As COO and Co-Founder of Evive Health, you are leading the way in providing consumers with the tools to live healthier lives. What inspired you to enter this field and what developments excite you about its future?
My Co-Founder, Peter Saravis, and I started Evive Health in 2007. At the time, healthcare costs had been consistently rising. Employers were reacting to the trend by passing on more of the burden to employees in the form of cost sharing (deductibles; copays), and by offering wellness and condition management programs to reduce the illness burden and improve health.
However, their consistent lament was that the right people were not engaging with these programs, and the healthcare system was anything but consumer-friendly for people to navigate. As we looked around at other sectors of the economy, there was a movement toward using data to drive consumer behavior—Target with personalized coupons; Amazon displaying items that others like you had bought or liked—and I wondered: If healthcare has the richest data set where each purchase is recorded (through your insurance card), shouldn’t we put that data to work and influence behavior for the better?
That’s how Evive was born—with a mission to help consumers make better healthcare decisions by providing the right information, at the right time, in a way they understood it.
If you call the 90s the Internet Age, the last 10 years have been the Big Data Age. As time goes on, we have more and more data—and the realization that data should enable our lives in the future. So you see apps and wearable devices coming out that are capturing more about your own personal behavior and then adapting the interventions to yourself as an individual. It’s a pretty exciting time to be in Big Data and population health engagement and to be driving scalable solutions across the country.
One of the ways you advocate for increasing health is through greater adoption and participation of employee wellness programs. How would you describe the current landscape of employee wellness programs? What do you think it will take for more employers to offer them and for more workers to become engaged?
I was just reading a RAND 2013 employer wellness survey and it shows around 50 percent of employers today offer some sort of employee wellness program. Of those, about three quarters offered some element of assessment, either biometrics or appraisal, as well as a program such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and so on. On average, about half of the individuals participated in assessment and fewer than a quarter actually participated in the programs.
For more employers to offer programs, for that 50 percent to go higher, it appears there is a significant need for more rigorous studies that demonstrate what is effective, resulting in a stronger business case for these activities. While lots of coaching programs are out there, there aren’t robust studies demonstrating which elements within a coaching program correlate to effectiveness and what they can expect as bottomline impact. And so it’s really hard for employee HR folks to make a strong business case to their CEOs, saying, “We should invest in these programs.” Most doing it today are doing it because intuitively it is the right thing to do.
On the other hand, for more employees to engage with these programs, they need to be more accessible, fun, and engaging. Apps are becoming more common as smart phone penetration has gone up, and consumers need to access health information in the same way as they consume other media and perform other activities in their lives.
At Hope Street Group, we believe you cannot isolate the factors that influence good health with those that lead to better education and a strong workforce. How do you see your work at Evive Health impacting these other socioeconomic areas?
We share Hope Street Group’s belief in the three structural drivers of the economy: education, employment, and health. By improving health and lowering healthcare spending, Evive is enabling employers to be more competitive and successful.
Successful businesses generate more jobs—and better health enables employees to enjoy a higher quality of life. Security of employment and health are key in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—to enable individuals to unlock their inner talent and creativity.
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, millions more Americans will be entering the healthcare system. What potential do you see for Evive Health to improve the outcomes for both the patients and the doctors as the law is implemented?
Evive Health started with the goal of providing individuals with more information so that they could navigate the labyrinth of our healthcare system. Our mission is to empower consumers to make better healthcare decisions by providing the right information and tools.
As millions of individuals are entering the system for the first time, it’s now more important than ever that they need tools to help them decide everything from what kind of insurance plan to pick, to how insurance works, or what kinds of things they should do based on their own healthcare needs and history.
You were one of the leaders in health invited to join us at out 2014 Annual Colloquium this past April. How would you describe your experience meeting with leaders across the health, workforce, education and policy fields, and what were your takeaways about the future of health in this country?
It was my first time participating in the Colloquium and one of the things I most enjoyed was talking to people across the continuum that Hope Street Group has put together. At lunch, I sat besides John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (Link), and what I realized listening to him was that there is a close parallel between the critical issues facing education and those in healthcare: teacher performance and pay evaluation, and medical provider performance evaluation and pay. Evive can learn from the solutions being tried in education, and share insight from a rigorous data-driven approach that it is being applied in healthcare.
That’s awesome. That’s definitely one of the things we strive for with Hope Street Group.
Looking toward the future, we are at a critical moment in history with healthcare. In 20 years, our children won’t remember the days of employer-based insurance; it will mostly be an individual purchase based on the reforms they put in place. And the decisions we make today are critical to empowering this shift, to a culture where individuals can make the right decisions about purchasing insurance, getting care and staying healthy. There was a universal recognition among all participants about the need to seize this moment.
One of the other things I was really enthused by was the energy that the different participants of all different sectors of healthcare brought to the table to address this problem now. This is a pivotal moment in history: there is a transformation going on in healthcare. The passion of those involved across the various fields in healthcare and the discussion of new ideas gave me hope that we continue to be the shining light of innovation in the world, something that has made us the greatest country on earth for the past 200 years and bodes well for the years to come.