Ashley Reid

Wellist adds industry experts to team

FOUNDERSWIRE FILE PHOTO: Wellist CEO Ashley Reid 

By SHELAGH BRALEY
@founderswire

BOSTON—Wellist, the high-profile patient experience solutions provider, announced more growth today, in the form of two key executives who will significantly accelerate the company’s reach.

Joining the team are Sharyn Lee, as vice president of growth, and Erik Hjortshoj as chief technology officer. Both come on board with relevant industry experience to leverage.

“We are proud to be working with some of the leading providers in the country who are committed equally to achieving clinical excellence and improving the patient experience,” says Ashley Reid, founder and CEO, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to be adding such experienced leadership to guide our growing business.

sharyn lee

Reid consistently has shared her view, that the most important quality she looks for in any of Wellist’s hires is an inherent drive to deliver compassionate care.

“We have this incredible moral obligation to deliver something with excellence,” Reid said in a past interview. “The ability to get people who have had these amazing careers to build the next chapter of Wellist is another part of our evolution.”

Lee, a registered nurse and nationally recognized healthcare strategist, brings experience in business development, sales, marketing, medical education and training. She was co-founder and president of the Medical Education Broadcast Network, an Inc 500 award-winner. Lee plans to leverage deep relationships across health plans, academic medical centers and hospitals to acquire new partnerships for Wellist.

Wellist erik

Hjortshoj, who comes to Wellist from Burning Glass Technologies, where he implemented large-scale organizational changes across global teams, delivering machine learning and data solutions to the ed tech and HR tech markets. Previous experience includes stints with American Well and ShapeUp, where he added strategic technical, health IT and product management leadership.

Wellist also announced additions to its board of advisors: Bill Huyett and Andrew DiMichele, whose skills focus on strategic planning and health tech expertise. Huyett a former director with McKinsey and Co., spent 16 years developing corporate strategy and product. He is known as an innovator in the commercialization and marketing of health care, having worked in Boston, Washington, D.C., and Zurich.

DiMichele is the co-founder and CTO of Omada Health, where he developed the technology that propels Omada’s online program. His expertise lies in building high-performance engineering, data science and IT teams.

Wellist clients include Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The award-winning Wellist has been named most innovative technology of the year by MassTLC and a top 50 digital health honoree for diversity leadership by Rock Health. Reid was also recognized for her leadership in the Boston tech ecosystem as a FoundersWire Female Founder of the Week.

Wellist wins Rock Health diversity award

By SHELAGH BRALEY

BOSTON—Patient experience solutions provider Wellist this week collected a special award from Rock Health, honoring its team’s diversity leadership in the digital healthcare startup space.

Wellist earned the honor, according to Rock Health, for demonstrating “leadership in diversity, having continually shown their commitment to hiring, supporting and building diverse teams to tackle the most pressing problems facing health care today.”

Rock Health, the West Coast-based venture fund dedicated to digital healthcare improvement, put Wellist in distinguished company, among other stars as Invention of the Year winner Owlstone Medical, Angel of the Year Marc Benioff and Best Performing IPO Evolent Health. Of the special 18 honorees listed on its website, Wellist is the only company hailing from Boston.

Wellist, launched in 2014, creates tools and insight for healthcare providers, while addressing the human needs that result in improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. Wellist team members all share a deep passion for improving the lives of patients and their families, says founder and CEO Ashley Reid.

“When the best hospitals in the country hire Wellist … having a team that reflects the diverse patient populations we serve is simply good business,” she says. “We’re especially proud of winning the diversity leadership award because it is a wonderful reflection of how we live our values of diversity, empathy and inclusion, at Wellist and in the community. Our organization represents a wide range of age, race and gender, but at our core, we all share a deep, personal passion for working together to improve the lives of patients and their families.”

Wellist’s model has evolved since its earliest offerings, Reid says. What once served as an open platform for available services is now fully customized for the hospitals’ specific needs, making it even more targeted and relevant to the patients they serve. “We help hospital clients with customized programs, digital health tools and human services—people on the ground and on the phone—with a proprietary directory of support services that we vet and curate to their specific needs. Reid says the company’s early growth “underscores the importance of problem we’re solving and the traction we’ve seen with some of the best hospitals in the country, like Mass General, Beth Israel and UPMC.”

“We exist to help them alleviate human suffering while improving their performance metrics. They look at Wellist as a solution that can improve across a number of areas … because when you customize the tool, you can actually drive patients to services that already exist in the hospital,” Reid says. “We’ve been able to prove we can drive meaningful value in what the hospital is already invested in.”

Reid says Wellist has been able to measure that 40 percent of frontline medical staff spend anywhere from 10 hours a month up to 20 hours a week “running down nonclinical support,” which has huge impact especially on nurses, social workers and front office staff. “We give clients the tools to fully empower their patients, or we can do it on their behalf. That’s a huge game changer for nurses, social workers and front office staff.”

