Entrepreneur of the Week: Brenda Schmidt, Solera Health
Solera Health is attempting to carve out a new market to bring fully coordinated care to chronic disease prevention services. Their model integrates not only the multiple clinical providers but also payors and non-clinical community and online programs.
We spoke with Brenda Schmidt, founder and CEO of Solera Health, about the opportunity she sees in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does Solera Health, the company, do?
Brenda Schmidt: Solera Health is a provider of integrated chronic disease prevention services connecting patients, payers, and physicians with community organizations and digital therapeutics providers, simply and securely. The company helps consolidate highly fragmented programs and services including the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) into one integrated network, allowing health plans and medical providers to increase consumer participation while lowering associated costs. When an eligible patient is identified as being at high risk for developing chronic disease, Solera can proactively match them to the “best fit” program providers based on the individual’s unique needs and preferences. The approach of giving consumers choice when selecting a program has proven to have a significant impact on improved patient engagement and outcomes at a fraction of the cost of traditional medical care.
LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?
BS: Solera’s scalable, easy-to-implement technology provides an operational infrastructure to align at risk-patients with the local programs and tools they need to make potentially lifesaving lifestyle modifications. Patients are connected to Solera by a referral from their provider or health plan, based on blood values, BMI, and other diabetes risk factors. Individuals can also engage directly with the company through Solera4me.com by participating in a one-minute assessment to identify their risk level for developing type 2 diabetes. If the assessment determines a high risk for prediabetes, individuals are then promoted to proceed through the platform on their mobile device, tablet, or computer to determine the most appropriate DPP for them. To do so, we use a health-based algorithm to connect qualifying patients with the programs that align with their individual needs and preferences, which has proven to have a significant impact on improved outcomes at a fraction of the cost of traditional medical care.
In addition, Solera’s technology serves as the “hub” for program delivery (distribution) and billing/reimbursement and reporting. By connecting a nationwide network of community organizations and digital DPPs with our capabilities to manage service referrals, reimbursement and payment, aggregate data and reporting, we’re simplifying enrollment and supporting increased consumer engagement and choice. The technology allows non-credentialed providers to integrate with healthcare as a higher-access, lower cost network, creating a sustainable revenue model for our network partners.
LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?
BS: I’ve worked in the healthcare IT space for some time and I recognized the numerous barriers that were preventing evidence-based chronic disease prevention programs from scaling and making an impact. There was a considerable gap between patients at risk for developing type 2 diabetes and the prevention and management services and resources being made available to them. That’s when I decided that it was time to build a bridge or marketplace to integrate patients, program delivery providers, and healthcare providers who understood the benefits of non-clinical lifestyle programs that were proven to prevent and better manage chronic diseases. Solera Health was launched less than two years ago around the goal of connecting the nearly 86 million people at risk for developing preventable chronic diseases with the thousands of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognized National DPP providers being offered both virtually and at the community level. Solera’s platform technology connects health plans, physicians and patients with a network or community resources and digital platforms that impact chronic disease and improve quality at a lower cost.
At Solera we believe that through addressing social determinants of health and by meeting people where they live/work/play/pray, people will engage in improving and maintaining their health in a meaningful way. Solera purpose-built our business model around the primary goal of making chronic disease prevention affordable, accessible and efficient. When we first evaluated effective models for chronic disease prevention, we recognized that non-profit, hyper-local community organizations using non-clinical resources were highly effective at both engaging their communities and consumers and they were delivering great outcomes. They were typically grant funded and had no real sustainable revenue model. We also recognized that these organizations were not equipped to meet the compliance and data privacy and security requirements to contract with a health plan or health system and be paid through medical claims. As a startup, we saw a highly fragmented and congested chronic disease marketplace that could benefit from an integrator.
LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?
BS: Solera contracts with health plans to administer prevention programs as a covered medical benefit for their members. Solera’s role is to effectively engage and improve the lives of consumers at risk for developing chronic diseases. Since its launch, Solera has contracted with health plans to offer programs to over 40 million covered lives under contract and that number is rapidly expanding. In 2018, eligible Medicare beneficiaries will have access to in-person DPPs as a covered preventive benefit. One of the best things about Solera is that we can meet the needs of a very diverse group of people who can benefit from programs like the DPP by matching them to one of the hundreds of program delivery partners in our network. We believe that there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to chronic disease prevention, and that a single solution can’t possibly meet the needs of everyone. Understanding that people have a wide variety of health behaviors and unique needs and preferences, we built a robust national network of community organizations and digital DPPs including Weight Watchers, Lark and Retrofit that offer a diverse range of lifestyle modification programs.
