10 innovators shaping the future of health
Fortune has a long history of highlighting innovative leaders. That tradition continues with our inaugural list spotlighting 10 people and teams creating the future of healthcare. Many of this year’s winners are finding creative solutions to systemic healthcare problems, from dramatically lowering the costs of prescription medication, and creating greater access to mental health services for communities of color, to building an easy-to-access opioid addiction recovery program with incredible retention rates. They’re business leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, influencers, educators, and problem solvers. Each finalist has had a major accomplishment over the last year and is using their influence to increase health and wellness access and equity. Learn more about them below.
Advocate: Toyin Ajayi, co-founder and CEO of Cityblock
Traditional healthcare has often been critiqued as impersonal. Responding to this, Toyin Ajayi co-founded Cityblock to create community-based care. Cityblock focuses on the most underserved communities, including people on Medicaid, and offers a personal care team for each patient encompassing primary care, mental health, social services, pregnancy care, and urgent care. Knowing that social inequities have a great impact on health, Cityblock offers not only medical support but also helps to coordinate safe housing, food security, and childcare support, working with local shelters, housing agencies, and food pantries. Importantly, Cityblock works with insurance companies to provide in-home, community-based, and virtual-care at no extra cost, including no copays. In September of 2022, Cityblock announced a partnership with MDwise, which will allow the company to work with about 10,000 Indianans in marginalized communities. Currently, Cityblock is in six states and D.C. (NY, NC, CT, MA, OH, IN), but it will be expanding soon.
Problem solver: Stephanie Strong, founder and CEO of Boulder Care
More than 75,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2021, according to the CDC. Stephanie Strong’s Boulder Care aims to decrease that number, through medication-based treatment for opioid addiction. Boulder Care delivers thousands of naloxone doses—a life-saving drug that can reverse an overdose—and buprenorphine prescriptions—a medication approved in 2002 to treat opioid use disorder—to patients who need it. The company also offers telehealth support, including peer coaching and assistance accessing basic needs like safe housing, employment, or even help getting a phone, through partnerships with social services like emergency departments, safe-use spaces, needle exchanges, housing services, and more. In the summer of 2022, Boulder Care, which boasts excellent retention rates, with more than 70% of patients staying with the program for 12 months or more, announced it raised $36 million series B funding. Thanks to partnerships with 20 enterprise customers, many patients have access to Boulder Care’s program via health plans and employers and pay no more than a $4 copay for treatment.
Inventor: Yonatan Adiri, founder and CEO of Healthy.io
What if doctors could give a diagnosis based on a photo from your smartphone? This is the idea behind Yonatan Adiri’s Healthy.io. The company partners with health insurers, healthcare providers, and hospital and pharmaceutical systems to ship testing kits to patients’ homes. Along with the testing supplies, it takes advantage of smartphone cameras to run virtual diagnostic tests, including urinalysis, digitized wound care, and routine pregnancy monitoring. In July of 2022, Healthy.io received FDA approval for its Minuteful Kidney test, which allows people to test their kidney function from home, increasing adherence to the important annual urine test that about 80% of at-risk people skip. The startup teamed up with a large insurer and sent 100,000 free testing to kits to Americans at high risk for chronic kidney disease. Too often, the disease is caught late, when the kidneys have already suffered extensive damage or are in failure. Healthy.io test is a simple, convenient, and cost-effective way to detect kidney disease early. Results from tests are shared with clinicians, so patients can get prescriptions and advice without leaving home.
Creator: Taylor Morrison, founder of Inner Workout
The big idea behind Taylor Morrison’s Inner Workout is that self-care requires a support system. Too often, we prioritize others’ needs over our own and give up the time we had set aside for ourselves. Inner Workout creates accountability for members who join the subscription-based community of like-minded people who also want to focus on self-care. The community includes a group chat, online events like “mindful moments” and “taking care together,” self-care workshops, and coaching. Morrison says she wants the Inner Workout experience to go beyond taking care of the physical body and encourage people to listen to themselves, understand what they need, and “respond with love.” Specifically, Inner Workout focuses on five dimensions of well-being: physical, energetic, mental and emotional, wisdom, and bliss. With this in mind, Inner Workout released the Instead card pack in the summer of 2021 with prompts to give people quick and concrete ways to care for themselves instead of scrolling through social media.
Educator: Lorenzo Lewis, founder and Chief Visionary Officer of The Confess Project
After trying to hold meetings for Black men and boys to discuss mental health, but seeing that no one showed up, Lewis decided to meet the community where it is: in barber shops, where they feel comfortable opening up. The Confess Project trains barbers to be mental health advocates, through a free, year-long online course. Interested barbers are trained on four pillars: active listening, validation, stigma reduction, and communication. They learn to look for subtle changes in personality and signals of depression and anxiety in regular customers and help them open up about what’s going on or even refer clients to local therapists or 988, the new mental health crisis hotline. In early 2022, The Confess Project moved its headquarters to Atlanta with satellite locations in Little Rock, Ark., and Los Angeles, and Lewis took on the role of Chief Visionary Officer. The Confess Project also started an ambassador program, training barbers to train other barbers and extend the project’s reach and impact.
