By Scott Meacham
January is a time for new goals and resolutions, and, for corporations that provide employee healthcare, new plans and challenges as healthcare expenses continue to increase year over year.
The traditional approach has been to put employees on higher deductibles so that they have more skin in the game to be better healthcare consumers. The challenge with that approach is that healthcare pricing is not transparent, so it is virtually impossible for consumers to comparison shop.
Some companies bring in wellness programs to help employees get more fit, but the actual impact of wellness initiatives on employee health and cost savings remains an open question. It is hard to change people’s behavior—even when change may make them healthier.
Medefy Health (www.medefy.com), a Tulsa-based software company, is succeeding with a new approach.
Instead of trying to educate people through 800 numbers and web sites, Medefy’s healthcare chat app allows subscribers to connect on-demand with real people (called care guides) via text.
Medefy recognizes how people–especially Millennials, the soon-to-be largest block of employees, want to communicate today. Nothing is easier than texting a friendly, knowledgeable person to get questions answered instead of spending 30 minutes on the phone or waiting for a callback that never comes.
Medefy’s care guides help members navigate the healthcare process—from understanding what their employer-provided insurance plan supports, to finding the most cost-effective location to get an X-ray or an MRI.
“A lot of people want to use their benefits effectively; they just don’t know how,” said Matt Scovil, CEO of Medefy Health. “Our growth rate has been phenomenal by giving the market what it wants.”
Medefy grew exponentially in 2019, with a national reach and clients in 41 states. The company’s youngest user is 18; the oldest is 81. Users can immediately start using the app. With a facial ID and thumbprint, they don’t have to remember a password to reach someone who has the answer they need.
The team at Medefy has deep experience in healthcare insurance, plans and benefits. The software and data management technology behind the chat app makes the solution scalable. Care guides communicate with thousands of people—with an important distinction from most customer service organizations. They are not clustered in a call center, and Medefy has no plans for one.
“Our care guides are the soul of Medefy,” Scovil said. “We are not just looking for experienced people, but people with specific personality and temperament. Do they have the ability to be friendly when people are rude, upset, or in pain? People text the way they feel. We are friendly. Our attitude is let’s get through this; there is nothing we can’t figure out.”
There are two (at least) lessons for the new year from Medefy’s success. Aim to solve big problems without forcing people through a lot of change and communicate with people in the way they want to be communicated with; otherwise the message will be ignored.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org