She points to the correlation between patient satisfaction and the job satisfaction of healthcare workers, where Wellist can help. “Part of the challenge is time constraint, but they get in the care profession because they genuinely want to heal people, and when they are confronted with the suffering on a daily basis but don’t have the tools to alleviate it, it leads to burnout. By giving our clients the tools to help, it heals everybody,” she says.

Data shows 75 percent of healthcare decisions are made by women, which creates a different level of need for gender-balanced teams in health care, Reid says. “We need to be able to get into the lives and minds of our decision makers. When we look at high-risk populations, you have to be able to understand the drivers of their needs. We know 40 percent of outcomes are tied to unmet social needs—and social needs are different for people of different backgrounds. If you don’t have a team that can anticipate the challenges and solutions, you miss it,” she says.

While the Rock Health award validates Reid’s team and company culture, she says the industry has only begun to make the connection between healthcare problem-solving and what diversity can really bring to improving outcomes.

“I’m proud that we have a diverse team, but we didn’t even get into how our team includes caregivers and survivors who have faced really significant health challenges—who take what they have learned and lived to make other people’s lives better. When you are a patient at the front end of that curve, nothing is more helpful than the tangible, practical guidance that someone who’s been there can provide,” Reid says.

She’s proud of Wellist’s culture of inclusion, she says, where everyone feels at home and celebrated. She also questions the impression that diversity is a side operation, rather than a driver of business success.

“It doesn’t have to be that bringing diversity into your organization makes you a less strong, less agile, less successful organization. It’s really enhancing what we’re able to deliver to our clients,” she says. “It’s an accelerant to impact. I hope in the next phase of our journey that we model how diversity and inclusion make us bigger, faster, better. It’s something we just are.”

Reid notes the importance of compassionate healthcare initiatives that do more than just measure data—and in a previous FoundersWire interview shared the pride she feels in those working to solve this problem alongside her. “We have an amazing team. I am blown away by the talent, commitment and creativity of the people who have shown up to make this possible. It is incredibly humbling.”

The Rock Health Top 50 were chosen “for making exceptional progress in driving resources, attention and innovation toward a massively better healthcare system,” according to the award website.

Wellist was also the winner of the MassTLC award for most innovative health tech of the year, just this past September. The award cited Wellist’s meaningful achievements in the area of patient data and healthcare insights.

“We won a diversity award and two more for the performance of our business in the same quarter. We’ve built a model that really works, so we can help hospital clients better understand the challenges they face, while meaningfully improving lives of patients and their families,” Reid says. “That’s pretty powerful.”

Wellist: Power to heal with one helpful list

Female Founder of the Week (FFoW) is a weekly celebration of the women who are building business in Boston. 

Wellist founder Ashley Reid has been chosen for her compassion and drive, providing access to the support services that heal, improve delivery and lower the cost of health care.


By SHELAGH BRALEY
@founderswire

BOSTON—When Wellist CEO Ashley Reid was strategy director for Phillips Healthcare, a ton of data came across her desk highlighting one point: “40 percent of patient outcomes are tied to unmet social needs.”

But it didn’t hit home until she went to a hospital herself, and tested the system. She went to the receptionist and asked for help getting a ride home. “I was directed to a hallway, where I picked brochures for an hour. I then made calls for four hours,” Reid says. “Four hours.”

At the end of all that, she still didn’t have a ride.

So Wellist began to form in her mind: a web/mobile platform that helps hospitals and payers connect their patients to support resources they need in their most vulnerable times, and also gives friends and family a way to provide substantial help from wherever they are, near or far.

Reid sits at a conference table at Wellist HQ, her hands folded in front of her, talking about patient outcomes like someone who sees suffering and solutions rather than customers and dollar signs. Her compassion is as clear as her industry insight.

“There’s a lot of suffering with chronic conditions and things like cancer that we’ll never really be able to address, but getting a ride shouldn’t be one of them,” Reid says with composed outrage. “Getting your laundry done shouldn’t be one of them. It just became this thing I could not not do.”

But first she had to find the business model. She says she looked critically at economic value spaces and health outcomes, “which really means, where can you build a solid, profitable business at the intersection of where patients heal and get better.”

Knowing firsthand the heartbreak, fear and practical obstacles to care helped Reid hone the idea. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, “so I actually understand some of the real limitations that women face post-treatment.” Her best friend’s father also died of leukemia. “She went into preterm labor within 24 hours of his passing,” she says quietly. “I really know how difficult life can be in these moments.” It’s not easy to share the personal stories, but they fuel her drive to find solutions for others.

