Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness is stressful enough, but it is just the beginning of a difficult journey. Arranging appointments, researching new treatments, and filing insurance paperwork are just a few of the things patients and their loved ones have to manage every day. After a while, these tasks can feel like a never-ending deluge. Wellthy, launching onstage today at the Disrupt SF Battlefield, wants to help.
The startup’s marketplace makes it easier for patients to find pre-screened health providers in their area. For clients who need more help, Wellthy Premium is a concierge service that assigns care coordinators who work closely with patients and families.
Wellthy was founded by Lindsay Jurist-Rosner and Kevin Roche. Jurist-Rosner’s background is in technology and digital media, but she says her most important role is helping to take care of her mother, who was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis when Jurist-Rosner was a child. While dealing with the medical system, Jurist-Rosner got to know many other families in the same situation. She realized what they needed are project managers who would help ease the burden of juggling healthcare-related tasks.
Wellthy differentiates from other health startups like Honor, which helps users find long-term carers, by organizing all components of treatment, like a medical fixer. Some families hire private care managers, but Wellthy aims to provide a more affordable alternative with its pricing plans, which range from $200 to $400 a month depending on how much time is booked in advance.
There are 34 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. and responsibilities often fall on female relatives (66 percent of family caregivers are women, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP), many of whom have full-time jobs.
One of the key demographics Wellthy serves are patients whose loved ones live far away and can’t afford to take extended vacations from their jobs or travel frequently. To help them, the startup is focused on building a nationwide network of healthcare providers and care coordinators.
Wellthy’s marketplace is designed for people who want to book specific services, but don’t know where to start, since many online doctor directories aren’t curated and don’t have reviews. For providers, Wellthy’s directory gives them an online presence where they can build their reputation through reviews and find more clients. It’s currently available in 30 states and will include providers throughout the entire nation soon.
Wellthy’s care coordinators come from a wide range of backgrounds, including social work, public health, nursing and psychology. Some, like Jurist-Rosner, learned how to navigate the medical system by caring for a family member or were patients themselves. Jurist-Rosner and Roche say their most important criteria is the ability to combine strong project management skills with empathy. Wellthy’s vetting process also includes background checks, referrals and a rating and review system.
Once booked, a care coordinator contacts her patient or family members through Wellthy’s platform to understand what they need. The tasks she manages can range from arranging followup appointments and combing insurance paperwork for errors to locating support groups and finding clinical research trials for experimental treatments.
One of the main benefits of working with a care coordinator is that it saves patients from having to explain their situation over and over again, which is emotionally draining. Instead, they can count on their care coordinator as an advocate when dealing with different services and providers.
Many of Wellthy’s clients first approached the startup with a specific task in mind, but Jurist-Rosner notes that when someone deals with a medical issue, it often snowballs into other areas of their lives.
For example, an elderly couple first asked their care coordinator for help with financial paperwork. As they worked more closely together, however, the care coordinator realized that her clients were also concerned about finding a physical therapist and in-home carers.
Wellthy works with patients regardless of diagnosis. Their clients have included people with aging-related complications, like dementia and Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, spinal injuries, and cancer. At first Jurist-Rosner and Roche were advised to focus on one condition only, but they realized that would be very difficult because many health issues exist simultaneously and must be treated at the same time.
“We can’t say to someone ‘we’ll help you with Alzheimer’s, but not your multiple sclerosis,’” says Jurist-Rosner. “We felt really strongly that we should be condition-agnostic.”