Wellbe software empowers consumers in the patient-doctor relationship
Established in 2010, Wellbe Inc. creates technology that allows patients and their doctors to more closely collaborate on their individual health challenges, and it is doing so from a unique perspective — the patient’s.
James Dias, founder and CEO, says his company is working to transform how consumers experience modern health care by creating tools that empower them to become more engaged in their own care.
“Ordinarily,” Dias explains, “a patient going in for a hip or knee replacement is told to attend a three-hour class. Everything they need to know is given to them in one long sitting, and they leave with a book, probably feeling frightened and overwhelmed.”
Wellbe takes all of that information and breaks it into small parts, guiding patients through every step electronically — what they need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to collaborate on and make decisions about — from the time they decide to undergo a procedure all the way through rehabilitation.
For example, patients looking at a long recovery period might understandably be concerned about finances, their job, the children and family, or their pets. “We cover all of that,” said Dias. “We help them think through things in advance so they’re better engaged. Research shows that when patients are better engaged, they have faster recoveries.”
With people perfectly comfortable shopping, earning degrees, and banking online, Dias had long wondered why health care was lagging behind in the interactive arena.
“Patients today want to know. They want to be in charge [of their health care] and have a role in decision-making. Do they want a general anesthetic or a spinal block, for example? We provide videos from the anesthesiologist that explain each procedure so they’re in a better position to decide for themselves.”
Physicians, he says, have welcomed the product. “They don’t have the time to think like patients. They look at you when you walk into a hospital as a biomedical problem. They go through a checklist, fix you, and you leave. But when [patients] go in, they want love, care, and empathy.”
The information Wellbe software provides can bridge that need-versus-want gap and reduce anxiety about upcoming procedures. The company operates from a patient-advocate perspective. “We think like patients, work like patients, and design like patients,” Dias says of his staff, none of whom are clinicians. The protocols they create are customized and approved by the patient’s own hospital and health care team.
Patients just need to log in.
“Almost every hospital today has a patient portal, like MyChart,” Dias explains. “Patients are getting used to doing simple tasks digitally. But if you ask, ‘How do you manage your way through an episode?’ we find there is very little imagination about what can be done in that realm.”
Wellbe focuses on acute and episodic care — primarily hip and knee replacement surgeries, lower back surgery, and even some heart procedures (valves, stents). Interventional radiology and women’s health may be next.
With hospitals and hospital groups looking to attract more patients in today’s competitive marketplace, Dias says Wellbe provides them a value-added product proven to save on costs, improve patient outcomes, and reduce readmissions — all key goals of the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, the ACA wasn’t even being discussed when Dias’ idea first took flight.
Currently, nine medical facilities nationwide are implementing Wellbe’s cloud-based, patient-centric software, including Meriter and UW hospitals. By the end of 2015, Dias hopes to sign eight to 10 new clients every quarter.
He knows competition will increase. “Anyone with enough money can come in and build what we’ve built. There will always be copycats, but by the time they build what we have today, we will have built the next thing. Speed and agility are key competitive drivers for us, not just in technology but also in the business model.”
Wellbe is attracting investors and bringing in revenue but is not yet profitable. “We’re not the kind of company that raises $30 million on a bet. We’ll take reasonable amounts of investment, make a bunch of small bets, make course corrections, and our strategy will pay off that way.
“But at the end of the day, these tools are destined to become the way we do things in health care. The health care model today can’t be sustained without digital tools. Consumers won’t tolerate it.”
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