The HLTH 2023 conference kicked off Sunday in sunny Las Vegas, where innovative companies from across healthcare will come together to share strategies, network and plot the industry’s future. Speakers and presenters this year include General Catalyst, CVS Health, Kroger Health, Amazon, Geisinger and many more.
Follow here for updates throughout the day on the latest happenings from the conference.
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10 p.m. CT: WeightWatchers CEO defends company’s telehealth GLP-1 direction
WeightWatchers’ push into telehealth and prescribing glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist, or GLP-1, medications represents a major shift for the company, CEO Sima Sistani acknowledged during a keynote address at HLTH. Sistani said the company had received mixed feedback on the new direction. But she offered no apologies about offering different weight-loss solutions, including injectable GLP-1 medications.
“There isn’t one way to take care of your weight health,” Sistani said. “By opening up new ways to manage weight health and combining medications with healthy habits, we can help more people access tools that actually work for them.”
In March, WeightWatchers acquired weight-loss telehealth provider Sequence for $106 million to offer users access to drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Trulicity. Sistani said that telehealth has allowed WeightWatchers to serve members who felt bias at the doctor’s office over their weight.
The popularity of GLP-1s has led to a growing number of weight-loss entrants in the virtual health industry, which has some traditional clinicians worried about the types of care being offered to patients via these platforms. Sistani said that while GLP-1 drugs have been intensely debated, they work very well and have high efficacy rates.
9:45 p.m. CT: How Walgreens, Hims & Hers want to disrupt healthcare
The approaches Hims & Hers and Walgreens are taking to disrupt the healthcare industry may differ, but executives from each retailer agree on the challenges: Rising healthcare costs and growing provider shortages call for a change in how healthcare is delivered.
At Walgreens, the retailer is updating its leadership team as it seeks to change how its pharmacists are reimbursed, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Ban said during a panel discussion Sunday. “We will continue to bring talent on board that can help us realize that goal,” Ban said. He expects the next Walgreens CEO to have “deep experience in healthcare and in how healthcare services are delivered.”
“When you think about pharma and its dispensing mode, it’s a pure fee-for-service type of model,” Ban said. “You dispense, and get paid for dispensing. We’re having to be creative about how we can provide more services and do that with payers.”
Digital pharmacy Hims & Hers is leveraging its core base of customers seeking erectile dysfunction medication to screen for heart disease, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Carroll told attendees. ED is a common early warning sign for cardiac disease, so for those who screen positive, the company prescribes preventive medicine, such as statins. The company is also looking to grow its compounding pharmacy relationships to offer personal prescriptions for enrollees and expand its virtual mental health offerings, he said.