Billions of bucks for healthcare biz

Venture funding, mergers and IPOs continue record-setting pace
By Mike Miliard
02:32 PM

Venture capital funding for health information technology surpassed $1 billion for the first time in Q2 2014 – far surpassed, in fact, with $1.8 billion raised in 161 deals, more than doubling the $861 million raised in the previous quarter.

With 10 funding deals for more than $50 million each, this was the most lucrative VC quarter yet, according to Mercom Capital Group. In fact, the $2.6 billion raised so far this year has already exceeded the $2.2 billion raised in all of 2013.

"It was a quarter of several milestones," said Mercom CEO Raj Prabhu, in a press statement. "It was the first billion dollar fundraising quarter for the sector which has now raised almost $7 billion in venture funding since 2010. Healthcare IT funding rounds have now crossed 1,000."

Notably, he said, mobile health companies "continue to outraise other technologies," having now raked in more than $1 billion since 2010.

Practice-centric companies garnered 61 percent of all investments in Q2, with $1.1 billion across 61 deals – especially in technology related to practice management, with $220 million in eight deals; analytics at $204 million in nine deals; and population health management raking in $144 million in four deals.

Consumer-facing technology, meanwhile, attracted $678 million in 100 deals, with most going to mobile health ($401 million across 45 deals). Within mHealth, $129 million went to companies developing apps and $226 million went to firms that make wearables. Personal health companies received $115 million; scheduling, rating and shopping applications got $61 million.

The top VC deals over $100 million in Q2 were $135 million raised by NantHealth; $130 million raised by Flatiron Health; $125 million raised by Alignment Healthcare and the $120 million raised by Proteus Digital Health.

As for mergers and acquisitions, there were a record number of M&A transactions in healthcare IT, according to Mercom. Health information management companies saw the most activity, with 20 transactions, followed by revenue cycle management and service providers with 11 transactions each, and mobile health and personal health companies with six transactions each.

Of the top M&A transactions, the biggest was the $550 million leveraged buyout of ABILITY Network, a provider of Web-based workflow solutions that aid clinical and administrative tasks for acute and post-acute healthcare providers, by Summit Partners, a growth equity investment firm.

This was followed by the $532.5 million acquisition of Evolution1 by WEX. St. Jude Medical, a medical device company, acquired privately held CardioMEMS, provider of a wireless sensing and communication technology designed to improve management of chronic cardiovascular diseases, for nearly $450 million. Other top disclosed transactions were the $225 million acquisition of ISG Holdings by Xerox and the $150 million acquisition of Corventis by Medtronic.

There were two IPOs in Q2 for health IT: IMS Health raised $1.3 billion through its offering, and Imprivata launched an IPO that raised $86.3 million.

When it comes to fledgling start-ups, the picture is rosy indeed. As Teresa Wang, strategy manager Rock Health, wrote recently on the seed fund's website, there's been an "explosive growth in digital health funding" that shows little sign of slowing.

"Almost 50 percent of all funding this year came from six categories – payer administration, digital medical devices, analytics and big data, healthcare consumer engagement, population health management, and personalized medicine," Wang wrote.

"The most popular category, payer administration, was under the radar last year with only $47 million in funding," she added. "However, it saw a whopping 354 percent growth as payers increasingly turn to technology for improved solutions and cost savings. Healthcare reform is a strong tailwind into the space, underpinning at least four of the top six categories here as the entire industry needs to rethink its business models."

Indeed, in the wake of HITECH and Obamacare, entrepreneurs and investors are making the most of a "fundamental change and disruption in the health-care sector," Steve Kraus partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, told CNBC earlier this summer. "I think it's going to be a long bull run."