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Engage Consumers May 25, 2016

Innovation Diffusion: Wellthie CEO on Transforming Retail Health Insurance

Founder & CEO, Wellthie
Key Takeaway
Providing digital tools for #healthinsurance shopping is vital to meet #consumer needs - @Wellthie CEO @SJ_Poblete

New York-based Wellthie offers a cloud-based "personalized digital storefront" designed to help brokers and insurers accelerate their retail health insurance market business. The startup's proprietary rules-driven technology was built with a focus on user-friendly design to make selling health insurance easier. Founder and CEO Sally Poblete spent a successful career at Anthem building cost-effective and innovative products. She has been named one of the 40 Top Health Care Transformers by Medical Marketing & Media and was recognized earlier this year as the Wharton Health Care Club's Alumni Mentor of the Year. Here she explains how her team is working to develop software and analytics solutions that make health insurance
more simple and approachable for consumers:

Oliver Wyman Health: What is the mission of Wellthie? How did you get started?

SP: Wellthie’s mission is to transform the way consumers learn about, choose, and use their health insurance. We offer e-commerce software and analytics solutions to health insurers and brokers to help them thrive in the retail age, across the small group and individual markets. This started with my experience in the health insurance industry where I saw a need for making health insurance more simple and approachable for consumers. I worked at one of the largest health plans in the country for eight years, building products and solutions. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, I realized the immense change that was required to transform the industry and wanted to be a part of it.

OWH: What problem are you working to solve? What is your solution and how does it work?

SP: Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, individuals and businesses are looking for ways to better understand the value of health insurance and they want guidance as they evaluate their purchase. Many are new to the insurance shopping experience, or even insured for the first time, and many more businesses are looking for affordable options to remain competitive in this new landscape. This means that it is even more challenging for health insurers and brokers to comprehend the complex, diverse, and ever shifting views of those they serve. As health plans and brokers adapt to the growing retail opportunity within the industry, providing digital tools to support consumers in their shopping process is vital to meet their needs and desires.

OWH: Where are you based? How has the area supported your development?

SP: As a tech startup, our team lives and works around the world, however our home base is New York City. The city itself has a vibrant startup community that has given Wellthie the resources, peers, talent, and support to thrive and grow our team. But having team members be able to work remotely provides diverse perspectives, attracts the best talent, and fosters a flexible company culture.

Don’t wait for the “perfect time or the perfect idea” to be an entrepreneur because the process is iterative and the most important step is to get started.

OWH: Where are you in the development process? What are your immediate goals and challenges?

SP: We are in a constant state of development, iteration, and ideation. Our product priorities arise from listening and observing our customers evolving needs. Whether that be insurance companies responding to the new retail environment, small businesses who historically have not offered health benefits, or brokers stuck with antiquated tools in a complex regulatory landscape. The latter as proved to be a large opportunity for innovation at Wellthie. We’ve uncovered an unmet need of brokers who currently struggle to do their jobs quickly and efficiently, preventing them from generating new business opportunities and reaching those who need insurance the most. They need to be properly equipped with the most advanced and innovative tools in the industry and we believe we have that tool.

OWH: What projects and partnerships are you working on now? What is your most recent milestone achievement? What are your next steps?

SP: We are pushing innovation through many different lenses of the health insurance industry. Our goal is to help modernize the health insurance industry targeting different channels, such as health insurers, brokers, and those they serve. We’ve helped guide thousands of individuals, families, and businesses to the right health plan options for them through our platform. And, now, our most recent milestone is successfully launching our newest product offering for health insurance brokers on the heels of our 3rd birthday. We are excited by the opportunities this technology provides to serve even more individuals and small businesses looking for health coverage, and look forward to getting it in the hands of the brokers that are in the best position to make this goal a reality.

OWH: What does the future of healthcare look like?

SP: Health insurance has finally realized that they need to meet people and businesses where they are and engage them if they want a lasting relationship. The future looks a lot like consumers becoming as savvy at shopping for health insurance as they are at shopping for retail and that health insurance will no longer be a foreign language.

OWH: What advice do you have for other startup leaders? For other businesswomen in healthcare?

SP: Resilience is a vital trait. We are faced with change, challenges, and conflicts on an almost daily basis. I’ve learned that successful people are not necessarily the most brilliant or highly educated people, but those who didn’t give up or lose their heads despite the onslaught of challenges. And this is particularly true for women in the industry. Only 6% of digital health companies have a woman at the helm. And yet, 80% of healthcare decisions are made by women. I wish that more women would decide to start companies and get the funding they need. I urge women to feel confident in their abilities, instincts, and creativity to solve the many problems in healthcare – the very problems that we experience firsthand! Don’t wait for the “perfect time or the perfect idea” to be an entrepreneur because the process is iterative and the most important step is to get started.

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