“We spend a lot of time vetting and curating the list of what services are available. A good example is an amazing organization called Cleaning for a Reason. If you’re a breast cancer patient, they will come in and clean your house four times.”

Wellist-just-too-tired2

Reid chronicles the vision through which Wellist, founded in 2014, makes life easier for patients and their families while helping hospitals and payers become more accountable for patient outcomes and satisfaction.

“Our best partners—and we’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with MGH’s cancer center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the areas of oncology, primary care and gerontology—wake up every day and just say ‘how do I do what’s right by these patients, how do I make their lives easier, as they’re fighting for their lives?’ ”

“There are so many resources in health care that are oriented toward cutting-edge medicine, but there are really very limited tools in terms of how clinicians can deliver compassionate care,” she continues. “They’re looking for ways to improve their patient satisfaction or experience and are looking for improvements in outcomes.”

When they took the tool to market, the actual need overwhelmed them. “We were incredibly lucky to bootstrap with a contract from MGH,” Reid says. Her goal was to get 3 to 5 percent of patients to use the tool. “We thought, if 3 to 5 percent of their patients came on, there would be a huge ROI for that institution,” she said.

“So last summer, we started to see an increase (in user acquisition). First it was 5 percent, then 10 percent of their patients, then it was 14 percent, 17 percent. By the time it hit 25 percent of their patients using Wellist last September, we knew we were able to add something of value as a partner.”

Reid describes their average users as “primarily women over the age of 40, coming in as either the patient themselves or as a caregiver, typically for a parent or spouse.” Most are in the Boston area, but Wellist now can accommodate anyone in the country looking for support. Among the most popular needs are home cleaning, acupuncture, fitness, meal delivery, massage—“and so many are directly tied to survivorship outcomes and long-term wellness.”

“If you can’t get a ride, you’re not going to get your infusion. If you don’t have the right food in your fridge, you’re going to end up back in the ER, right?” she asked. “And so all of these things become barriers to critical care. If we can address the social determinants of health effectively, then we increase the likelihood that patients will get better and we’ll lower the cost of care.”

Wellist-team

Wellist has now curated more than 3,500 services. “We have an amazing team,” Reid says. “I am blown away by the talent and the commitment and the creativity of the people who have shown up to make this possible. It is incredibly humbling.”

The platform also provides a means for remote loved ones to offer help. “Wellist also offers Wellistry, like a gift registry. So instead of not knowing what you can do that helps, you can actually buy laundry service. What a gift that is,” Reid says. “It allows people to ask for what they really need, because what our data shows is that people need their homes cleaned. But you can’t ask your best friend, ‘Will you come in and wash my dishes?’ We’re never eager to ask our friends for charity. But at the same time, if my best friend were sick, I don’t want to write her a $100 check, I want to do something that is tangible.”

As a strategist, Reid says the business case intrigues her because the substitute for Wellist is almost non-existent. “Anything you do is almost better. The substitutes (for our product) for these patients don’t exist, they’re a bunch of brochures on a wall or on a table in a waiting room, or it’s a friend who might’ve had something similar five years ago—what did she use? There’s no way for these patients to compare cost and quality, or even know whom they should ask,” she says.

“It’s not a huge hurdle to get something that is better, that there is also a market for. That said, we’re reaching people in their most vulnerable moments. We have this incredible obligation to deliver something with excellence.”

Wellist is starting to venture into “different condition states,” Reid says. “We started in oncology, and we are now supporting patients in gerontology and primary care, but our pipeline includes everything from maternity to transplants. We’re really excited to understand how we can tackle this for different people in different phases.”

That excitement has resounded with a bevvy of experienced, passionate investors, who have boosted Wellist’s team and coffers. The company oversubscribed its most recent round of funding at $2.2M. “With our revenues ahead of plan, we’re funded into 2017. It’s really nice to spend a year growing a business.”

The team that has shown up to help is a diverse and spirited group, collaborating over code at shared desks in the modest but classic brick-walled Broad Street office. The team mascot, Linus, Reid’s black Labrador retriever, takes turns sitting at their feet and greeting in-coming workers and guests.

Wellist-linus-and-ashley

“It definitely feels different now,” Reid reflects. “Our most important recruiting screen is ‘Do you feel deeply, personally passionate about improving the lives of patients and their families?’ Because there are a lot of people looking to work for a hot startup. They should not apply to Wellist,” she says. “People who are successful here are eager to solve the very specific problem that we tackle.

“Because of that, and because so many of us have some personal story, it creates this really special culture that is unique in my experience,” Reid says, looking over at the team talking and laughing, working after dark on a Friday night.

“We are going to get as big as we can. There is a huge opportunity for how the system can deliver compassionate care, and as long as there are partners who want to do that, we will rise to the occasion to give them what they need.”


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