Insights Through Interviews: Driving Change in Healthcare in a Startup Culture
This is a time of constant innovation in healthcare, both from legacy organizations and startups. A constant goal for these efforts is to create healthcare experiences that are more consumer-centric and promote proactive wellness care as opposed to reactive sick care. Kristin Haluch has spent her career as part of these efforts, holding positions both at startups and large organizations like Optum. She says that she is always looking for companies that are going to the root of the problem and solving for that problem, as many solutions out there are merely bandaids on top of an already broken process.
Last year, Kristin joined Bold as their Head of Customer Success & Operations. Bold’s objective is to reduce falls for older adults and enable them to age in place. As part of our new Insights through Interviews series, Cast & Hue’s Steve Koch recently had a conversation with Kristin to learn more about what she’s learned throughout her career, what attracts her to startups and what she is focused on at her newest role at Bold.
You’ve been in healthcare for several years, working everywhere from startups to large organizations like Optum. Tell us a bit about your journey.
I graduated college in August of 2008, during the recession, so jobs were scarce. I found a job at, what I now know, was a healthcare startup doing inside sales to build a national provider network. I had no idea what a “startup” was or what I was in for. I was just happy to have a cubicle and health insurance. Fast forward six years, we had grown from 70 employees to over 2,500 and sold for an undisclosed amount (estimated to be around $600M). I was fortunate to be a leader of a fast-growth healthcare startup that acquired five companies during my tenure. From there, I went on to work for a healthcare startup in NYC, where we partnered with employers, like Walmart, to build their Centers of Excellence network of radiology providers. After we sold, (ironically to my first company), I moved to SoCal to try my hand in the medical group space, with Healthcare Partners Medical Group. Two days after I joined, they announced that we were being acquired by Optum. At the time, I knew the name Optum but had no idea how fortunate I was to get to work for such a great organization. I learned more in my two years at Optum than I did in my Masters of Health Administration about the healthcare industry. It was invaluable and I will always be grateful for my time there. But I got the itch to go back to startup life, so off I went to the world of digital health, leaving Optum exactly one-week before we went into lockdown for COVID-19. I spent a year helping a digital health app, Wellth, set and execute their enterprise marketing strategy. Once they were in a good place, it was time to find my next long-term endeavor, which is when I found Bold. A match made in heaven for me from a team, role, and mission perspective.
What draws you to start ups like Bold?
Generally speaking, our society agrees on the fact that the US healthcare system isn’t working. However, most of us disagree on how to fix it or feel like the things we are trying aren’t working. When I look at startups, I look for three things: what problem are they solving, will the end user actually adopt and use the solution, and what team is behind the company.
I am always looking for companies that are going to the root of the problem and solving for that. Many solutions out there are merely bandaids on top of an already broken process. At Bold, we want to reduce falls for older adults and enable them to age in place. Current fall prevention solutions fall short. A device that detects falls is great for notifying the care team and getting the patient help, but it doesn’t prevent the fall from occurring. Home modifications help, but only when the patient is home. What happens when they need to leave the house? Bold is addressing the core root cause of falls: lack of balance, strength and mobility. We know, through research, that evidence-based exercise is the least expensive and most effective way to prevent falls among older adults.
Second, will the end user actually adopt and use the solution? Traditionally, most disease management and fitness solutions have low engagement rates. Which to me, means that the solution doesn’t fit the patients needs or they aren’t motivated enough to overcome their personal barriers to engage in the solution. Bold is designed with the end user in mind, tailoring every product experience to their specific wants and needs as an older adult. From pacing, to programming, to the digital experience, it’s all taken into consideration and tested with real users to make sure our members will adopt and engage in Bold’s product.
Lastly, but most importantly to me, who is the team behind the company? I have worked for some incredible leadership teams, and some not so great ones. At the end of the day, if you are part of a team of people who are committed to the mission and led by co-founders who are inclusive, receptive, transparent, and innovative, you can conquer the world. Amanda Rees and Hari Arul, Bold’s co-founders are just that.
What makes Bold unique? What types of consumer insights drive your team and the organization?
More than 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and according to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults over 65 fall each year. Nearly $50 billion is spent annually on non-fatal fall injuries and $754 million is spent on fatal falls, most of which are preventable. For non-fatal falls alone, $29 billion was paid out by Medicare in 2018 for treatment and care. Physical exercise impacts physical and mental health, which:
- Increases your heart rate, which increases oxygen flow to the brain
- Promotes brain plasticity, which is your brain’s ability to change and adapt
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces stress hormone levels
These insights drove us to create Bold. At Bold, we built our solution around serving older adults who otherwise aren't engaging with traditional exercise options, like utilizing a gym membership. We aim to provide an easy and engaging experience to support them in their journey to becoming active. Some members use Bold as part of their broader exercise routine, like walking or aqua aerobics at their local gym, and many of our members use Bold to increase their activity and start a new exercise habit.
Bold’s platform is web-based, which means there is no app to download and can be easily accessed from a computer, smartphone or tablet. By delivering exercise solutions to adults over 50, Bold serves a large and growing demographic that is shaping the future of healthcare.
How has Bold impacted aging so far? How will Bold continue to evolve in the future?
Bold’s goal today is to prevent falls in older adults by keeping members active through evidence-based fitness programs. In a clinical study done in conjunction with Bold clinical advisor, Dr. Randall Stafford, a Stanford professor, Bold's initial fall prevention study showed up to a 60% reduction in annualized fall rate in members enrolled in Bold's fall prevention program. The program includes strength, balance, and mobility exercises alongside education and community support. We are excited about these results, which we anticipate will be published to a peer reviewed journal later this year.
When we think about expanding our product, our core goal is to evolve through creating unique clinical pathways for members to improve their health through evidence based fitness. The first expansion from our Fall Prevention Clinical Product is the launch of our Knee Osteoarthritis Clinical Product in Q3 2021, with the aim of reducing knee pain and improving mobility. The future of Bold is to expand upon these evidence based exercise interventions to improve health outcomes for millions of members.
Lastly, everything we do is centered around our mission to bridge the gap between healthspan and lifespan. Our goal is to make it easier for every older adult to age better, make decisions, and take actions to improve how they age. If data shows you can live to 100 years old (or more), why not do it, and do it well?
Thank you to Kristin for sharing her experience and insights with us. To learn more about bold, visit their website at https://agebold.com/