Entrepreneur of the Week: Kristen Valdes, b.well
b.well provides app-based care coordination services for patients and healthcare providers. The company aims to lower healthcare costs and increase outcomes while improving the patient experience by helping patients understand their health information and empowering them to play an active role in their own healthcare, and by consolidating health information and reminders in one place.
We spoke to founder and CEO Kristen Valdes about b.well and the opportunity they see in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does b.well, the company, do?
Kristen Valdes: b.well Connected Health puts consumers at the center of their healthcare. b.well aggregates all health care data, provides incentivized care coordination and concierge services, and matches consumers with relevant health journeys for themselves and their families. We are the one location on a mobile device for a consumer to access their healthcare by transforming an overly complex and expensive industry to a simple on-demand experience. In the shifts to value based care and consumer directed healthcare, b.well empowers consumers while benefiting payers, employers, and health systems with richer patient data, contained costs, and improved outcomes.
LN: Can you tell us about your product and how it works?
KV: b.well is a consumer health management platform that connects all aspects of healthcare in a single place. b.well aggregates all clinical, financial, wearable, and genetic information for a consumer. We leverage that data to create a personalized health experience based on preferences and needs to improve outcomes and meet the consumer where they are with on-demand services. Consumers are incentivized with points, collected for finishing activities in their health journey, redeemable for rewards in our Marketplace. Through the personalized health experience, consumers are matched with relevant health solutions that are lower cost, high quality and on-demand. Having b.well is like having your own personal health concierge. In addition, whether individual or a caregiver, users can be connected in real time to everyone they care about through the b.well Health Tribe. Users receive notifications on their own health needs but also alerts on Tribe members, like a parent or child, letting them know when something is wrong or simply when an action is needed to be completed, such as filled a prescription.
LN: What opportunity did you want to address with the development of your technology?
KV: In today’s digital world, consumers have logins for every doctor, hospital, and lab that they use. They have portals and apps for every insurance carrier, wearable, nutrition and fitness provider and they have 7-10 employer sponsored health and wellness platforms. As a result, consumers don’t use any of it and don’t have any access to their own data in a meaningful way. Consumers find healthcare overly complex and too expensive and have been given little education and few options to shop.
On the flip side, stakeholders are not able to connect the dots in health data to manage risk and medical or administrative costs effectively. Providers are working to shift from fee-for-service to pay-for-value quality models and to deliver care through a virtual “meet the patient where they are” model. They lack the platform to connect to consumers in real time and to meaningfully engage them in valuable programs because they are seen as another fragmented solution. Employers are fighting ever-rising healthcare costs and managing numerous health programs, many of which never return significant ROI. Payers aren’t able to leverage existing data to risk adjust in real-time and connect with their members at pivotal moments in their healthcare journey, let alone in a manner preferred by a consumer. b.well helps our customers who manage risk while delivering the cohesive health experience today’s consumer is demanding.
LN: Who are your primary users? In what ways can your products benefit the 50+ population?
KV: Our end-users are consumers looking to manage their healthcare and the healthcare of their loved ones in a simple, digestible way. Our primary business model is B2B2C, selling to employers, health plans, health systems, third-party administrators, and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry. The end users are the employees, members, and patients of client companies and soon all consumers.
Users gain a one-stop shop to manage every facet of their healthcare. They are offered personalized messages, suggestions, and challenges that are shaped to their unique health background and lifestyle. Further, they’re matched with relevant solutions and programs to close gaps in care and to help manage risk and/or chronic diseases. The easy-to-use mobile and desktop platform allows users to gain insight into their healthcare, access to concierge health services, and the option to help manage the health of their loved ones through the b.well Health Tribe™.
We see significant advantages for the 50+ population. Our team has deep experience working within this population. We helped build programs that made a meaningful difference in people’s lives – making quality healthcare more accessible and affordable and have improved the health outcomes of the oldest, sickest members of our country. We believe our experience with this population extends to the entire 50+ population.
As we age, we take more medications and see more doctors. It is frustrating trying to coordinate information between physicians in a world lacking interoperability. With b.well, we believe the solution to interoperability is to put the data back in the hands of the person it matters most to – our customer. With data organized and shareable across all physicians, b.well helps avoid medical mistakes, reduces repeat procedures, and keeps everyone on the same page.
We also recognize those acting in the “sandwich generation,” caregiving for children and aging parents, as well as those who have younger caregivers guiding them through their healthcare experiences. Our Health Tribe is top-of-mind thinking in this capacity. Our built-in secure health data sharing system is integral to help caregivers manage the amount of time they actually spend caregiving as well as keep the aging populations on top of their health.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
KV: b.well was created out of my first-hand interactions with the healthcare system as an industry executive and as a healthcare consumer. I embarked on a seven-year journey advocating to get my daughter diagnosed correctly with what turned out to be a very significant autoimmune disorder. At the same time, I entered the “sandwich generation” and became a caregiver to a parent, nonetheless one that did not live with me. As a proven healthcare “expert” (not that I believe anyone can be with as quickly as healthcare is evolving) with over 20 years of executive experience, I found it overly complex to navigate as a consumer and set out to make managing healthcare easier for everyone.
Luckily, I had worked alongside amazing talents when I was an executive at XLHealth, a Medicare Advantage Plan based in Baltimore, MD sold to UnitedHealthcare in 2011. We helped build XLHealth from a disease management company to a full Medicare health plan. Five of my current team members joined me from XLHealth to build b.well.
