Entrepreneur of the Week: Susan Bratton, Savor Health
Savor Health is a comprehensive nutrition solution to address all of the nutritional issues experienced by cancer patients and their caregivers.
We spoke to founder and CEO Susan Bratton about Savor Health and the opportunity she sees in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does Savor Health do?
Susan Bratton: Savor develops and provides customized nutrition solutions to cancer patients and their caregivers based on each individual’s unique needs and preferences.
LN: Can you tell us about your service and how it works?
SB: Through a combination of a technology platform and a team of experienced cancer nutritionists and nurses, Savor takes unique patient data (such as their diagnosis and treatment, treatment side effects and nutrient and caloric needs) and designs individually customized nutrition plans that meet that patients’ unique needs. Solutions range from home delivery of individually customized, all organic, non-GMO meals that are “heat and eat,” to individually customized recipes, as well as one-on-one nutritional counseling with oncology-credentialed nutritionists. The goal is to meet the patient and his or her caregiver where they are in their cancer treatment journey and provide them with the solutions that they need to help them maintain a healthy weight, to better withstand and adhere to treatment and to experience a better quality of life.
LN: What opportunity did you see that you wanted to address with the creation of Savor Health?
SB: Through the loss of my dear friend Eric, I saw that cancer patients struggled with nutritional issues and that they were not provided much, if any, direction by their medical team, they were confused and overwhelmed by what they found on the internet, and that they often were unable to locate or access experienced and legitimate and credentialed oncology nutrition professionals to help answer their questions and to provide for their unique needs.
LN: What shortcomings did existing nutritional support programs have?
SB: Very few nutritional programs existed when I started Savor, and most were not evidence-based and, rather, relied on anecdote and hearsay. They often promised false cures claiming that if a cancer patient ate a specific diet that their cancer would be cured despite the fact that there was no credible scientific evidence to support such claims. This led to false hope and even to dangerous protocols that put the patient at risk and which often interfered with their treatment. The remainder of the programs offered single solutions, most commonly nutritional counseling, rather than a comprehensive range of solutions to meet the broad range of nutritional issues experienced by patients and their caregivers. Even the evidence-based programs which offered nutritional counseling by credentialed oncology dietitians and nurses had shortcomings in that they were not staffed to accommodate all of the patients who required nutritional counseling, advice and intervention, so only the sickest of the sick were helped.
LN: Who are your users?
SB: Our users are cancer patients as well as their “caregiving circle” which includes friends, family members, co-workers and others who are concerned for the well being of the patient. The “caregiving circle’ often purchase gift certificates for the cancer patient as a way to support them during their treatment.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
SB: First, it was important to have a credentialed team. Because the cancer nutrition industry was filled with people who were not experienced or credentialed in cancer nutrition, it was very important to me that the Savor clinical and customer service team was credentialed in oncology. So I only looked for and interviewed nutrition professionals who held the Certified Specialist in Oncology (CSO) credential which meant that there were a Registered Dietitian who had also completed 2000 clinical hours in oncology and had passed a national certification examination in oncology nutrition. I also required any nurse to be an oncology credentialed nurse, or “OCN”. Today we have 10 CSOs and one OCN. Second, I also thought a lot about culture. Having worked on Wall Street for many years where the culture was cutthroat and people were often not respectful of each other, it was paramount to me that I create a culture where people work hard, respect each other AND have fun. My philosophy is that life is short and we need to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and to treat others with respect. So I looked for people with empathy and compassion, who were team players and who believed in our mission. Not only will this type of person be a great co-worker, but they will also be respectful and helpful to our customers.
LN: How has what happened with Savor Health differed from what you envisioned would happen?
SB: One of the biggest surprises to me is how slow the healthcare insurance and hospital industries have been to adopt and offer nutritional services to their members and patients. Despite an overwhelming body of evidence that shows that nutritional intervention improves clinical and quality of life outcomes and reduced healthcare spending, both health insurers and hospitals have really not implemented in any meaningful way comprehensive nutritional programs for cancer patients. It is just now starting to change despite the fact that the majority of the scientific evidence supporting its benefits existed before and at the time I started Savor.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing Savor Health?
SB: Where to start??!! I have learned so much on this entrepreneurial journey! I wish I had known how long it takes to launch a product, and that all of the careful thinking and planning about your customer and their needs cannot replace having a product in the market and getting real time customer feedback. I am intensely analytical and thoughtful due to my background in banking where I analyzed hundreds of companies over my career. I applied the same sort of methodology to addressing the issue of nutrition in cancer patients. I wrote a 150 page business plan and conducted endless interviews in developing Savor. All of this enabled me to really understand the market and the issues and opportunities. But, I wish I had known about the “lean startup” methodology, as it would have saved time and money in developing our products and services. We would have gotten to market faster and we would have iterated and refined the product quicker as well. I have since learned about “lean startup” and “failing fast,” both of which would have been very beneficial to know about and adhere to before and as I developed Savor.
LN: What most excites you about health technology market?
SB: I am particularly excited about AI and machine learning as I think it will enable us to more quickly be able to understand and meet customer needs in a very personalized and cost effective manner. As our entire value proposition involved customization and personalization, this technology is essential to our success and will enable us to really help meet cancer patients where they are in their cancer journey and offer them solutions that best meet their unique needs.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the nutritional market?
SB: Understand that despite the fact that research shows that nutrition “matters” and that consumers are beginning to understand this, the medical community is not quite “there” yet, and so adoption in the medical community will be slow. As such, it will likely take longer and cost more than you think to scale in the market.
LN: Where do you see Savor Health five years from now?
SB: Savor in five years will be a large, broad, multifaceted, technology-enabled platform in multiple clinical verticals including cancer.
LN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
SB: I’d like people to know that our mission is to make the lives of cancer patients and their caregivers easier and less stressful. Every single person at Savor is committed to that mission. We’ve all had personal experiences losing friends, family members or patients for whom we were caring because of cancer and we want to help make the cancer treatment journey better.
Susan Bratton is the Founder and CEO of Savor Health, a technology-enabled provider of personalized nutrition solutions for cancer patients and their caregivers. Susan started Savor Health in 2011 after losing a friend to a brain tumor and becoming aware of the significant unmet nutritional needs of people with cancer. Prior to Savor, Susan had a successful career on Wall Street. Susan’s first book, The Meals to Heal Cancer Cookbook, was published in March 2016. Susan earned a B.A. from Duke University and an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia.