Despite a historically devastating year for post-acute and long-term care, a major tech player in the behavioral health space sees incredible opportunity in expanding its reach into the sector — particularly as the pandemic continues to illustrate the yawning gaps in the overall health care continuum.
The Louisville, Ky.-based Appriss last month made a major splash in the skilled nursing tech space when it acquired PatientPing, makers of software that tracks patients as they pass from the hospital to various post-acute providers, for a reported $500 million.
The move instantly thrust Appriss Health, which has generally focused on the behavioral health and pharmacy management segments, into the center of the rapidly expanding world of nursing home tech.
While the sector has historically lagged behind virtually all other parts of the health care system in terms of technological advancement — with paper records and fax machines still the norm in many facilities — a bumper crop of companies aimed at dragging nursing homes into the 21st century has emerged in recent years.
Even before the pandemic, platforms designed to ease care coordination and potentially detect resident health issues through remote monitoring have attempted to break into the industry mainstream. The temporary elimination of restrictions on telehealth coverage during the pandemic has also opened the door for continued innovation around remote doctor visits, with most observers predicting that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will work to make at least a portion of the COVID-era flexibilities permanent.
PatientPing was one of the major success stories to emerge from that recent innovation drive, pulling down $60 million in Series C funding last June to bring its total raise to $100 million, with backing from Andreessen Horowitz and Google’s venture-capital arm.
The Boston-based company’s software looks to solve one of the most persistent problems in the PAC/LTC landscape: keeping track of patients after a hospital or skilled nursing discharge. With hospital and SNF reimbursement depending on reducing rehospitalizations, and unnecessary readmissions potentially harmful to frail older residents, a coordinated system could bring both clinical and financial benefits to operators of all stripes.
“We deliver the notifications to them so that they could coordinate with those providers that are seeing the patient in the ER, or the hospital, and just say: Hey, we’re the SNF that just recently was seeing that patient, and they’ve got these conditions, and you ought think about this for their care plan,” CEO Jay Desai told SNN last summer.
But Rob Cohen, president of Appriss Health, says his company’s decision to acquire PatientPing wasn’t a case of specifically deciding to go into post-acute — it’s more about eventually controlling a wider and wider swath of the health care landscape.
“This is about saying: ‘What are all of the areas we need to be able to be connected to, and all of the entities among whom we need to be able to collaborate care, to really take care of that whole person?'” Cohen told SNN this week.
With Appriss Health’s presence in behavioral, acute, and ambulatory health, post-acute was simply the logical next step for a health care software provider looking to grow its footprint with an eye toward person-centered care, according to Cohen.
The company — backed by private equity firms Clearlake Capital Group and Insight Partners — specifically pitches its services as a way to mitigate problems for patients receiving behavioral health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatments, such as detailed prescription histories and drug-dispensing monitoring.
But patients with behavioral and SUD issues aren’t immune to other health problems, and Cohen pointed to the increasing awareness of social determinants of health as a key reason behind expanding into PatientPing’s skilled nursing turf. If Appriss can help providers along the continuum of care stay on the same page, he reasons, they all have a better shot at improving the patient’s overall health.
In addition, as the payment models around post-acute care grow more complex, more and more parties demand information about the patients in the system, from managed care plans to accountable care organizations (ACOs).
“It’s about information, and it’s about collaboration, to ensure that the patients are being cared for using all the best available information — and allowing those clinicians to communicate and coordinate,” Cohen said.
Appriss isn’t the only tech company to place a major bet on the future of collaboration within the skilled nursing marketplace despite negative COVID-19 headlines and deep uncertainty about the future of patient preferences in the wake of the pandemic. PointClickCare, one of the largest electronic health record (EHR) players in SNFs, last December snapped up Collective Medical — another platform designed to smooth communication among post-acute providers and payers — for $650 million.
“The health care ecosystem is a mix of disconnected providers, systems, plans, processes, and data,” PointClickCare CEO Mike Wessinger said at the time. “Health care costs and risk are on the rise, while patient care and provider-to-provider coordination are inconsistent.”
For Appriss Health, the decision boiled down to the knowledge that in the atomized health care landscape, where each provider type exists in its own complex silo, even the most dominant player in a given sector will eventually run into the edge of a cliff when it comes time to hand a patient off farther down the line.
Given the increasing focus on patient-centered care, Appriss didn’t want to be in the position of finding a gap in the transition chain, Cohen said.
“The reason we did the deal … is the breadth of the network, and how we can take care of that person as a whole person,” he said.