Our CTO brings an entirely new set of skills to the table at b.well. Our team sought out an tech expert from outside the world of healthcare. We work in an industry that is lagging in technology, so we aspired to hire someone to build the most highly secure and reliable technology platform that existed in healthcare. Philips has won a Thinktiv award for app development and has helped build and scale numerous successful mobile-first companies. He rounds out the health industry experience with deep mobile experience, allowing for b.well to thrive.
LN: How has b.well, the company differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
KV: When I first founded b.well I wanted to provide the solution as a new kind of health insurance for consumers, one completely tailored to a concierge experience. We learned very quickly that we could get the platform and services into the hands of more consumers across the globe if we partnered with existing health care stakeholders rather than competing with them. We also understood from our users that they wanted a neutral, trusted third party to help manage their health care that was not affiliated with a provider, employer, insurer, or other influencer on health; they wanted a company operating persistently on the consumer’s behalf.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing your concept?
KV: That’s an easy one. Although I have been in healthcare for a very long time and had a deep understanding of how the system worked, I wish I had known that in order for young companies to compete, and often survive, that they need to push slow-to-move industries to move faster. There is a real, but often incorrect, belief that if young companies don’t show significant month-over-month growth, investors don’t believe there is a good solution or a strong team behind the company. I have seen many necessary solutions in good companies fail because they were unable to show traction in a short period of time. The healthcare industry moves at what might be slower than a snail’s pace. At b.well we have been fortunate to have backers that understand the sales cycle in the healthcare space. We have hit the market at a great time for shifting to consumerism in healthcare which has allowed us to show significant traction.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and / or health technology market?
KV: First and foremost, it is growing! We are the first generation to see expansion of average lifespan by more than 20 years. Because we are living longer, we will have more caregivers but not enough doctors and nurses. We will need to leverage technology to help our providers be in two places at once. There is a whole world of unexplored opportunity when we begin treating patients in groups versus one-on-one.
We are excited to announce we have just added Dr. Joseph Kvedar to our Board of Directors, as he is an expert at aging in place and understands the unique climate that we are in with healthcare.
As we move into 2018, the adoption rates of health technology is expected to increase exponentially, by both stakeholders in the industry as well as consumers. These technologies will empower consumers to understand their health and become advocates in their own care and the care of their loved ones. Patients will be able to seamlessly pay bills, see their doctors notes, contact the doctors about follow-ups, and check their progress to their deductible, all in one place. Caregivers will be able to cut down on the amount of time spent dealing with medical encounter issues and lack of communication and will be able to spend more time with their healthy loved one.
The industry will only become more accessible and understandable. As someone who spent years as a healthcare executive, even I was a lost consumer in the healthcare system. The technologies in development will allow anyone to navigate the system with ease. Patient, member, and employee satisfaction is moving to the forefront.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
KV: Get to know your customers! We see all to often in this space that companies want to push solutions on seniors that they do not want. Our seniors are tech-enabled: they want to live at home and they want respect and dignity. All seniors are not the same and should be treated as individuals with their preferences and needs heard. Our team’s experience with the 50+ population, both personally as caretakers and as professionals in the payer space, has guided many of the business and product decisions made in the development of the b.well platform.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
KV: We’re working on an extensive roadmap of our current product. We expect to expand our capabilities and enter into new spaces that work side-by-side with healthcare, such as personal finances and saving for future healthcare costs. With people living longer, there is a huge market gap in the solutions we provide to help finance healthcare spend. 62% of US bankruptcies are due to unpaid medical bills, yet most Americans do not save for future healthcare costs. We’re in the only industry where consumers receive a service without ever knowing the cost to them ahead of time. This is a massive problem that needs to be solved, and we are looking forward to closing the gap for our customers.
LN: Where do you see b.well five years from now?
KV: By compiling all aspects of health management into one app, we believe we can increase usage and therefore long-term positive health outcomes in users. By becoming part of a user’s health care workflow we will be the one place a consumer needs to go to manage their appointments, share their data, order health services and pay for care. Through this we can unlock better predictive insights into the best services at the right cost for consumers to help them avoid the onset of preventable chronic disease and ultimately start to bring down the total cost of healthcare.
LN: Anything else you’d like to share?
KV: Our health is our livelihood. I find it ironic that you can ask any room full of people in any setting where they go on their mobile device to manage their healthcare and you won’t ever find someone with an answer. At b.well we believe that consumers have a right to their own health data and that they should have a choice in the health services that they receive. Through this empowerment we can move from the sick care system we live in today to a truly personalized health system with less disease and at a lower cost.
Kristen is the Founder and CEO of b.well Connected Health – a platform that puts the consumer at the center of their healthcare.
Most recently, Kristen was the VP of Government Claims and XLHealth at United Healthcare, the largest health insurance company in the country. As VP, Kristen was responsible for oversight and performance of Operations and Technology including analytics and medical economics for the Care Improvement Plus health plans operating in 12 states. In her role, Kristen was responsible for maintaining and growing the profitability of the plan and was instrumental in the acquisition by United Health Group in late 2010 for $2.4 billion.
Kristen began her career in the financial services industry at T. Rowe Price. She then moved into the Medicare and Medicaid space focusing on program reform and cost containment efforts. Kristen was part of the teams that stood up the first fraud, waste, and abuse detection programs across Medicare and Medicaid. In that role she worked closely with all major claims payers, the FBI and OIG to develop programs and tools to safeguard government funds. She later joined a Baltimore-based disease management company where she was responsible for developing advanced predictive models to isolate gaps in care and intervention opportunities for seniors with chronic conditions. Her role quickly transformed into building back office operations and technology as the Vice President of Operations and Technology for XLHealth as they transitioned to become the fastest growing and most profitable Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan in the country.