Venture funding in the overall health tech market fell 27% from 2022Read more...
Maven is providing access to WellTheory to its employees
There are over 100 autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis, which occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the human body. These diseases are becoming more and more common, affecting more than 23.5 million people in the United States alone; females, and those with a family history of autoimmune diseases, are more likely to develop them.
This is what Ellen Rudolph experienced a few years ago when she became completely bedridden almost overnight after experiencing a whole host of really strange, debilitating symptoms, ranging from brain fog to fatigue.
"Unfortunately I went through a long winding journey of bouncing around from doctor to doctor with no real answers, had many doctors dismiss my symptoms, telling me I was too young to be sick, but I really knew in my heart of hearts that there was something more deeply rooted going on," she said in an interview.
"After a long journey, I eventually learned I had an autoimmune condition. And, for me, it wasn't until I really got to the root cause of my symptoms and changed my diet and lifestyle that I was able to reclaim my health."
This experience is what inspired her to found WellTheory, a virtual solution for Americans suffering with autoimmune disease. Initially available as a direct-to-consumer product, the company launched its enterprise solution in October and on Thursday it has announced its first client: Maven Clinic, a virtual clinic for women's and family health, which will be offering access to WellTheory to its employees.
"From the employer perspective, some of the problems that we're is solving for them is that these are really expensive patients. So, autoimmune is really a top area of spend in terms of being a cost driver for most employers and health plans. And it's driven by spend on high cost specialty medications primarily," said Rudolph.
"Autoimmune patients are driving roughly 30% of overall pharmacy spend for a self funded employer health plan and 50% of high cost specialty medication spend. So, our value proposition to them is we're a less expensive, lower risk way to manage autoimmune disease."
When it came to Maven, she saw some strong synergies there in terms of their shared mission to raise the level of care, especially for women and other populations that have really been underserved and overlooked when it comes to health care.
Launched in 2014, Maven acts as a digital clinic, providing programs around various aspects of women's healthcare such as preconception, egg freezing, IVF, adoption, surrogacy, pregnancy, returning to work and pediatrics, as well as programs for partners of people going through pregnancy or IVF.
The company allows patients to make virtual visits with their doctor; they then get access to over 1,400 vetted women’s and family health practitioners across over 20 specialties. Patients can book video chats or message practitioners and then pick up their prescriptions, including birth control, at their local pharmacy.
The two companies also had a previous relationship, as Maven CEO Kate Ryder is not only a mentor to Rudolph, but a seed investor in the company as well.
"She's talked a lot about seeing the parallels of what Maven has done of really creating this category of women's health that no one was really talking about right prior to Maven coming on the scene, and really creating this category leader. She's seen the parallels of what we're doing at WellTheory and we feel like we're creating this new category in autoimmune disease that hasn't been talked about," she said.
"It's this set of conditions that disproportionately impacts women and people of color, really these populations that have been overlooked. And so, we found a lot of shared commonalities just in terms of our greater mission there."
The WellTheory solution
WellTheory's approach to its users is focused on trying to address the root cause of their autoimmune disease and treat the whole person with the aim of trying to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life and lower costs.
Its typical users for tend to be women, 75% of whom are aged 25 to 55, meaning they're really in their working prime. And they have a whole host of different diagnoses: the company has seen individuals with 65 distinct autoimmune conditions and counting.
When individuals they join, the user starts with an in depth, proprietary root cause assessment developed by the company, as well as a behavior change evaluation, which is an opportunity to try and understand what someone's whole health history has looked like. That also includes a clinically validated eligibility survey that helps verify that they're a good clinical fit.
From there, the user will get matched with a dedicated care team which is led by licensed registered dieticians who operate as nutrition experts. The company also has a board certified health coaches who act as behavior change experts, as well as care coordinators. After users a are matched they'll have a 60 minute in depth onboarding session with their dietician, and then the company will walk them through their personalized symptom data analysis, which is one of the outputs from the assessment, as well as a personalized care plan.
The company's focus is not only on supporting with live touchpoints but also supporting its users in between visits, so members have access to asynchronous educational content and master classes with topics that can include how to deal with a flare ups and how to prioritize blood sugar regulation. They also have access to unlimited messaging, customized nutritional resources with things like meal plans, and then community support.
"It can be a lonely journey to not only get that diagnosis, but to make these kinds of changes. And so, we have both digital forums as well as live events where they can connect with others who might be going through a similar journey, and actually have community connections events where members with Hashimotos, as an example, will gather together. So, we'll do that specific to some of the different conditions," said Rudolph.
Finally, WellTheory also offers food and symptom tracking as well, which are tools that can also be helpful just as members are trying to understand their potential triggers, and proactive care coordination with their team of other physicians and specialists, because the majority of members have at least three other medical providers that are supporting them.
The company is currently in the process of building out some artificial intelligence tool to help personalize the experience, as each person with an autoimmune disease will have their own specific symptoms to deal with.
"We get this question, a lot of, ‘do you have programs specific for a condition?’ but it's actually more tailored to the individual because there might be multiple individuals who might have the same condition, but they have different underlying root causes and so it's really figuring out for that individual what’s key," Rudolph explained.
"We do matching with providers based on some of the input that we get from members. So, we do have some algorithms to support that but, since we have access to all this really ripe data, AI is going to be really critical for us to be able to make sense of that and think about what are some of the trends and commonalities between different symptoms or root causes and how they manifest in different conditions."
While the company is announcing its collaboration with Maven, it has actually been working with the company since the beginning of January, and has already seen encouraging results: it surpassed its enrollment goal for the entire year within the first week of launching; it even saw a significant percentage pre-register before the partnership went live.
"Some of that speaks to the prevalence of these conditions within women, and Maven obviously is a bit more of a female dominated population, but also just the number of people out there who are undiagnosed and really looking for answers and solutions that will help them to regain their quality of life," Rudolph said.
Maven is just the beginning of the company's expansion plans: it has plans to launch with eight enterprises this year, including numerous health plans and employers, including a Fortune 100 company and a Fortune 500 company. The health plans, meanwhile, will be offering WellTheory to their members, meaning hundreds of thousands of people will have access to it. That will help the company achieve its mission: to reverse the autoimmune epidemic.
"Obviously our ambitions are very large, we want every single individual with autoimmune disease to feel empowered to take control of their health. That's really core for us at the end of the day, but it starts out with just having an impact on one person, and continuing to grow and scale that," said Rudolph.
"The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is reading some of our members' stories, just people who have completely turned their lives around. We hear about stories of women with rheumatoid arthritis whose joints are so swollen they need help from their partner to actually put their clothes on in the morning, and just to have that independence of saying, ‘I can actually take care of myself,’ is just so meaningful."
Support VatorNews by Donating
Read more from our "Trends and news" series
Veda will use its automation technology to analyze, verify, and standardize Humana’s dataRead more...
GE HealthCare will use Biofourmis’ AI-guided algorithms to deliver personalized, at-home careRead more...