For the most part, mobile technology has drastically changed every industry. The notable exceptions, says Matt Loper, are health and insurance. Oh, sure, there are apps that remind you to run every day or that let you pay your premiums on the phone en route to work on a Tuesday morning. But what of actual health management for the people who need it most?
Loper, CEO and cofounder of Wellth, a digital health services company founded through Princeton University’s Tigerlabs, wants to bridge the divide between what will make patients healthier and what will keep insurance companies operating smoothly. He will discuss his ideas at Tigerlabs’ “Digital Health Innovation in Context” conference on Thursday, April 23, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Princeton on Scudders Mill Road.
Joining Loper will be Mark Scrimshire of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Jason Wang of TrueVault; Leonardo Viana Nicacio of Flatiron Health; Colin Beirne of Two Sigma Ventures; David Drahms of Osage Venture Partners; Ida Tin of Clue; Stephen DeAngelis of Enterra Solutions; Sanjay Shah of the California Healthcare Foundation; Stuart Henderson of Accenture; Bert Navarrete of Tigerlabs; Drew Schiller of Validic; Kathleen Coviello of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Richard Talens of Fitocracy; Evan Nicholas of Susquehanna Growth Equity; Ian Goldstein of Drinker Biddle; and Judith Sheft of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Cost: $100. Visit: http://tigerlabs.co/events.
Loper grew up in southern California in a family of scientists. His father is a chemical engineer and his mother was a biologist before raising Loper and his two brothers. His older brother sells medical equipment and his younger brother is about to complete his bachelor’s degree in biology. Loper himself earned his bachelor’s in biological engineering from MIT in 2009. He was also captain of the baseball team at MIT, despite sitting out most of his senior year with injuries. “I was more cheerleader than pitcher by then,” he says.
With sports and health always important to him, biology seemed a natural extension for Loper’s interests. But he never saw himself doing lab work as a researcher. He had grown to realize that he really loved learning about new businesses — how they developed, what they sought to do. So rather than science, Loper entered the field of investment banking, most notably for UBS and Goldman Sachs.
It was in this arena that Loper says he was most exposed to new businesses with big ideas, particularly those connected to technology and how to apply it to the world at large. Having always wanted to be an entrepreneur, Loper cofounded Moonlyt, a social learning and online tutoring platform in 2012. In 2013, with the help of Tigerlabs, he developed Wellth, which seeks to make smoother the covenant between insurance companies and their members.
Not just for the choir. As Loper sees it, we’re just getting past the rudimentary phase of mobile technology’s move into healthcare. The first wave of this union has been health behavior apps, he says, Those applications that motivate us to exercise or remind us to do something for our health.
Those are great, he says, but the fundamental shortcoming is that they only help those who want that kind of help to begin with. Moreover, they help those who already are healthy or at least health-conscious. What healthcare needs to do is reach the people with smartphones who are also sick, maybe taking prescriptions, and are in need of a certain level of health maintenance.
Say you have diabetes and high blood pressure and you need to take medicine on a strict schedule, Loper says. This is important to your health and to the insurance company, which needs to know that you are complying with your prescription.
Wellth’s app-driven program (a simple one and the only thing a consumer will use in the process) would allow you to verify that you’re taking your meds by submitting daily blood sugar readings or taking a photo of your pill as you’re about to take it.
These simple acts can translate to real money, Loper says. The potential savings on future healthcare costs associated with neglecting a prescription and ending up in the hospital can be enormous. As can insurance premiums that follow a stay in the hospital.
Security and privacy. As you might have guessed, all this mobile technology targeted to specific consumers with specific problems comes arm in arm with big data, itself a nebulous concept of the nebula of personal data floating around in the cyber-ether. Companies looking to connect companies to patients, Loper says, need to be more than aware of possible security breaches.
Or, as recent history has taught us, inevitable security breaches. Wellth, for its part, has drastically lessened its chance of breaching data by splitting its important records in two — only half of which the company monitors. The other half is stored independently with TrueVault, which doesn’t give Wellth any real access, Loper says. Wellth connects the consumer with the insurer and allows information to exchange hands without any one party having access to the pile of data in someone else’s cloud. “Even if we wanted to leak information, we couldn’t do it,” Loper says.
But privacy extends to more than keeping data safe. Under new federal healthcare rules, insurers are no longer allowed to discriminate against those with preexisting conditions. They can’t deny coverage and they can discriminate by pricing themselves too high.
Wellth’s approach to security also keeps certain, potentially discrimination-friendly data away from insurers. “The app can only be used to help, Loper says. “It can’t be used to discriminate.
First Stop, Companies. Wellth is not in the public’s hands yet. Right now the company is about to launch its pilot program with a private company whose employees will use the Wellth app as part of their benefits plan. The aim, Loper says, is to create a base of users from whom the company can expand. “Our theory is that every sale makes the next sale easier,” he says.
The company also is in advanced-stage talks with insurers, who so far seem quite positive on the idea, Loper says. Mainly because they agree with him that the world of healthcare needs to step into 2015 with the rest of society.
Right now, Wellth’s intended target-range user is mid-30s to baby boomer — People who are already comfortable with apps and iPhones. But, Loper says, he is very aware of the geriatric set who may not be so familiar with handheld technology. The company is looking into a simplified app for these customers.
Ultimately, it comes back to getting access to everyone. “Twenty percent of the sickest people,” Loper says, “make up 81 percent of healthcare costs. Very sick people can be helped the most. We want to help them.”