use the system in a way that’s more effective so we can reduce costs. It’s simpler, it’s customized for the individual based on what they need and it’s cheaper.”

The companies’ post-merger plans include turning CVS Pharmacy locations into healthcare hubs where patients can seek guidance on their conditions, health coverage and prescription medications. Merlo said that if the deal goes through — the companies expect it to close in the second half of 2018 pending regulatory approval — its efforts to leverage both companies’ strengths would start immediately.

“Upon closing, there’s things that we’ll be able to do out of the gate,” Merlo said. “At the same time we’ll begin to pilot these concepts, we’ll learn from them, and I would expect within the next couple of years, you'll see a dramatic change in terms of the store not just being about products but also service offerings that can help people on their path to better health.”

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EverlyWell jumps the ‘Shark’

BY Seth Mendelson

“Shark Tank,” the hit ABC television series, is paying off for EverlyWell, an at-home health testing company. EverlyWell founder and CEO Julia Cheek accepted a $1 million line of credit in exchange for 5% equity on the show that aired Sunday, Nov. 26. It is the largest valuation deal for a solo female entrepreneur in “Shark Tank” history.

“You get one shot to tell your story to the sharks and to America.” Cheek said after the show. “We know that our brand and consumer education is incredibly important to our growth, so it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to pitch the sharks for an investment. This has been an incredible journey, and I’m grateful that we got our retail ‘start’ at GMDC’s Demo Day. We are eager for the next chapter in EverlyWell’s growth."

EverlyWell was first pitched in front of a retail executives audience during Global Market Development Center’s Retail Tomorrow “Demo Day” in 2016, then went on to win the Chair’s Choice Award during the 2017 GMDC Health Beauty Wellness Marketing Conference. The company offers a variety of at-home lab tests — including tests for food sensitivity, metabolism, sexually transmitted infections, ovarian reserves and others, some of which also offer a DNA analysis component. The results of the tests are delivered via the company’s secure platform.  

“We knew Julia and her innovative company was poised for incredible success when the startup presented at our inaugural Demo Day,” said Patrick Spear, president and CEO of GMDC. “And that success has been rewarded by this historic – and groundbreaking — ‘Shark Tank’ deal. The sky’s the limit for Julia and EverlyWell, and we are proud of the entrepreneurial accomplishments they are enjoying.”

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In a first for Apple, FDA clears EKG device for Apple Watch

BY Michael Johnsen

Mountain View, Calif.-based AliveCor on Thursday announced FDA clearance of KardiaBand in the U.S., allowing Apple Watch users to discreetly capture their EKG anytime, anywhere in order to quickly detect normal sinus heart rhythms and atrial fibrillation, the most common heart arrhythmia.

The first FDA-cleared medical device accessory for Apple Watch, KardiaBand can record an EKG in 30 seconds with just a touch of its integrated sensor. Results from the Kardia App are displayed on the face of Apple Watch.

"KardiaBand paired with SmartRhythm technology will be life-changing for people who are serious about heart health," stated Vic Gundotra, CEO, AliveCor. "These capabilities will allow people to easily and discreetly check their heart rhythms when they may be abnormal, capturing essential information to help doctors identify the issue and inform a clear path of care to help manage AFib, a leading cause of stroke, and other serious conditions."

AliveCor is also introducing SmartRhythm, a new feature within the Kardia app for Apple Watch. SmartRhythm uses artificial intelligence in concert with inputs from Apple Watch's heart rate and activity sensors to continuously evaluate the correlation between heart activity and physical activity. When SmartRhythm detects that heart rate and activity are out of sync, the device notifies users to capture an EKG with KardiaBand, or with KardiaMobile, AliveCor's popular, portable EKG reader.

Atrial Fibrillation, is the most common heart arrhythmia, and a leading cause of stroke. AFib affects more than 30 million people worldwide, and one in four people over the age of 40 are at risk for developing it. Millions of people around the world are unknowingly living with AFib. Yet, two out of three strokes are preventable when AFib is detected and treated appropriately.

"This is a paradigm shift for cardiac care as well as an important advance in healthcare," said Ronald Karlsberg, cardiologist and clinical professor of medicine, Cedars Sinai Heart Institute and David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA. "Today, EKGs are available only in offices and hospitals, using complex equipment, and usually only after a life threatening event, for example a stroke. With an EKG device on the wrist, AFib can be detected wherever the patient is, 24 hours a day. In randomized research trials, KardiaMobile, the first AliveCor EKG device, proved to be superior to routine care provided by physicians. Today, KardiaBand is a giant leap in personalized health care."

As a medtech leader, AliveCor uses advanced artificial intelligence, mobile, cloud and micro-electrode technology to change the dynamic in cardiac care. AliveCor empowers people worldwide to proactively manage heart health and to vastly improve the quality of care in the fight against heart disease. AliveCor's KardiaMobile and KardiaBand enable people and their care teams to easily, quickly and inexpensively detect and manage possible abnormal heart rhythms.

KardiaBand is available starting today for $199 and requires subscription to AliveCor's Premium service for $99 a year. The combined system includes SmartRhythm notifications on Apple Watch; unlimited EKG recordings; automatic detection of Atrial Fibrillation or normal sinus rhythm; the unlimited ability to send EKG readings to anyone via email; unlimited cloud history and reporting of all EKGs ever taken; weight and medication tracking; and a mailed monthly paper report on readings taken each calendar month.

 

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