Virtually every aspect of the healthcare industry now relies on some form of technology or data to improve patient outcomes, reduce costs or readmissions, or to analyze masses of population health data in order to manage that population better. Even more pressing in 2017 is the need to secure all that data and technology. But that hasn’t slowed the pace of M&A one bit.
Mergers and acquisitions in the digital health sector soared 23% in 2016, to 155 transactions, compared with 126 deals in 2015. Even more impressive, the sector posted its highest dollar volume ever, nearly $20.2 billion—a 226% increase versus 2015.
However, a single mega-merger accounted for 64% of 2016’s dollar volume. That was the $12.89 billion merger of Quintiles (NYSE: Q) and IMS Health Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: IMS). The combined company, QuintilesIMS, is working to improve clinical trial design, recruitment and execution in the $100 billion biopharma product development market.
When that deal is subtracted from the total, spending in the eHealth sector was still up 18% from last year, at $7.3 billion.
Only one other deal surpassed the $1 billion mark in this sector. That was IBM Watson Health’s (NYSE: IBM) acquisition of Truven Health Analytics from Veritas Capital for $2.6 billion. Veritas Capital repositioned the company from a data provider with limited analytics offerings to a leading provider of cloud-based technology solutions. At the time of its sale to IBM, Truven had more than 8,500 clients, including federal and state government agencies, employers, health plans, hospitals and life sciences companies.
With no truly outstanding players this year, the most active acquirers were privately-held DAS Health, IMS Holdings and privately-held Rx30, with three deals apiece. eHealth companies accounted for 61% of the acquisitions in this sector, while private equity firms accounted for 9%, or 14 purchases. However, 36% of those 14 PE deals were for revenue cycle management (RCM) companies.
As critical a role as it plays, revenue cycle management took a back seat to electronic medical records (EMRs) in recent years, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) enforced the early stages of Meaningful Use to get physician practices on board with EMRs. Now that the switch to the ICD-10 coding system is complete, investors’ attention has turned back to RCM. In 2016, 20 RCM companies have been acquired, surpassing 2014’s total of eight RCM deals and 2015’s total of 15 RCM deals.
The largest RCM deal with a disclosed price was MedData’s (NYSE:MD) $400 million purchase of privately-held Cardon Outreach from Serent Capital. Cardon Outreach is a revenue cycle management company that provides specialized eligibility assistance, accounts receivable recovery services, third-party liability and other services to more than 800 hospitals and healthcare settings in 46 states.