Changemaker: Katy Milkman, co-founder and health director of Behavior Change for Good
Wharton professor Katy Milkman co-founded the Behavior Change for Good initiative (BCFG) at the University of Pennsylvania to dramatically accelerate the development of interventions that work to change common human behaviors. A large part of BCFG’s strategy is a new type of scientific approach called the megastudy, in which multiple teams of researchers examine the same problem from different angles and compare results. Partnering with big organizations like Walmart and 24 Hour Fitness gives them access to sample sizes large enough to test several interventions and get a good sense of what works, what doesn’t, and what might be successful with one community but not another. BCFG uses the research to guide policymakers. As health director of the organization, Milkman oversees research on exercise frequency, vaccination uptake, among others. In December of 2021, BCFG published its first megastudy findings, which was done in partnership with 24 Hour Fitness and simultaneously tested 54 strategies to incentivize exercise. About 45% of the interventions significantly increased gym visits during the four-week program and 8% positively affected gym visits after the program ended.
Pioneers: Peter Wang, co-founder and CEO, and Jessica Nouhavandi, co-founder and lead pharmacist of Honeybee Health
Jessica Nouhavandi and Peter Wang used to run a small family pharmacy in California and often saw patients who couldn’t afford their medications. Knowing that a big portion of prescription costs are the result of the middleman (insurers), Nouhavandi and Wang opened online pharmacy Honeybee Health to sell generic medication directly from FDA-approved wholesalers at much lower costs. Patients using Honeybee Health don’t have to be insured to purchase their medications. The need for this model is apparent in Honeybee’s success. In December of 2021, the company was named Los Angeles’s fastest growing private company by the Los Angeles Business Journal. The startup became even more critical when the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June, as it’s one of only two online pharmacies that ships abortion pills nationwide. It works with independent abortion clinics, major abortion telehealth startups, and primary care practices that are just starting to prescribe abortion pills, increasing access for millions of women and transgender people who have uteruses. (Though Honeybee Health is currently unable to ship prescription medication to AL, IN, LA, or MT.)
Influencer: Rachel Cargle, founder of The Loveland Foundation
For her 30th birthday in 2018, Rachel Cargle created a fundraiser on gofundme.com titled “Therapy For Black Women & Girls.” The fundraiser was a wild success, raising more than $250,000. Following this, Cargle founded The Loveland Foundation to continue the effort and “bring opportunity and healing to communities of color.” The fund offers sets of four vouchers—each covering the cost of a therapy session—to women and girls of color. In its 2021 annual report, The Loveland Foundation reported growing its impact from eight covered sessions per person to 12. They’ve served more than 5,000 people and funded 51,900 hours of therapy. In addition, The Loveland Foundation offers continuing education courses for the nearly 1,200 therapists it works with, such as classes on recognizing and treating eating disorders in Black women and girls. Under the greater Loveland Group, Cargle initiates other social ventures, such as her program The Great Unlearn, an online educational platform highlighting academics of color on topics such as the history of race, feminism, and more.
Leader: Eric J. Daza, creator of Stats-of-1
Most of the time experiments call for a large sample size, but biostatistician and health data scientist Eric J. Daza argues the power of a sample size of one. His blog Stats-of-1 attempts to build a community of “statistics-savvy pioneers,” mainly researchers and citizen scientists who use digital health tools like wearables and sensors, and personal data to understand what influences their health day-to-day. For example, a person who has migraines can track what happens in their day when they have a headache, recognize triggers, and change their behavior to have fewer migraines overall. As a lead health data scientist at Evidation, a digital health company on a mission to create new ways to measure and improve health in everyday life, Daza is able to contribute to projects like one that used wearable sensors to see how the flu might have impacted daily activities. In the fall of 2022, Stats-of-1 started a podcast, speaking to health experts about how statistics can be applied to a single person’s life.
Entrepreneur: Andrew Parker, founder and CEO of Papa
After watching his family struggle to balance supporting his ailing grandfather (who they called Papa) with maintaining their daily lives, Andrew Parker founded Papa to connect older adults with paid “Papa Pals,” who work part-time to provide companionship and help with errands, housekeeping, and technology support. Papa started in Florida, but extended services to all 50 states in early 2021. In October of 2022, Papa, in partnership with Meridian (a Michigan-based provider of government-sponsored health programs) announced the results of a six-month program connecting Medicaid members with Papa Pals, which resulted in 33% reduced healthcare costs for participants.
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