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Overheard at ViVE: Weight loss drugs, doctor's assistants set to transform care

Feb 29, 2024
Panelists on a panel about GLP-1s at ViVE 2024. From left to right: Yahoo Finance reporter Anjalee Khemlani, Vida Health's Joe Murad, Amwell's Cynthia Horner, Amazon's Vin Gupta, and Knownwell's Angela Fitch.

Credit: Axios reporter Erin Brodwin. Panelists including Vida Health's Joe Murad, Amwell's Cynthia Horner, Amazon's Vin Gupta, and Knownwell's Angela Fitch discuss GLP-1s at ViVE 2024.

The graffiti art-bedecked halls of the ViVE health care conference this week echoed with talk of GLP-1s, AI-powered doctor's assistants, and cybersecurity.

Why it matters: All three topics are poised to make big changes to the way health care is currently delivered.

What they're saying: Telehealth opportunities fueled by the GLP-1 explosion include long-term care coordination, healthy food delivery, drug discounts and pharmacy tech automation, several executives told Axios at the conference.

  • "Weight loss isn't transactional; it's long-term care," says SteadyMD COO Yarone Goren. "It's the hard mode of telehealth. It starts with lab work and it's a 6- to 12-month patient journey — it puts more demand on us."
  • "We see GLP-1s as a great forcing function; if you don't eat right on them, they don't work," said Instacart Health VP and GM Sarah Mastrorocco.
  • Instacart won't prescribe medications or offer coaching, but the grocery delivery company "can help make sure they're getting the right nutrition," Mastrorocco added.
  • GoodRx's business was once dominated by hypertension drugs. Now, "it's completely swapped for GLP-1s," with Ozempic leading the charge, said president and chief commercial officer Dorothy Gemmell.

Between the lines: Drugs for erectile dysfunction may have jump-started the first wave of telehealth by ushering in a short-term care relationship that saw companies such as Ro and Hims soar.

Yes, but: More complex GLP-1 medications including Wegovy and Ozempic require more complicated and comprehensive care, which could see a different set of providers benefit.

What we're watching: VC Vive Collective expects to back a pharmacy tech startup this year, as the GLP-1 frenzy increases demand for automation, VP Kathy Ku tells Axios.

  • "GLP-1s are huge right now and even before that, getting drugs to the right patients — that transition — a lot gets lost in that process ... prescribing, filling that first drug, and then refills," Ku said.

Transcription tool developers like Nuance, Nabla, Abridge and Suki were also all the rage at ViVE.

  • The core differences between the providers are around price — per-person, per-month costs heard at ViVE range from $200 to $650 — and rates of accuracy and latency.

Zoom in: Tampa General Hospital CIO Scott Arnold says physicians implementing tools from Microsoft-owned Nuance are excited — "and they don't normally get excited about these things," he adds. "The idea of shortening their day is attractive."

  • Most of Tampa General's providers sign into their EHR Epic around 6:00 am, sign off around 6:00 pm, then come back on an hour later and stay on until 10:00 or so.
  • "Then the next day they start over again," he said. "It's no way to live."

Follow the money: The hospital chose Nuance because of its deep existing relationship with Microsoft, Arnold said.

  • "It's a little bit more of a sure thing to us right now because of the closeness with the source of the tech, so we're going down that road for now, but that doesn't mean in the future we won't try others."

Friction point: The unprecedented cyberattack on Change Healthcare — still roiling operations at pharmacies and hospitals after 10 days — was the last emerging theme at ViVE.

The bottom line: Big changes — positive and negative — are coming for health care delivery, and the winners and losers are just beginning to shake out.

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