When David Vivero was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder at the young age of 19, he found himself face to face with a common conundrum: being asked to make what could be life or death decisions about our healthcare with no expertise, clear understanding of options, or knowledge about the price tag.
Convinced there had to be a tool that could help consumers, David co-founded Amino Health, a digital healthcare company that uses big data and design thinking to improve the customer experience, increase access to quality care and save money.
Amino has a clear, but challenging, goal: to help people make confident decisions about their care and match them to the best available care. The American healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to coverage and costs. While consumers may feel the pain and implication of these decisions more acutely, employers also face difficulties when selecting health plans for their teams.
The Amino CEO took the stage at SXSW 2018 to share his views on the topic, “Making Healthcare Price Transparency Actionable.” He spoke with us about how Amino is putting people first, why the right brand messaging can be powerful across audiences, and where the challenges lie in future growth for data-driven healthcare innovation.
David, your website leads with the value proposition, “revolutionary transparency and a modern HSA—all rolled into one.” How do you define the business you’re in: Are you a tech company playing in health, a health company activating tech, or a connective payer platform?
We ultimately consider ourselves a digital health company, and I would say both facets of healthcare and technology are crucial to our business. When we decided to start Amino and enter the healthcare space back in 2013, we did it with intention and were fully aware of the challenges that came with it—it’s not an industry we just happened to fall into.
Likewise, we’ve always known that technology and data would be crucial to powering our product. This balance across expertise areas is reflected by our team’s background as well: some people have worked in technology their whole careers, while others were analyzing insurance claims before joining Amino. A deep understanding and integration of both industries are instrumental to our success as a company.
Your article on Medium outlines the big vision for Amino; how do you move from servicing employers to servicing individuals? What are the challenges you see to growth as you expand this way? And how will you “put people first?”
Building a simple “people-first” consumer interface to healthcare has been in our DNA since the company was founded in 2013. That’s why we spent the first two years building the algorithms and database of insurance claims in the United States to power our ad-free search at no cost to the consumer.
When we publicly launched in 2015, we leaned fully into the direct-to-consumer approach, which eventually grew Amino to 2 million monthly users and allowed for rapid testing, learning, and iteration. At the time, this was all in service of our vision to create the clearest picture of American healthcare, so everyone can choose care with confidence.
I still believe a clear picture of healthcare, grounded in rigorous data science, applied to vast real-time data, is essential to reach this vision. However, our team has come to the realization that a clear picture isn’t enough to empower consumers and make healthcare better for them.
Why? First, healthcare decisions are incurably unenjoyable, and consumers will always minimize attention paid to healthcare choices as a result. Changing consumer behavior has been and will continue to be the biggest challenge we face as we grow. Second, providing clear guidance on healthcare decisions requires intimate knowledge of each user’s unique combination of care needs, utilization, location, insurance plan, network, financial situation, and more.
This is why we decided to expand our offering in 2017 to employers, who are the gatekeepers to healthcare for millions of people. Our employer-sponsored product, with its insurance integrations paired with our HSA product, are critical to make Amino accurate, actionable, and engaging for as many people as possible. That’s also why we refined our vision for Amino to be the easiest way to get the most from your healthcare. We hope to continue executing on this vision in ways that can dramatically improve how we find, receive, and pay for healthcare.
Let’s talk about your brand voice. I know it’s important to you to speak to your consumers (i.e., patients) in an authentic, transparent way. Does your messaging strategy change when you’re speaking with your customers, who are typically the employers?
You’re absolutely correct in that we value authentic and transparent communication. Related to this, we obsess about “meeting people where they are.” By this, we mean both literally (through distribution strategies) as well as figuratively by asking deeper questions about what consumers really want and how they make healthcare decisions.
That’s why Amino has over 18 million pages indexed in Google, has been covered in hundreds of consumer news outlets, and has partnerships with more than 20 health media and disease nonprofit organizations—to be easily accessible in all the places where consumers are already spending their time.
While our value propositions may be slightly different when speaking with employers versus consumers, the essence of our brand voice doesn’t change. At the end of the day, both employers and consumers are the ones bearing the brunt of the burden when it comes to healthcare, so a clear, transparent, and unified message about getting more out of healthcare definitely resonates.
What kind of metrics are you tracking as a proof point to attract future customers? What’s really resonating with employers? What do you hope to ultimately do with the data you’re collecting and how could it impact future care?
While cost savings are certainly impactful to measure and can have huge implications for customers, we feel it’s equally important to track engagement metrics. That’s why we invest so many resources in our engagement strategy, which is comprised of emails, in-person events, incentives, and educational resources that highlight product features and discuss important healthcare topics.
Employers and HR leaders want to know that the tools they put the time and resources into selecting are actually being used and improving the lives of their employees. That’s why we’re currently tracking several important points of engagement, from sign-up and utilization rates to more high-value analytics like the topics of searches people are using our product for (routine care, major surgery, etc.)
All of this data will inform how Amino thinks about growth in two main ways: 1) adding to its suite of healthcare consumer tools and 2) further unpacking the healthcare black box with deeper transparency. We hope the metrics we collect over time will help us improve our offerings so they align even more closely with what employees and employees want and need, as well as identify the areas of our data that need improvement.
Why was SXSW an important stage for Amino?
SXSW is a meeting of the brightest minds in arts, science, culture, and all the spaces in between. So it’s a great opportunity to speak to and pressure test thoughts with consumers who are passionate about design-focused, innovative products and ideas.
We participated in a panel last year called “Why Aren’t We Shopping for Healthcare?” and loved the experience, so we were thrilled to be part of a panel this year alongside Costs of Care, a nonprofit focused on driving better care at a lower cost. In our panel, we educated people about new avenues for increasing awareness about healthcare costs and harm, starting with a conversation with your doctor. Not only that, but hopefully everyone who attended our panel came away understanding how they could use Amino and Costs of Care to make that an actionable concept versus an abstract one.