Solera works daily with the aging population to connect them to the “best fit” lifestyle modification program to help keep chronic disease at bay. The epidemic of prediabetes affects 86 million Americans and according to the CDC, and in 2011, people ages 65 to 74 were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 13 times as often as people age 45 or younger. Diabetes also increases the risk of serious health problems such as high blood pressure, vision loss, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke. Therefore, getting seniors connected to the right DPP for prevention is critical to our mission.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
BS: It was important to hire people that shared a common vision. Together, we are building a new market category and want to nurture a positive culture fit, comfort with ambiguity, and look for those with the ability to wear many hats successfully. These qualities were important to our early company successes. Once our core team was in place and had purpose-built a great corporate culture, existing employees became a great referral source. We have also had a lot of in-bound inquiries from people who believe in our mission and wanted to join the company.
LN: How has Solera Health the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
BS: Initially the company was focused solely on the Diabetes Prevention Program. Our business model now answers a much bigger pain point for health plans and physicians as our business model solved for both scale and personalization by integrating non-clinical community and digital resources. The health plans and providers had no infrastructure to integrate and organize the thousands of digital apps and community organizations, engage and match patients, submit claims, and benchmark satisfaction and performance. Solera has the opportunity to address a wide range of chronic diseases, social determinants of health, and emotional well-being through a network model. I am surprised by how quickly we had the opportunity to expand beyond diabetes prevention.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?
BS: How difficult it would be to build and manage a network of non-clinical program providers. The regulatory and compliance requirements for healthcare are onerous, and creating a network of non-clinical providers that must comply with these same standards is a huge effort.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?
BS: We understand the importance of giving patients options and making the healthy choice the easy choice. At Solera, our key differentiator is using sophisticated technology to make the consumer experience easy. By offering choice, access and engagement with a wide variety of DPP program delivery modalities (telephonic, mobile, video-chat, in-person, group, individual, etc.) we foster consumer trust and drive engagement. By matching people to the program that meets their needs, they are much more likely to enroll and have great outcomes, as one size does not fit all. There is a tremendous opportunity to use technology to manage sophisticated data sets and complex systems that support a consumer platform that can effectively engage seniors.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
BS: Don’t make assumptions as this market is very diverse and changing. Seniors want social connectedness which can be realized through both in-person and on-line communities. Seniors may take longer to be comfortable using technology, but when they become regular users they have great engagement and good outcomes.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
BS: Solera is using the technology platform we have developed to expand to other prevention, emotional well-being and social services programs that leverage our business model. We believe they by using non-medical resources to keep people in compliance with the physician’s care plan between doctor visits, we can improve the cost and quality of healthcare. We are focused on integrating highly fragmented hyper-local community organizations and digital solutions into Solera’s centralized network. These programs benefit from an engagement model dependent on consumer choice and a standardized set of quality, satisfaction and performance metrics.
LN: Where do you see Solera Health five years from now?
BS: I hope we have engaged millions of people in prevention, coping and support services that have had a positive impact on their health and quality of life. I believe that 5 years from now we will have proven that Solera’s model delivers better outcomes and lowers costs with a high access network, consumer choice and performance-based payments.
LN: Anything else you’d like to share?
BS: Solera’s thesis is that if you meet people where they are and make the right choice the easy choice, they will engage in improving and maintaining their health in a meaningful way. By understanding the individual health and wellness needs of at-risk patients and directing them to resources from the comfort of their own home, we truly believe that they will be able to quickly adopt healthy lifestyle changes in a practical way, and feel more in control and empowered.
About the Author
Brenda Schmidt is Founder and CEO of Solera Health. Brenda is on the board of directors for the Population Health Alliance and is widely recognized as an authority on technology-enabled chronic condition prevention and management programs that deliver documented health and financial outcomes. She is a thought leader in the chronic disease prevention field and has spoken at leading healthcare events such as Clinton Health Matters, Diabetes Prevention Program Payer-Provider Summit, and many more. Brenda holds a MBA from Arizona State University, a MS in immunology from University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BS in microbiology from Indiana University-Bloomington.